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Wednesday, 19 March 2014 12:00 AM

Moroccan Holiday Choices – Fez or Meknes

Fez, due to unique medina and international airport, is an incredible city to visit for anyone with an interest in history and culture.

However its understated sister city, Meknes, lies just a short train journey away and has a wealth of historical sites in and around its medina.

Fez and Meknes - close neighbours

Fez and Meknes lie between the Middle Atlas and the Rif mountains and are linked by the excellent Moroccan rail network that runs frequent trains between the 2 cities (any beyond Meknes down to Rabat and eventually Marrakech, or alternatively up to Tangier). Travel time is around 1 hour between the cities and trains are generally comfortable and clean, and tickets well priced.

Both cities have a range of riad style accommodation options in and around their medinas; however, Fez being the more popular destination with overseas holiday makers, there is a greater choice of riads in Fez but they tend to be slightly more expensive than in Meknes.

Being so close together, it is very simple to stay in one of the 2 cities and visit the other from that base, hence avoiding the need to move accommodation; however, many guests of Naturally Morocco decide that staying a few nights in each is sensible as it provides a change in scenery if not travelling further afield.

You will explore the medina of Fez whether you stay in Fez or Meknes

The medina of Fez is so extraordinary that, whether you are staying there or in Meknes, you will make time to explore that medina.

The medina is a labyrinth of alleys, reported to number 9,000 in total and many only just wide enough for a donkey or mule – the only form of cargo transport in the medina (bicycles and scooters do appear in the main thoroughfares, but are severely limited by the numerous steps and severe slopes).

Although its medina has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a thriving city full of every day Moroccan life and, as such, is a fantastic place to wander around at a leisurely pace and absorb the history and culture.

Whether you spend a day or 3 around the medina, that is your decision.

But don’t dismiss Meknes

Meknes’ medina has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is a vastly different destination to Fez. Whilst the medina is also its central attraction, it has several significant historical buildings (and the Roman ruins of Volubilis lie around 1 hour to the north) and the medina is less intense and a more manageable size than that of Fez, so it has a calmer air albeit also being a living and breathing Moroccan city.

Therefore, if you stay in Fez for more than a few days, it is likely (and recommended) that you take a trip over to Meknes to see a contrasting city

In Summary

Both Fez and Meknes and wonderful places to explore on a holiday in Morocco and both have excellent riads to stay in, but it is possible to explore both whilst staying in just 1 - so the choice is likely to be regarding where you are staying and spending more time, as you are likely to explore both.

Fez is intense and need to be seen to be believed and has an excellent selection of riads, but riads are a little more expensive and the medina is a maze and can feel claustrophobic; Meknes has interesting historical buildings and is closer to the Roman ruins at Volubilis.

Therefore, like most things – what is right for you depends on what you are looking for in your holiday and we will help choose on the right location and accommodation for you.