In Arabic “the old town”, the medina designates the ancient city, genuine, mysterious and a real lively place. Central elements of the Moroccan imagination, well-known abroad, seven of them are a part of the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The biggest ones are those of royal cities, successive capitals of the country since the 8th century: each dynasty founder gave life to a new city, representation of the greatness of its reign.
If some were built to slow the invaders down and deliberately form labyrinths, do not be afraid to get lost exploring their narrow streets, locals will gladly redirect for a few coins. The experience is to be lived through the souk’s atmosphere, artisans and restaurant owners at work, surrounded by kids playing and women doing their shopping. You just have to get out of these alleys to find your way back.
World’s largest medina, but also the oldest and the most famous one, the Fez medina deserves at least a full day to visit it in peace and quiet. Cultural and spiritual capital of the country, it will enable you to really discover the Moroccan lifestyle, its culture, as well as the artisans’ savoir-faire. This thousand-year-old city will immerse you in history with its mosques, palaces, fountains but also its universities. Famous for its universities, including the Al Quaraouiyine, which is the oldest in the world, you also be able to visit the medersa of Bou Inania, the only one accessible to non-Muslim people in the city. The Bab Boujloud door, which is the principal entrance of the medina, is also worth a visit, and don’t forget to visit the city’s covered market, located on the Fez el Jdid street.
Placed on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, the medina of Marrakech and its famous souk will charm you thanks to their diversities but also their stories. Discover its medersas, its numerous riads, renovated and transformed into palaces and gardens, its fountains and mosques. The Jemma el Fna square, located in the core of the city and designated Intangible Cultural Heritage of humanity by the UNESCO, animates and becomes a show place every night. In the north of this plaza, there is one of the most important mosques of the town: the Mouassine. But it is the Koutoubia one, between the district of the Gueliz and the medina, that really prevails in the city thanks to its 70 meters high minaret. In the heart of the medina, the tombstones of the Saadian dynasty rest in a necropolis at the south of the Kasbah Mosque: let yourself be subjugated by the beauty and refinement of the place.
To the west of Meknes city, its medina, bordered by almost 40 kilometers of ramparts, conveys the impression of entering in a new universe. More genuine and less touristic than other royal cities, its souk holds many handcrafted marvels: shoemakers, carpenters, music instruments… It also gathers many architectural monuments like the great mosque, originally from the 12th century and the largest edifice of the city, or also the Bou Inaniya medersa. The town is also renowned for the doors and the squares that surround it: the principal door, Bob el Mansour, is located in the center of the El Hedime square. Then, take a break in one its numerous coffeeshops or enjoy the market and the shows.
Located to the east part of the city, the Chefchaouen medina is famous for the dazzling color of its facades, painted in blue until mid-height. The beauty of the city is accentuated by the alpine landscape: located on the slopes of the two mounts of the Rif cordillera that surround it like two horns, Chefchaouen means “look at the horns” in Berber. The architectural charm of the medina reflects the prints of the Andalusian civilizations: before the independence of Morocco in 1956, the city was a Spanish territory. After enjoying the medina, its picturesque atmosphere and its homemade products that you can’t find anywhere else in Morocco, have a break in one of the many coffeeshops of the Uta el Hammam Square, at the foot of one of the five doors of the medina, looks at the peasants and the animation that reigns on the plaza or simply enjoy the view on the great mosque.
Nicknamed “the white” or else “the girl from Granada”, the medina of Tétouan is considered by many people as the most Andalusian city of Morocco, which is explained by its history. Expulsed from Spain in the beginning of the 17th century, Andalusian Muslims found refuge there and recreated Spanish cities’ refinement. The city has always been a civilization crossroads thanks to its strategical position, and the old town has been influenced by many exterior elements, while keeping its identity, all of which enabling it to be one of the non-royal cities whose medina is designated in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But if most medinas evoked throughout this article subsist thanks to tourism, the smallest ones remain threatened by globalization and the birth of new suburban cities or crowns. Nonetheless, a realization happened over the past few years: 7 medinas were placed on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and conservations plans were implemented.
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For the past few years, Morocco has faced an increase of its number of tourists and more and more vacationers looking for heat and change of scene invade the country and its beaches. But move away from beach resorts overrun by tourists; enjoy the numerous wild beaches, you will be surprised by their authenticity their variety of breathtaking landscapes.