Visiting Fez With Kids: How To Stay Safe and Sane

Some cities seem magical, and some not so much. Our visit to Fez, Morocco with kids was more of the latter….and here’s why. Fez didn’t end up being my favorite place on this trip, and there are things I have to share with you so you can decide if this maze-like Moroccan city is for you.

We travelled around to quite a few locations in Morocco with our family on a 10-day trip.  We landed in Casablanca at the Mohammed V International Airport and stayed in Casablanca for a night. Not much to see there except for the amazing Hassan Ii Mosque, which is right on the seafront.

The next morning we set out and drove to Fez. After a night in Fez, we then drove across the Atlas Mountains, stopping to camp in the Sahara Desert along the way. And we ended our Moroccan adventure in Marrakech.

Our stay in Fez with kids was interesting, to say the least.

The city of Fez, Morocco

An Overview of Fez

Fez is Morocco’s oldest Imperial City and is ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses the oldest university in the world. Nestled in the maze of medieval streets, the vibrant colors, smells, and sounds of this sprawling pedestrian city are a feast for all senses.

Fez Morocco with kids

The city lies in between two mountain ranges, the Rif Mountains and the Middle Atlas Mountains, which keep the city a pleasant temperature year-round.

Fez Morocco culture

Morocco’s reputation as a difficult destination for women precedes itself for a reason. Wandering around the Medina we could feel the stares and we attracted tons of attention from faux guides and children wanting money. Each time we turned down a side street, pulled out a map, or took a scenic photograph, a nearby vendor would pounce and try to sell us a product or their service. It didn’t matter that we had kids, we stood out as Westerners.

Travel to Fez Morocco
We stopped to buy fruit on the side of the road

We felt on ‘high alert’ at all times, so it wasn’t particularly relaxing, and that heightened when we saw two youths attack an older Moroccan man to steal his messenger bag. Fez, requires a thick skin and a watchful eye. That said here are some tips.

Fez Morocco tannery
Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous picture… the smell here is unbearable!

Visit the Tanneries in Fez

Fez is famous for its leather, and traditional tanneries, and the way the leather is produced has barely changed since medieval times. There are two types of vats. The ‘primer’ is a mix of pigeon poop and cow urine in one vat. This substance breaks down the skin, softens the skin, and removes any hair left behind.  The skins are laid out to dry in the hot sun and massive pots are filled with dyes made from turmeric, poppy, mint and indigo amongst other things.

Fez Morocco tanneries

The animal skin is soaked until the right color is achieved and is hung to dry. The colored leather is sold to leather smiths to make everything from purses to shoes and belts.

Fez Morocco shopping for shoes

The smell of the tanneries is overwhelming and we were given a mint sprig when we entered the tanneries, otherwise known as the “Moroccan gas mask….” and boy did we need it!

Wander the Fez Medina

The Fez Medina is a fantastic place to get lost. And we did.

There are endless opportunities to taste the local foods, search for local goods, and see things you wish you could unsee, including every variety of meat you could think of (hello! camel head on a pole). The kids loved checking out all of these new sights and sounds.

Fez Morocco medina
You have to be comfortable here with men being 2 inches from your face at all times

However, be sure to stay safe. If you get a bad feeling from a vendor or feel you are being treated unfairly, politely decline and walk away. Shops in the Medina start to close around 9:30 pm so you want to be sure you are close to the gates before then, as they turn out the lights.

Fez Morocco narrow medina
Fez is not for the claustrophobic!

Once the lights go out, the narrow winding streets become even more of a nightmare to navigate and can be quite intimidating. Definitely not a comfortable feeling.

Fez Morocco - bright colors in the Medina

Haggle for Souvenirs

Haggling is a way of life in Morocco, and the store owners expect it. They happily haggle in different languages, with a calculator, or a piece of paper to write down the negotiations.

Fez Morocco shop and teach kids to haggle

We were told by our guide to typically start at a quarter of the price offered and work from there. Haggling is a sport for the boys, they love it and have contests with each other to see who can get the best deal on a certain item. A great life skill!

Fez Morocco medina with children

Hire a Reputable Guide in Fez

The old Medina is a winding maze. Literally.

Hire a reputable guide in Fez, you'll thank yourself

Even with our reputable guide, we found ourselves sometimes lost. Having a native, reputable guide is essential as Fez is not someplace I’d recommend “getting lost”,  especially with children.

In Fez, it's always tea time
We stopped for plenty of tea and coffee!

With Kids, Avoid Street Harassment

Harassment was my least favorite part of the Moroccan culture in Fez. We all experienced women being treated as secondary to men. I personally felt uncomfortable with the constant whistles and cat-calling. It was constant, and it didn’t matter that I was with my kids and husband.

Men were obviously speaking about me in their native language, leering, and standing far too close and encroaching in my personal space. As a woman, I would prefer to move freely in public space without such blatant disrespect, and I was tense and ‘on guard’ the whole time we were there.

Fez Morocco medina with children - how to stay safe

I didn’t feel  I was in any real physical danger in Fez…. partly due to the fact I was with three boys and a paid guide, and partly because I’m a black belt and know that I could kick someone’s ass who tried any funny business.  🙂 But the petty crime and harassment required us to stay on guard more so than other countries.

Travel to Fez with children

Some Tips to Stay Safe in Fez with Kids

We want to be comfortable when we travel, but that’s not always the case. We felt much safer in other Moroccan cities, but in Fez, something felt different. Here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t walk alone at night.  This goes for pretty much any city, but here it’s an absolute. Always walk in well-lit busy areas, and be extra careful walking at night. There are many twisted roads and people seem to pop out of doorways in the Medina. Petty crime is rampant, especially against tourists.
  2. Don’t walk alone if you’re a woman. Western women attract lots of unwarranted attention from men, and while I’m not suggesting all Moroccan men are bad, I am saying that the attention is relentless. I would not want to be alone in a dark alley, and it makes a difference when you’re walking with a man.
  3. Dress conservatively. Morocco is a conservative Muslim country, and it’s not appropriate to wear skimpy clothing. (see point two above!)  Keep your arms, shoulders, and legs covered to avoid any unwanted attention (as much as possible anyway) and conform to local cultural behaviour. Wearing a hijab is optional, but will help you blend in.
  4. Do not wear nice jewelry. Theft is common in Fez and we saw two people being mugged in broad daylight. Don’t even be tempted to wear nice jewelry – it’s not worth it.
  5. Lock your passport in a safe at all times. There’s no need to carry around your passport, and since muggings and pickpockets are common. Why risk a nightmare situation? Take the minimum belongings you’ll need when you leave your hotel and lock everything else of value away in your hotel safe.
  6. Look out for scams. If someone asks you into their shop for tea, they will try to get you to buy something. Unless you are interested in what they are selling or offering, do not enter or accept their ‘gifts.’
  7. Do not accept “free” gifts.  Don’t let someone give you something to look at. And don’t let anyone put henna on your hand. Once it is there, they will try to say you bought it and demand money from you. Master the art of smiling and saying “no thank-you” politely, and walk away.
  8. Refuse help from ‘tour guides’ on the streets. Locals, and especially children, will say “no money”… but they definitely want your money. They will try to take you to their shops and ask for money for their service. Be firm and say no. If they begin to walk alongside you they will be nice initially, then quickly turn to begging you for money to pay for their ‘services’!

While this is good advice for any country, we felt Fez, Morocco was more intense than other destinations we have visited. We received a staggering amount of unwanted attention, to the point where we were unable to relax and enjoy our surroundings. It takes a ton of energy to always be on your guard.

So to conclude, we all left Fez with a bit of a bad taste in our mouths and felt stressed out. The atmosphere was definitely not what we look for in a vacation, and will probably not go back. But, that said, here are 8 must-see places in Morocco to visit with kids.

Have you been to Fez with kids?  Did you experience similar feelings?

Let me know in the comments below and join me on Instagram and Twitter!

About The Author

Samantha

I’m a travel and health writer, digital brand consultant, breast cancer survivor, and supermom to two boys! I keep it real and share stories of raising an active family, life after a cancer diagnosis, and family travels around the world! Each story is shared with my dry, and sometimes naughty sense of humor.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Abdeloihid Aouragh | 16th Jan 18

    Hi Samantha,
    I was with my wife a few years ago in the most beautiful beach area in Morocco and never felt harassment. A simple “no, thank you” usually did the trick. I felt a lot of pushing from the vendor, salesman on the street or local which was quite common. I appreciate your talking about your opinion and more people need to be educated with this degree of respect. It is the social standard that I hope will evolve and mature with time! As always thank you for sharing your experiences! 🙂
    Happy Traveling!!!
    Abdeloihid Aouragh

    • Samantha Kuhr | 17th Jan 18

      We didn’t get to the beach areas unfortunately but we’d love to! Thanks for the information!

  2. Kristen Lee Irish | 17th Jan 20

    How did you find a guide to hire and how much was it to hire one?

    • Samantha | 20th Jan 20

      Hi, You can find guides online. We used toursbylocals.com. Cost was relatively inexpensive… $30 per day I believe plus tips!

  3. Sandra | 17th Feb 23

    Thank you for sharing! The country is safe, divers landscape, peaceful and stable. Moroccan people are also noted for their warm hospitality and friendly nature.

    • Samantha | 17th Feb 23

      We loved the Moroccan people… and the food!

  4. Sandra | 22nd Mar 23

    This is awsome article! Thank you for sharing.

    • Samantha | 22nd Mar 23

      SO glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for stopping by!

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