Fez & the Imperial Cities

Casablanca may have a glittering name, but apart from the great Marrakech, Fez remains the most enchanting of the Imperial Cities. A grand old city with nearly ten miles of wall fortifications, it’s the cultural capital of Morocco and the largest continuously populated medieval city in the Islamic world.

It’s mostly known for its Unesco-listed – and easy to get lost in – medina, a medieval city within a city where a labyrinth of souks, 11th-century tanneries, and dye pits awaits. You’ll need a good guide for exploring the medina, which we’ll provide for you. Stand next to the Merenid Tombs for an iconic view of jumbled flat-topped roofs and spiralling minarets.

Smaller but equally charming is Meknes, a showcase of Islamic architecture and also a Unesco-listed fortified medieval city. Its souks are easier and more relaxed to explore than in Fez, but the highlight remains the imperial residences of 17th-century Sultan Moulay Ismail – containing palaces and gardens, mosques, and macabre dungeons. On the outskirts of the city lie the superbly-preserved ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis.

On the coast, the once pirate haunt of Casablanca is now Morocco’s most cosmopolitan city with thriving art and fashion scenes, and yes, plenty of nostalgia-inducing piano bars. The charm lies in the old town where faded Art Deco buildings from the French protectorate days stand next to ornate Moorish buildings including one of the tallest minarets in the world.

Although the capital Rabat has been inhabited since Roman times and has plenty to show for it, it receives far less attention than the other Imperial Cities. It’s a relaxed, European-feeling city with long palm-lined boulevards, grand colonial architecture, and blue and white flat-roofed houses straight out of Andalucía. The quaint medina is pleasant to discover on foot, but the highlight remains the fortified kasbah with its sweeping panoramas of the Atlantic.

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