Though it is not Morocco’s official capital, Fez is often known as the country’s cultural capital. It is often overlooked for the more touristy Marrakesh, but a trip to Fez will reward you with an authentic experience unlike anywhere else in the world. Fez is rich in history, with three distinct areas from different time periods. At its heart is an ancient walled city, Fez el Bali, that dates to the 700’s. It is one of the most well-preserved cities in the Arab world and it also has the world’s oldest university. Fez el Jdid, or New Fez, was built in the 1300s, and modern Ville Nouelle was built by the French in the 20th century. Fez is historical, cultural, and spiritual, but it’s also an artistic and creative city. Moroccans are known for their traditional handicrafts and the man-made crafts are displayed proudly in markets throughout the city. Check out this list of what to buy in Fez, Morocco.
1. Argan oil
If you’re a beauty products user, you’re probably already familiar with argan oil. This moisturizing oil, rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin E, antioxidants, and linoleic acid, makes it a therapeutic, multi-purpose product. It can be used to moisturize skin, condition hair, soothe razor burns, reduce acne, and more. Argan oil is so ubiquitous in beauty products that you may not realize it is native to Morocco: the argan tree, whose kernels are where the oil comes from, is endemic to Morocco and doesn’t grow anywhere else. Pick up some argan oil in Fez to prepare for some post-trip pampering when you return home.
When you think of a Fez market, a plethora of colorful Moroccan lanterns might come to mind. A traditional Moroccan lantern, also known as a lamp or a chandelier, is made of a lattice of metalwork surrounding a stained glass container intended to hold a tea light or candle. The metalwork is usually an intricate design. A Moroccan lantern will shed a warm, colored glow in your home and the lattice will cast playful patterns on the walls. Bringing one home from Fez and hanging it up will always remind you of your travels there.
3. Hammered metalworks
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Morocco is well-known for its handicrafts, in particular, their traditional metalwork. There are a few kinds of unique metal objects you can bring home from Fez. Be sure to go to Place Seffarine, or the metal souk, a small square where coppersmiths make products right before your eyes. Copper and brass are hammered into bowls, plates, boxes, and more. Another metalwork art you can bring home from Morocco is damascene. This ancient technique uses an intricate, time-consuming process of threading copper, silver, or gold into thin cuts on a metal surface. The object is placed into a furnace to melt the adornment into the design, and the results are beautifully patterned jewelry, bowls, plates, and other unique objects.
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As you’re wandering around Fez, you’ll notice that colorful patterned tilework is a common decorative element of architecture. It is called zellige and it is a traditional form of Islamic artwork. These small mosaics are made by setting smaller geometric tiles into a plaster base in beautiful patterns. If you fall in love with the colorful buildings and interiors of Fez, you can purchase Zellige tiles for yourself and decorate your own home in this gorgeous style.
5. Leather poufs
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If you spend a lot of time in home decor stores or browsing design blogs, you’ll notice that Moroccan leather poufs are a trend that has taken off! These round, puffy ottomans are made of durable leather and often have a decorative design stitched onto them. They add a bohemian feel to any room and are functional as footstools or seats. They are pretty pricey at popular home decor stores, but you can purchase them inexpensively in Fez. Best of all, if you don’t have room for a large pouf in your luggage, you can often purchase the exterior without stuffing and fill it when you arrive home.
6. Fez hats
Fez is one of the only cities in the world that has a hat named after it! Fez hats are cylindrical in shape, usually made out of felt and colored red. Sometimes they have a tassel hanging down from the top. Fez hats are named after Fez because the dye to color the hats comes from crimson berries grown in Fez. They were worn throughout the former Ottoman Empire and are still in use today. Fez hats are a popular souvenir to bring home from Morocco, and you’re sure to easily find one in any market or gift shop.
7. Ceramic pots
Another handicraft Morocco is well-known for is their clay pots. With their intricate, colorful designs, these pots represent the array of cultural influences in Morocco, from Romans and Greeks to Arabs to Spanish artisans. The Muslim Arabic invasion was actually what made the production of clay pots popular: thousands of artisans from Spain were brought to Morocco and used their techniques to create hand-painted clay pots. Islam was interwoven into parts of everyday life, including artistry, and the designs on these pots often reflect Muslim ideals of balance between male, geometric patterns and female, arabesque designs. The traditions of clay pottery carry on to the present day, and some artisans have been painting the same patterns for centuries. These colorful vessels look lovely with a plant, so be sure to leave some room in your suitcase to bring one home.
8. Colored tea cups
In Morocco, tea is a very important event in everyday life. Guests in people’s homes will immediately be offered tea, probably the very popular mint variety, and tea houses sit on every corner and serve the beverage all day. For such an important ritual, it is fitting that the artisanal Moroccans designed a special cup to drink it. Moroccan teacups are often made of colorful glass or metal and have beautiful etched designs on them. These tea glasses would look perfect in your home, and be sure to purchase some Moroccan mint tea to go along with them.
9. Moroccan pastries
To go along with your tea, you must try Moroccan pastries. These treats are perfect for those with a sweet tooth and there are many varieties to choose from. Cornes de gazelle, or gazelle horns, are popular crescent-shaped pastries stuffed with almonds and cinnamon. Chebakya is a fried pastry covered in honey, rose water, and sesame seeds, that is plentiful during Ramadan but available all times of year. If you’re a cookie lover, you must try ghoriba, a round cookie made with almonds or sesame seeds. Be sure to try as many as you can while you’re in Fez, and maybe bring a box home too!
10. Rugs and carpets
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Rug and carpet weaving is one of the oldest artistic traditions in Morocco- people have been making these objects continuously since the Paleolithic era. Moroccan rugs come in many different styles, ranging from graphic designs to monochrome colors. There are a number of different weaving styles, including Azilal, which are the most intricately designed patterns, Beni Mguild, a typically monochrome variation with rich colors, Beni Ourain, made with neutrals and elegant geometric patterns, and Boucherouite, which are bright rag rugs. Though you might second guess bringing one home when you look at the price, know that a handmade rug in Morocco will last you forever, unlike the imitations found at international retailers.
Depart Fez richer in culture and souvenirs
Though you could spend your whole time in Fez, souvenir shopping, browsing the beautiful products should complement the sightseeing there is to do in the city. Sights to see include stunning places of worship, like the Zaouia Moulay Idriss II shrine, and the Madrasa Bou Inania, an Islamic school. In Fez el Bali, you can see how the city operates without cars and feel as though you’ve stepped hundreds of years back in time. Though some sights are closed to non-Muslims, you can take in the architecture and intricate exteriors of the buildings. You can even see how your souvenirs are made in Tanner’s Quarter, where they dye leather and watch weavers in the weaver’s souk. Be sure to bring home at least one or two of these one-of-a-kind souvenirs, and your memories of Fez will never leave you.
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