Where to Go Shopping in Fes, Morocco

Wander the streets of the medina, stopping in spice shops and honey souks, and visiting the quarters where artisans make copper pots or intricately scrolled window screens, or puzzle together the local tile work. The local markets and shops can convert the biggest skeptic into a diehard shopper.

Quartier Des Potiers, Fes, Morocco
Fes is well-known for producing the best pottery in Morocco. The local gray clay is much more hard-wearing than many clays used further south; items made from this material are often fired at volcanic temperatures, and usually capable of withstanding a microwave or dishwasher. The pots are still painted by hand here. If you’re keen to stock up on treasures for your kitchen or dining room table, you have several options. Several stores along Talaa Kbira stock good-quality tableware, including our favorite, the Fondouk Tazi, which also offers some lovely modern designs. Continue into the bowl of the medina to the Henna Souk to find traditional patterns such as the tomato flower, various Berber motifs, and embroidery-inspired designs. Serious buyers hop in a taxi up to Ain Nokbi, the industrial quarter, to see the potters at work. The shops can also organize big shipments for you, but oversee the packaging yourself if you want it to arrive intact.
Dar Tazi, Fes, Morocco
To immerse yourself in the life of a Moroccan housewife, take a stroll through the fresh-produce market of R’cif, which winds through the lower part of the Fes medina. Plan to arrive by 10 a.m. when the market really gets going (by 11:30 a.m., it’s packed). In addition to browsing stalls of plump fruit and vegetables from farms in the Middle Atlas, you can snack here, too: hot trid—a gossamer-thin pastry baked over a rounded clay pot or “egg”—and irresistible meloui (multiple layers of dough that become soft and flaky as they are cooked) stuffed with spiced onions. Don’t miss seeing the infamously grumpy camel butcher whose signage is a real camel’s head hanging from a hook. Around lunchtime, mastermind your way deep into the souks to find the Achabine area, where the city’s best street food vendors ply their trade. The dishes served up here built this city and continue to do so every lunchtime: comforting bessara (split-pea or broad-bean soup) and harira (a Moroccan staple of chickpeas, lentils, and lamb broth); sardines doused in charmoula and deep-fried until crunchy; hard-boiled eggs dipped in cumin. Come in the evening if you crave bite-sized brochettes of tender lamb and spiced liver.
The dyeing vats at Chouara—as well as at the city’s other tanneries—are among the Fes medina’s most iconic sights. The ancient craft of tanning and dyeing, in all its visceral authenticity (cow urine and pigeon poop are still key components in the process), plays out much as it always has. Chouara has been around since the 11th century. The dyes used in the tannery pits are natural: Blue comes from indigo; red, from poppy or paprika; yellow, from saffron, pomegranate, or even a mix of turmeric and mimosa flowers. The best vantage point for observation is from one of the roof terraces. Leather shops hawking everything from butter-soft leather babouches (iconic Moroccan backless slippers) and poufs, to copies of designer jackets and handbags. (That Hermès Birkin bag, or a facsimile of it, could finally be yours at a fraction of the price.) Although the guides around here are a tenacious lot, don your best smile, carry a posy of mint to hold beneath your nostrils, and settle in for a long chat with the shopkeepers to learn about fascinating process. Expect prices in the shops to vary wildly—much depends on your haggling prowess. A favorite store is the aptly named La Belle Vue de la Tannerie, off the main drag. The shop has sought out skilled tailors with European know-how to create items of better quality using all Moroccan hides, which results in better leather goods. The tailors can copy a motorcycle jacket for you in three or four hours from goat or lambskin, the softest of the hides.
Derb El Miter, Fès, Morocco
Hit the Fondouk Kaat Smen, otherwise known as the honey souk, to taste your way through as many as 17 different wild honeys for sale. Varieties range from familiar orange blossom and lavender to more unusual treats like caper and carob. If jujube is available, note that it’s favored for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, is considered to be particularly good for the liver and is locally consumed more as a medicine than something to spread on toast. People travel from afar to take this honey home, so the proprietor, Mr. Hicham, is used to packing it for air travel. Pop around the corner to the spice shop on Rue Bouhaj to stock up on freshly ground spices, too, like lemon-scented cumin, rich red paprika, ground ginger, sweet and earthy turmeric, and heady cinnamon.
Tala'a Kbira , Medina , Fés-Morocco، N°248 Rue Talaa Kebira, Fes 30000, Morocco
The most traditional of Fes’s two main shopping streets is a cornucopia of carpet vendors, leather babouche makers, Berber jewelry sellers, fondouks spilling over with handmade pottery, and much more besides. The trick here is to sort the wheat from the chaff and get some proper bargains. Among the myriad carpet shops, a favorite is Kilim Berber where the charming Youssef sells an affordable collection of top-quality Beni Ouarain, Azilal, and Boucherouite rugs. Take a gander at the wares of the Fondouk Tazi, which has an excellent range of traditional Fes pottery as well as groovier striped collections. Keep strolling downhill and you’ll see wooden buckets trimmed with brass items meant for the hammam (but which look just as stunning in a modern bathroom); aim to wind up at the Henna Souk, where you can stock up on traditional cosmetics and toiletries from Ahmed and Mohammed—who can also give you a crash course in how to use them.
Rue Talaa Kebira
The plaza of Place Seffarine, dominated by the entrance to the al-Qarawiyin Library and a sturdy old tree, is one of the most pleasing areas in Fes. As you approach, you’ll hear the sound of the copper beaters tap, tap, tapping away. It’s well worth perusing the stalls to find high-quality cookware to take home, such as pixie pans for boiling milk for your coffee, copper tagines and teapots, and prettily etched bowls for use in the hammam. Stop at the café for seriously strong coffee and to watch the world go by, or scoot around the corner onto Derb Chouara for hot, sweet mint tea spiked with various other healing herbs at a hole-in-the-wall where you’ll rub shoulders with local craftspeople taking a break from their labors.
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