During our spring 2019 trip to Morocco, Nation travelers experienced Fez via walking tour – the only way to explore what is considered to be the best-preserved medina in the Arab world. From our accommodations in a beautifully restored riad, we wandered streets teeming with local activity. Artisans beckoned from shops bursting at the seams with colorful bolts of fabrics, handcrafted rugs, leatherwork, ceramics and tempting sweets on display for the upcoming Ramadan feast, all while dodging braying donkeys carrying goods through the car-free streets. A truly invigorating sensory overload.
However, we also learned that maintaining the cultural and artistic integrity of the medina is one of the biggest challenges facing this ancient city. The medina was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, recognizing the need to preserve architectural “know-how” required to maintain the significance of the city. Fortunately, the need for authentic accommodations and experiences to satisfy tourist demand has led to some wonderful restoration projects, including our own hotel. While skills in the crafts essential for complex restoration projects have declined significantly, there is hope that such tourist demand will open pathways for more young people to enter the necessary trades.
Wandering through Fez’s medina is a truly magical experience. It was heartening to see first-hand some of the great work being done to preserve this important cultural site, as well as learning about the projects and passionate advocacy of people trying to preserve it. We left Fez feeling optimistic that this medina will continue to be a truly special place, rich in Moroccan history and culture, for many years to come.