One of the most characteristic types of building in the Medina is the fondouk or caravanserai. Originally inns used by visiting merchants when they were in Marrakesh to trade in its souks, fondouks have a courtyard in the middle surrounded by what were originally stables, while the upper level contained rooms for the merchants. Some date back to Saadian times (1520–1669), and some still have fine original woodcarving or stuccowork.
Today, Marrakesh’s fondouks are in varying states of repair; some have become private residences, others commercial premises. Some have been converted to house tourist souvenir shops and welcome visitors, but even in others, the doors to the courtyards are often left open, and no one seems to mind if you wander in to have a look.
Interesting fondouks include: a group on Rue Dar el Bacha by the junction with Rue Mouassine, several of which welcome visitors; a couple just south of the junction on Rue Mouassine itself; a row on the south side of Rue Bab Debbagh, behind the Ben Youssef Medersa; a whole series along Rue Amesfah, north of the Ben Youssef Mosque; and one directly opposite the Chrob ou Chouf fountain. Terrasse le Medersa restaurant is on the terrace of a fondouk.