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There is no doubting the visual spectacular that is enthralling Fes and nearby Meknes. These hubs of arts and culture in Morocco are unique, with many attractions: from stunning traditional architecture to bustling and lively souks, perfect backdrops for striking photographs. To help you find the ideal places for quintessential Moroccan images, here are the 12 best places to photograph in Fes and Meknes.
1. The Bab Boujloud (Blue Gate), Fes
In a city that features many beautiful gateways, finely decored, the Bab Boujloud is a standout. Serving as the westernmost entrance to the city, it is a sight to be seen. Although it is known as the ‘Blue Gate’ for its outward-facing color, from the inside of the medina it is actually mostly green. The gate has a beautifully pointed archway and traditional tiles featuring Moroccan and Arabic motifs. The colors and the way that the structure frames the entrance to the city makes it one of the best locations for photography in Fes. Through the gateway, you arrive at one of the central squares near the University of Al-Quaraouiyine, another one of my favorite photography spots in Fes.
2. Mosque & University of Al-Quaraouiyine, Fes
Fes has long been a haunt of scientists, scholars, and theologians, many of whom have passed through the corridors of the University of Al-Quaraouiyine over its 1,100 years of operation. In fact, it is the oldest continuously operating university in the world and the holiest mosque in the country, so there is no shortage of history within its walls. And it is not just the history that makes it such a charming location, but also its incredible architecture and design. The beautiful light-filled courtyard, complete with traditional rattan carpets, and historically pointed archways help make it an interesting location for photography in Fes. The main difficulty is that non-muslim are not permitted to enter the site. So, in my opinion, the best view is from the roof of the Al-Attarine Madrasa, which is sometimes open to the public (but you need to persuade the guardian to let you go in). Another view is through the Bab Wouroud, where is possible to obtain a glimpse of the courtyard.
3. Tanneries, Fes
For almost a millennia Fes has been famous for its leather tanneries. To this day, tanneries operate in the city and continue to use traditional methods, with large drying areas against the backdrop of the bustling city. The natural leather dyes bring beautiful, earthy colors to photographs, while the expert actions of the craftsmen in their natural context are a joy to capture. The largest one is the “Chouara Tannery”, but there are a total of three in Fes, and each is great for photography.
4. Al-Attarine Madrasa, Fes
Since 1323, the Al-Attarine Madrasa has provided Islamic education to the residents of Fes and those afar. It remains in operation today and is a very interesting place to visit and photograph. Featuring ornate and colorful patterned tiles, the madrasa’s design features many traditional Arabic elements, while the presence of enthusiastic students adds a certain life to photographs. The traditional patterned tiles combined with enchanting archways and human elements can certainly help to make striking images of the Moroccan culture.
5. Dar El Makhzen, Fes
At the height of the city’s success, Fes was home to nobility and royalty who lived within beautiful palaces constructed by local craftsmen. One of the grandest of all is Dar El Makhzen, or the Sultanate Palace, where the Sultan of Morocco would stay during visits to Fes. Today, it is open to the public as the Museum of Moroccan Arts and features an excellent collection of historic and modern artworks. However, it is the exterior of the building that most appeals to photographers. The awe-inspiring square building rises imposingly from the ground and features beautiful Arabesque and Romanesque elements. The stunning architecture and intricate details make it one of the best places for photography in Fes.
6. Mount Zalagh view, near Fes
Just outside the city limits of Fes, Mount Zalagh feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Morocco’s third-largest city. From the top of the mount, you can observe stunning views out over the city as well as the mountainous peaks of the Atlas Mountain chain, which are often snow-capped. It is a little bit of a hike to get there, but it is an easy one, and the photographs from the top are well worth the effort as you can beautifully capture both city life and natural beauty from the viewpoint. An ideal place to visit on sunset and sunrise.
7. The Souk, Meknes
Not far from Fes, the city of Meknes is a little further from the typical tourist path which gives it a more of an authentic feel. The souk, in particular, is beautiful and lively – perfect for snapping photographs of authentic life in Morocco as locals go about buying and selling. The many colors, textures, patterns, and shapes of the traditional wares help to obtain vibrant images. Furthermore, the hustle and bustle of shopping in the souks add some drama and backstory to the images, allowing photographers to capture scenes that are truly reflective of Moroccan life.
8. The Archaeological Site of Volubilis
Near Meknes lies the partially excavated site of Volubilis, once a glorious city and furthest occidental colony of the Sacred Roman Empire. Although it was damaged by an earthquake in the 1800s, it remains one of the best-preserved examples of Roman ruins in Morocco. At its height, more than 20,000 people lived in the city, and more of its secrets are being revealed as excavations continue. For photographers, it is not just the well-preserved ruins that make it a great spot for photography, but also its location near the foot of a mountain range. Looking west, the ruins get a stunning view out over the fertile landscape, a postcard!
9. Royal Stables, Meknes
One of the most interesting and atmospheric landmarks in Meknes is the Royal Stables, perched high above a hilltop. These are no humble barns – at their height, the stables housed over 12,000 royal horses who were prized and loved by the Sultan. There was also a complex system from a nearby canal, to ensure the royal equines were well-fed and watered. Even if the place has now fallen into ruin, it remains an amazing place for photography in Meknes. Its beauty and drama have certainly not gone unnoticed, as the stables are not only popular amongst photographers but also videographers – they were the backdrop for several films including “The Jewel of the Nile”.
10. Bab El Mansour, Meknes
Traditional Moroccan architecture is incredibly distinct and beautiful, and one of the best examples of it can be found in Meknes at Bab El Mansour. Crafted in the 1730s, the gateway has a feel of faded grandeur and incorporates many beautiful elements such as handcrafted mosaic tiles as well as a lovingly crafted cedar door. At the top of the structure, an Arabic inscription proudly declares it is the most beautiful gateway in Morocco – and it’s certainly one of the best photography locations in Meknes.
11. Bou Inania Madrasa, Fes
The architecture, design, and style of Morocco’s beautiful madrasas are legendary – however, not many are open to non-Islamic visitors. One exception is the enchanting Bou Inania Madrasa, which is also the only one in Fes to have a minaret. Other traditional architectural features include beautiful, arabesque archways, finely carved dark cedar decorations, and stunning handcrafted tiles. It is largely considered the grandest of all madrasas in Fes – and perhaps Morocco – with the Sultan himself said to have spared no expense on its construction, declaring that ‘a thing of beauty is beyond reckoning’! Photographers will certainly be happy to visit this great place.
12. Town of Moulay Idriss, near Meknes
While the town of Moulay Idriss may not be as well-known to foreign visitors, it is a significant and beloved place to Moroccans. Known as the arrival point of Shiism in Morocco, it remains the site of a significant annual Islamic festival. Photographers will appreciate the maze of narrow streets, as well as unique landmarks such as the only round minaret in Morocco. As it is off of the main tourist trail, the Moulay Idriss also has a true sense of authenticity that translates into your images. Plus, further afield, there are various hikes to reach beautiful viewpoints where you can enjoy panoramic views and photographing exciting landscapes.
All of Morocco is beautiful and the towns of Fes and Meknes, in particular, are truly enchanting. Featuring architectural styles influenced by many different groups over the centuries, their intricate details and artistic beauty give life to great sceneries. If you love photography and have the possibility, try to stay more than a few days in Fes and Meknes, to be able to capture authentic images of Moroccan life.