Our first full day in Fez consisted of one of the most overwhelming tours I’ve ever taken, a tour of the Fez medina. A UNESCO world heritage site, the old medina of Fez is a labyrinth of narrow roads that is believed to be world’s largest contiguous car-free urban area (mopeds, however, are allowed and also extremely annoying). The medina is full of cafes, shops, restaurants, and homes that are tucked into every possible nook and cranny. Our tour guide whipped us through the medina, taking us on a dizzying ride through the narrowest of streets. My senses were completely overwhelmed – so many things to see, so many people to dodge, and so many smells (mostly bad, or as we like to call them on TIME, “bad sniffs”). Taking the tour two days before we moved in with our host families only heightened the stress I felt. How were we supposed to live amongst all the chaos?
After living in Fez for a few weeks, I can safely say that the medina has grown on me somewhat – there is a certain romance and mysteriousness that the winding paths and countless shops have to offer. I live in the Ziat region of the medina (check out a map of the medina here), which is noticeably less busy and more residential, with one other student from TIME. After being led by our host mom for the first couple of days, we can get ourselves to and from Batha square, where we catch taxis to school, back to our house. I’ve explored the busier parts of the medina a few times and have been able to find my way back again. As a group we’ve even figured out a shortcut to our favorite cafe, Cafe Clock. I still am not in love with the medina, but have rather come to respect it. The winding streets, mopeds, crowds of people, and endless donkey traffic demand your full attention – one misstep and you could be horribly lost or crushed. So far I’ve managed to avoid both. Living here has truly been an adventure in all aspects!
The Bab Boujeloud gate, the main entrance to the medina, is blue on one side for the color of Fez…