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The oldest city in Morocco is actually not one, but two cities. The old city, which is typically known as Fes-el-Bali, was founded in the 9th century by the Idrissids, who were the first powerful Muslim dynasty to rule Morocco. This old city was the first capital of Morocco, and it remains the center of a rich history and is much different from the New Fes, Fes-el-Djedid. The two are divided by the Muslim Medina, which was constructed during the rule of the Merenids dynasty, and the new city was first constructed in the 14th century. As a result the architecture of the two is quite different, but still old world by most visitor’s standards.
The old part of the city, the Fes-el-Bali is often a traffic jam with cars, donkeys and tons of people. It has a look that many westerners would consider “classic North African,” and visiting you might almost expect Indiana Jones to peer around the next corner! The Bad Bonjeloud gate to the medina practically stops the hustle and bustle of the old city, while letting you enter the sanctity of the Karaouine Mosque within. This is the largest religious structure in Morocco, build in the 9th century, it is today the heart of the medina and with its 14 doors some 20,000 faithful can come to pray.