Fez, Morocco: The Oldest of the Imperial Cities

We arrived in Fez late in the afternoon, just as the sun was about to set. “This is the oldest of the imperial cities, founded in the 9th century, once the capital of the kingdom of Morocco,” said our guide. “This is the home of the oldest university in the world,” he went on as we passed a broad street lined with high walls – the walls of a University – but not the oldest university he was referring to. I got somewhat disoriented when I saw plenty of students seeping out of the huge university gate late in the day, walking and drifting through the sidewalks in silence. Perhaps it was the red Moroccan flag and the palm trees waving in the breeze, their shadow reflected on the university walls that gave it the true spirit of the place.

We then proceeded to the hills overlooking the ‘El Bali Medina’ where a flock of sheep (sheep in a metropolitan city?) greeted us.

I was struck with curiosity when our guide, pointing to the place, announced that in order to explore the medieval city, we must be prepared to walk as the whole place was a car-free zone.

El Bali Medina

The following day we explored the El Bali Medina.  We had a local guide, a historian who talked and walked us through the Medina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide explained about ancient monuments in the Medina – madrasas, fondouks, palaces, residences, mosques and fountains – dating back to the Idrisid dynasty between 789 and 808AD. He first talked about the Muslim architecture and the construction techniques, for example, the window and the open roof. As we walked through a maze of very narrow alleyways lined with artisans, shops where the shopkeepers still practice their trade the old fashion way, and when someone yelled to give way to a donkey used to transport produce and goods, we felt as if we were going into prehistory. But when I went to the roof top, I saw the effect of modern society: every residential building has a satellite dish. The El Bali Medina is like nothing else in the world.  (Sharing this experience through this video.  Click on the thumbnail below to watch the video).

Throughout the day, I stumbled across picturesque scenery, like the ruins of houses or maybe government buildings with rolling green hills in the background.

NOTE:  Video and photos by the author.


  1. Excellent video and all the captions.
    I enjoy your blog a lot. It brings back memories about this exotic place....
    Thank you for sharing :-)

  2. Thanks Natasha for liking the video/blog. I really had a great time in Morocco -- certainly one of the most unforgettable trips I have had.


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