HOLY SIGHTS & A HOLY STINK
After a leisurely breakfast (make sure your kids try the msammen pancakes that are nearly always on offer), head back to the start of Talâa Kebira, but this time duck into the fourteenth-century MEDERSA BOU INANIA [open daily from 9.30am | 20dh], signed on your right a few lanes down. Behind the wooden screen lies one of the most beautiful buildings in all Morocco, an old Koranic school whose interior walls are covered in layers of carved cedar wood, intricate tile work (known as zellij), and stucco that has been meticulously worked into elegant Islamic script. You won’t need long here, as the dorms upstairs are off-limits and access to the prayer hall is restricted to Muslims, but the whole effect is spellbinding for all ages nonetheless.
Turning right down the alleyway just the other side of the Bou Inania will bring you on to TALÂA SEGHIRA, similar in appearance and character to Talâa Kebira and Fez el Bali’s second major artery. Descending into the medina from here, after around 500m or so, just as the lane loops up to join Talâa Kebira, you’ll see what looks like a little tunnel and some steps to your right. Follow these down into PLACE NEJJARINE, a picturesque square filled with the smell of cedar and the sound of carpenters chiselling away in their workshops. Their craft is celebrated in the NEJJARINE MUSEUM OF WOODEN ARTS AND CRAFTS [open daily from 10am | 20dh], a beautifully restored old fondouk on the western side of the square, where your kids can study the carefully carved musical instruments, clunky toys and antique weapons before enjoying a drink in the roof-terrace café.
The lane off Place Nejjarine’s northwest corner leads to Souk el Attarine, where you can pick up the trail from Day 1. Further on from here, you’ll get occasional glimpses into the courtyard of the KAIROUANE MOSQUE [closed to non-Muslims], a complex that is home to both the oldest university and (through a separate entrance further along, on Place Seffarine) the oldest library in the world; you can often see young children washing themselves in the courtyard fountain before heading inside to pray.
Follow the mosque’s walls around to PLACE SEFFARINE. The café here is a pleasant place for little legs to take a break, and you can enjoy a freshly squeezed orange juice and a mint tea whilst watching the metalworkers clanging their pots into shape on the other side of the square. Directly opposite the café, Rue Mechattine leads down to the TANNERIES CHOUWARA, one of the most remarkable sights (and smells) in the whole of Fez. You’ll need to head upstairs into one of the leather shops that run alongside the tanneries to get a decent view of the action (10dh tip expected if you’re not buying anything). The scene below is like something out of the Medieval Ages, with workers standing knee deep in a honeycomb of brightly coloured vats, dunking leather hides into dyes and laying the dripping skins out to dry on the surrounding rooftops. Kids will no doubt be delighted to learn that the white vats at the back are filled with pigeon poo, the source of the acidic whiff that hangs in the air; you’ll be offered sprigs of mint to compensate, but it’s not that bad.
From the tanneries, head back to Place Seffarine and take the lane on the square’s southern side. Keeping left at each fork will bring you to the Oued Bhoukhrareb; cross the bridge and follow the riverside walkway south to PLACE ER R’CIF, from where petits taxis can run you back to Bab Boujeloud.
TOP TIP Older children might enjoy the steam-bath experience of a HAMMAM, either in an upscale riad or, if they’re feeling really adventurous, in a traditional public hammam – which are single-sex only, with different set times for men and women. The riad versions are more decadent, the public ones more rough and ready. Lying on a hot floor in a communal wash space isn’t for everyone, but if you do fancy giving it a go, don’t forget your swimming trunks, flip-flops and towel, plus soap and shampoo; for the real deal, you can buy olive-oil soap and ghasoul, a grainy alternative to shampoo, from shops in the medina en route. Your riad can tell you where your nearest hammam is – and what to do once you get there!
WHERE TO EAT
Located near the start of Souk el Attarine, Dar Saada provides the novelty of eating in a palace restaurant without having to pay a premium for the dubious floorshows. The very grand interior feels like a sultan’s show home – it’s elaborately decorated with stained-glass windows and zellij tiling and has comfy alcove cushion seating – and yet the menu of kefta tagines, harira soup, chicken skewers and the like is all reasonably priced, especially given the size of the portions.
THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN
Delve deeper with our tips on what to read before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice
From traditional dars to opulent riads – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in Fez
NEED TO KNOW
A handy overview of Fez’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit
Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety and how to get around