Fes is the great imperial city of Morocco. Founded in the 800s, it remains the lifeblood of the country. Fes is altogether different from both Casablanca and Marrakech. Tucked between the Middle Atlas and Rif mountain ranges, the city is more compact than other large cities in the country.
We begin with our drive from Marrakech to Fes. Starting in the low desert around Marrakech at an elevation of 1,500 feet, we skirted the High Atlas mountains as we drove northeast to Fes. Some of the distant peaks reach over 4,000 meters (over 13,000 feet). Along the way we passed through many towns, several wilayats, or provinces, and lost our way a few times (which should surprise no one by now).
We arrived in Fes and were quickly picked up by a faux tour guide who was on his motor bike. He showed us to some hotels in New Fes, but it was too far from the Fes el-Bali medina. He then took us to a riad just inside the walls of the medina, the Dar Masmoudi, where we decided to stay.
The entire Fes el-Bali (Old Fes) medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It contains nearly 10,000 narrow streets and alleys covering 740 acres (100 acres smaller than Central Park in New York City). Within this medieval medina live about 160,000 people, 223 people per acre or 142,454 people per square mile. Compare that to the highest population density areas in New York (Upper East Side) that are around 100,000 people per square mile. And, since most buildings are under four stories in Fes el-Bali, the population density in Fes is all the more meaningful than in New York, where we have 40-story apartment buildings.