Fes or Marrakesh?

Before departing for Morocco, I sent out an informal survey to friends who had been to the country:

If I only have time to visit one of the two, do you recommend Fes or Marrakesh?

In their graceful diplomacy, each person told me both cities are fabulous, just different. 

Of course they are.  But what if I really can only choose one? 

What if you can really only choose one?

Well, my friend, I’ll be diplomatic, too—but I’ll also be definitive.  I recommend Fes and here’s why:

Wandering is Welcome

I believe fulfilling travel is about the saunter — a gentle amble motivated by sparks of curiosity.  Fes allows you to wander uninterrupted. 

One afternoon, I stopped for 10 minutes to photograph a kitten and no one approached me.  No one looked at me.  No one said a word.

Fes gave me the anonymity I cherished during my six years in New York.  I was left alone to explore at my leisure and soak in its labyrinthine glory. 

Less Hurry, Less Hassle

In Fes, I didn’t constantly feel like a tourist to be wooed, particularly in comparison to Marrakech, where I felt the constant tug of a salesperson at each elbow.

In its own way, Marrakesh also reminded me of New York, but the part of New York every local avoids—Times Square. 

To avoid constant hassle in Marrakech, I put on my gruff New York face.  The don’t-mess-with-me, I-have-somewhere-to-be face.  It’s not my favorite look. I prefer the open face of wonder, but that expression seems to invite far too much attention in the Red City.

History Hugs You Close

Of course the ancient architecture in Marrakesh is striking and the main square is an electrifying spectacle, but Fes feels like a cozy step back in time. 

It is a magical maze where every dead end is a welcome pause to smell the communal bread baking or peek inside an opulent mosque.

A hundred times I tried to imagine what it would be like to grow up there.  I wanted to study in Fes for a month just to learn the streets, choose a favorite tea parlor, step behind the walls to discover great courtyards of lemon trees. It had me wrapped around its little finger.

With That Said…

I realize there may be an online uproar at my comparisons. I know many people feel just as strongly that Marrakesh is the must-see of Morocco.

If you have time, YES! Of course! I couldn’t agree more. You should absolutely go to this marvel of a city.

My suggestion is based solely on how I like to travel—slow and easy and camouflaged—and on the assumption that a choice must be made between the two.

Whichever you choose, I’m just glad you’re going to Morocco at all.  Prepare leave a little piece of your heart there.  Prepare to fall in love.



alleyways in fes