Fez el Jdid and the Mellah
Fez el Jdid came into being as a walled annex to Old Fez when the Merinid rulers took control of the region in the 13C, and made Fez their capital. Here they erected their imperial palace as well as several important mosques. The main street, Grande Rue de Fez Jdid, is interesting architecturally for its balconies and zellij decorations.
The Mellah was the Jewish quarter of Fez, established in 1438 next to the Royal Palace as a guarded enclave for the city’s wealthiest and most controversial citizens. Certain rulers forced all the city’s Jews to live in the Mellah, turning the quarter into an overcrowded ghetto. At other times, however, such as under the 18C Almohads when Jews and Christians fled Morocco en masse, it was completely abandoned, only to be repopulated under more tolerant regimes. By 1925 most of the Jewish population had settled in other parts of Fez.
In 1980 there were more than 300,000 people crammed into Fez el Jdid and the Mellah. The prosaically-named Agence pour la Dédensification et la Réhabilitation de la Médina de Fès, or ADER-FES (or Agency for the Dedensification and Rehabilitation of the Fez Medina) has managed, through various inducements, to thin the population to some 200,000 while the city’s overall population has soared to over a million.
The usual route from the medina to Fez El Jdid follows the Avenue des Français west along the top end of Bou Jeloud gardens. Detour through the parade grounds of the Vieux Mechouar, the Makina and the Petit Mechouar, then continue under the Bab Es Seba to the beginning of the Grande Rue Fez El Jdid. Walk along this, stopping at the two mosques and the countless souks, to Bab Semmarine which marks the entrance to the Mellah, and turn into the Grande Rue des Merenides to finish up at the Dan Synagogue at the Jewish Cemetery.