Jnan Sbil Gardens, Fez’s Green Lung

The park's main avenue with its series of fountains, each features an Islamic-star shape

photography by: Omri Westmark

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The historic city of Fez is well-known for its buzzy and chaotic street scenery. As for some people, this frenzy hodgepodge of hagglers, scammers and pungent odors can be stressful after a while, it is noteworthy that the city also has other sides. Sandwiched between the old Medina and the former Jewish quarter, Jnan Sbil Gardens offer a much-needed respite from Fez's hustle and bustle.

Located roughly midway between the Mellah of Fez, where the Jewish community once thrived, and the bustling Medina, Jnan Sbil Gardens are practically the only decent green space across the city’s old part. Also known as Bou Jeloud Gardens, this verdant enclave in an otherwise hectic labyrinth was built in the 18th century by the then sultan, Moulay Abdallah. Upon its inauguration, the walled park was exclusively designated for members of the royal family, who accessed it via a tunnel directly from the nearby Dar al-Makhzen Palace.


It wasn’t until 1917 when the gardens were finally opened to all echelons of society, who made it their favorite spot across town. In spite of its growing popularity, the park fell into a state of disrepair in the following decades. In 2010, after undergoing a four-year renovation, the gardens returned once again to their former glory as the city’s green getaway.


Stretching along Ave Moulay Hassan and Ave de I’Unesco, the 7-hectare gardens are home to a whopping 3,000 species of plants, including giant bamboos, Washingtonia palms and pine trees. The park is divided to a couple of sections, each of which represents a different geographical region around the world, with the most conspicuous one being the Andalusian Garden, somewhat reminiscent of Alcázar of Córdoba’s green esplanades.


With multiple Rub-el-Hizb-shaped fountains and shaded walkways across the gardens’ fruit orchards, Jnan Sbil offers not only a refreshing break from the overwhelmingly chaotic medina, but also from Morocco’s scorching summer sun. The southernmost section of the park is covered by a small lake, which in turn is home to an islet, whose pint-size surface is almost entirely occupied by a tidy row of palm trees.


As the area is traversed by a pair of historic channels that formerly supplied Fez with drinking water, one can also find here a well-preserved water wheel. This vestige of hydro-power technology is known as Noria, which also happens to be the name of the garden’s sole café, renowned for its assortment of scrumptious Moroccan bites.