In Store: Textiles, carpets, pottery, leather
Bartering: On your life, expect many cups of mint tea and several hours to score a top bargain.
Best Buy: Any of the many local hand made crafts
Founded in 808 AD, Fez is the oldest imperial city in Morocco. With its myriad mosques, the capital of the country for 400 years became a religious and spiritual epicentre. Fez is a city steeped in history. With architectural relics from every era and modern amenities at a minimum, it offers visitors a fascinating insight into the past.
Fez is situated in the Atlas Mountains in Northern Morocco, where the ancient trade routes between the western Saharan empires, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean crossed paths. For this reason Fez has always been a bustling commercial centre, and visitors who wander through the ancient medina, Fez el-Bali will discover the authentic Moroccan shopping experience that has remained unchanged for centuries.
Aside from the modern town constructed in the mid 20th century, Fez is divided into two areas: Fez el-Jdid and Fez el-Bali. Fez el Bali is the old medina, where sites most interesting to culture vultures and bargain hunters are located.
Fez el-Bali is a labyrinth of narrow, winding alleys, almost impossible to negotiate without loosing your way. Although you can hire a guide, most travellers are content to wander aimlessly, giving in to the whirligig of unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells.
The Medina itself is divided into different parts, known as souqs, each specialising in a different craft, skill or trade. The streets are crowded with stalls and workshops where you can watch the artisans at work and put your bargaining skills to the test. The sheer range of products you can buy is mind-boggling: leather goods, textiles & yarns, carpets, Moroccan pots, metal ware, jewellery, foodstuffs, henna…enough exotic offerings to empty the pockets of even the most cautious shopper.
Be aware that the Moroccans are accomplished hagglers. The original asking price for any item will be several times it’s true value, and customers are expected to participate in a verbal contest before any deal is clinched. The golden rule of bargaining is stick to your guns and don’t agree to a price you’re not prepared to pay: if the vendor won’t give you a good price simply walk away. Chances are they’ll concede and come after you.
A veritable treasure chest of information for anyone interested in Morocco, its culture and sites.
Walled Towns Friendship Circle
The international association for the sustainable development of walled towns, walled cities and fortified historic towns. The website includes detailed information and photos.
By Jess Halliday