The oldest imperial city of Morocco has a large number of historical monuments and three major areas: Fes el-Bali (Old Fes), Fes el-Jedid (new city) and the new city. This city has long been considered the centre of high culture and Islam in Morocco. The medina, since 1980, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, has a maze of streets. You will find fruit stalls, craft workshops, colorful souks and masterpieces of Arab-Andalusian architecture. Fes is a city of contrasts: on the one hand, rooted in the past, on the other hand very lively and modern.
The old town of Fes is one of the last centres of medieval civilization. There are numerous moskeeën, madrasa’s (Koran schools), palaces and ancient crafts that are still being exercised to do this day. If you stroll through the streets, you will see elements of ancient practices existing side by side with the modern world. An example of this could be seeing an elderly man leading a donkey through the streets of Fes but carrying very modern products, maybe a pallet of coca-cola.
Moulay Isdriss, founded Madinat Fas in the year 790, but it was his son Idriss II who made transformed it into the great Arab city it is today. There were Muslims from Cordoba in the Andalusian district, Kairouanese Tunisian Arabs and also a Jewish community. Fes would not be the place it is today without the influence of these sophisticated and varied cultures. At the end of the 11th century, the prince Youssef Almoravidische am Tachfine, united the two districts within these walls. The city flourished further under the Almohads and enjoyed its golden age in the 13th and 14th centuries under the Mereniden, in the 13th century Fes el-Jedid docked for the imposing Royal Palace and its own park. Furthermore, it serves as the administrative center of fes. The royal palace is impressive, with huge bronze doors, decorated with stucco, zellige and calligraphy along the edges. The whole area, about 40 acres, is surrounded by grand, high walls.
Fes, the cultural and religious capital of Morocco, is a fitting venue for the annual World Festival of religious music, held in early June. The festival is an initiative of the Sufi scholar Dr. Faouzi Skali, the organization is in the hands of Fes Saiss, an association that promotes the preservation of historical and cultural heritage within the city. The event attracts world-class religious singers of different nationalities and faiths, ranging from the whirling dervishes from Turkey to the gospel choirs from Harlem. Part of the festival, known as the ‘soefi-avonden’, is dedicated to Sufi music, common in Morocco (and elsewhere), but there are many different types of music present during the festival, including the trance inducing music of the Aissawa and the Hamaacha Brotherhood, two well-known Sufi brotherhoods from the environment of Fes. The festival is not only focused on music, but also the exchange of ideeën. Following the festival, exhibitions and conferences are held, where people of different faiths and religious backgrounds, discuss their beliefs and various spiritual issues.