Fez: A Foodie Guide to Morocco’s Spiritual Capital

A Foodie Guide to Fez was written by Amanda Mouttaki for Afro Tourism In 2016

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The first time I visited Morocco we landed in Casablanca and took a prop plane to Fez. I’ll never forget the cargo net across the back holding in the luggage nor my first impressions of the city.

As our van made the descent down the hill on top of which the airport is perched, I gazed out the window. The image of an old man in dusty sandals riding on the back of a donkey while carrying palm fronds will forever be etched in my mind. It was as if we’d gone back in time and I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what the entirety of our time in Morocco would be like.

Fez skyline...
Fez skyline…

It didn’t take long to discover this was just one side of Morocco, a place where the old and new coexist in a unique mash-up. Fez served as the capital of Morocco six different times through history and is often referred to as the spiritual capital today. The medina is where you’ll find most of the historical sites and it’s also where you will get lost.

Traveling through Morocco you will discover many foods have the same name but when they are presented vary greatly. Food is hyper-regional and based around the seasons. What’s available in the far south of Morocco may not exist (or be too expensive) in the north. Changes are made to the recipe to adapt it to local tastes and availability.

R’Cif food market, Fez

Where can you find some of the street food specialties of Fez? They’re not as hidden as you might think.

At the bottom of the hill on which the winding labyrinth of Fez rests, sits the R’cif neighborhood. If you’re seeking amazing street food, this is where to go. You can purchase ready made foods or ingredients. You’ll find t’han, an organ sausage of sorts, as well as links of merguez sausage ready to be grilled, fresh goats cheese, and honey drenched pastries.

It’s worth a wander just to see women making oarka (a type of Moroccan phyllo dough) on conical shaped ovens. They skillfully drape the paper thin paper on top until it is just cooked, and whisk it aside. This will be made into flaky b’stilla pies or briouats. 

In Fez, eating b’stilla is a must. The dish was brought to Morocco by the expelled Moors of Andalucía and known as judhaba. The sultan of Fez is said to have requested the dish be made by one of the Spanish chefs and it sealed its place in Moroccan culinary history.

B’stilla is elaborate. Layered oarka creates the base of the dish. Slow cooked, spiced chicken is placed on top along with an egg and onion mixture, almonds, icing sugar and cinnamon. The package is wrapped into a pie shape and baked until the dough is toasted brown and crunchy. It’s then served dusted with more cinnamon and icing sugar.

Traditionally the dish would be made with pigeon meat but today chicken is more affordable and appealing to the public. Many riads will offer b’stilla but if you’re out of options check out Thami’s in Bab Boujloud for traditional Moroccan fare including b’stilla.

Near the Kariouine Mosque – home to the oldest university in the world – you’ll see a street with several vendors selling nougat of all varieties. They’ll gladly let you sample the different flavors so that you can make your choice.

My suggestion? Stick to the types that are naturally colored (avoid the bright green or pink made with dyes), and splurge on the almond nougat. It’s sold by the weight and the price varies depending on the ingredients. Make sure to take a peek inside the mosque too. Entrance is off-limits for non-Muslims but you can take a glimpse inside from the open doorway.

Nougat in Fez

With tired feet from walking and having spent a day or two experiencing the streets of Fez, it’s time to have a more relaxing evening.  Not all of the food in Fez is on the street – in fact there are several amazing restaurants like Numero 7. This concept restaurant features a constantly rotating staff of chefs from around the world. They create their menus around what is available locally – sometimes infusing Moroccan culinary dishes while other times creating something completely different.

Finding a place to stay in Fez is easy, finding THE place to stay in Fez may be trickier. There are countless riads and hotels at a wide variety of prices, from budget backpacker to over-the-top luxury. If given the chance, choose to stay in a riad. From the outside they all look the same but as soon as you walk through the door you will be greeted by unique designs – no two riads are the same.

Dar Namir, Fez

Enjoy a traditional Moroccan breakfast each day, and make sure to request a gem in the culinary crown of Fez – khlii. Hard to pronounce but delicious to eat, khlii is cured and dried strips of meat (usually beef or sheep) preserved in fat. To cook, a spoonful is added to a hot skillet, melted, and then cooked with eggs. Be careful – it can become addicting!

Fez is the kind of city that you can return to time and time again and still discover something new. Expect to get lost, but consider it part of the experience. You’ll be back again soon. 

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Amanda Mouttaki is a freelance food and travel writer based in Marrakech, Morocco. She writes on her website MarocMama.com where she shares culinary adventures and cultural experiences from around the world – especially Morocco.

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