Visitors say you haven’t been to Morocco unless you have visited the city of Fes, also spelled Fez. The town in northern Morocco, fondly nicknamed, the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa” has a population of 1.1 million and was once the capital of the country, yielding significant political and cultural influence.
Today, the city consists of Fes el Bali and Fes Jdidof, two old medina quarters, and Ville Nouvelle, a modern urban area constructed during the French colonial era. The Medina of Fez is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and believed to be one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian zones (car-free areas).
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Fez is also the site of the world’s oldest continuously functioning university, University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 AD. It’s Chouara Tannery from the 11th century is one of the world’s oldest tanneries.
“Other cities in Morocco, including Casablanca, Marrakesh and Tangier, may exert a stronger magnetic pull on the tourist trade, but it is said that you haven’t really been to Morocco until you visit Fes, and especially its ancient maze-like medieval city Fes al Bali. Dating back a Millennium and change, Fes al Bali, with its narrow streets suitable only for human and donkey traffic, is the biggest and best-preserved medieval city in the Arab world, and a trip in itself. Fes, as a whole, is, in a phrase, the heart and soul of Morocco, with special emphasis on the “soul” aspect. That has made it a ripe setting for one of the world’s most unique and uniquely important festivals, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music,” Joseph Woodard, a writer explains.
The Mecca of the West is also the site of the annual World Sacred Music Festival.
This year’s festival will be held from June 22-30 on the theme Ancestral Knowledge at the Bab Makina Palace and the graceful Jnan Sbil Gardens. According to TelegraphUK which names it one of Africa’s 10 best festivals, the Festival will feature Balinese dancing, Moroccan music, songs of the Italian Renaissance, Tunisian oud players, African Sufism, the Soweto Gospel Choir and more.
Attendees rave about the Festival and say it is worth going to.
“For nine days, Fes had the feel of a peaceable power spot in the world, hopefully drawing on the proverbial universal language of music to ease and dislodge tensions. Ideally situated between Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and beyond, and America, Fes becomes a host for a deliberately multi-cultural and multi-creed conjoining of musics and belief systems. In Fes for a period in June, the world came together, if only in song, dance, and trance,” Woodard says.
The city awaits those eager to experience the its fusion of African sights and sounds.