The oldest of the four “imperial cities” of Morocco (the others are Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat), Fes was the capital of Morocco several times in the past, the last of which ended in 1912, when most of Morocco came under French control and Rabat was chosen to be the capital of the new colony. Today Fes is the third largest city in Morocco after Casablanca and Rabat.

Fes is often referred to as the spiritual capital of Morocco. It was once one of the most important places of scholarship in the world, containing within its walls the bastion of Islamic teaching. The University of Al-Karaouine was founded in 859 A.D. and is the oldest continuously-operating university in the world.

Fes is separated into three parts – Fes el Bali (the old walled city, dating from the 8th century), Fes-Jdid (new Fes, home of the Mellah or Jewish quarter, dating from the 13th century), and the New Town  (the French-created, newest section of Fes, dating from the 20th century).

The sprawling labyrinthine medina of Fes el Bali, is considered to be the best preserved old city in the Arab world, and is the largest car-free urban zone in the world. Fes el Bali was classified a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.