May 2nd ~ The Medina of Fez
In 2007 we took a ferry from Spain and spent a whirlwind day in Tangiers. I had been enchanted by the colorful bazar marketplace. Having an opportunity to return to Morocco and have an entire day to wander the narrow streets of the medina was an exciting prospect.
The medina of Fez is the world’s largest car-free urban area. There are no motorized vehicles allowed inside and heavy items are transported via horse, donkey or mule. The city has been called the “Mecca of the West” and the “Athens of Africa”.
Try to imagine 1/2 a million people living on 650 acres, inside a walled city with narrow alleys and passageways. Then pretend you are transported back a thousand years in time.
There are no windows and seemingly no exits as you wind through an endless maze of walkways.
Thankfully we have a hired professor for a guide as well as Gate 1 guide (Ham) and an additional assistant with us today to help us manipulate our way through. One could so easily get lost here. We were asked to make sure to wear our Gate 1 name tags, stay together, and if by chance we were to get separated from the group to stay where we were and they would come and find us. We also had Ham’s cell phone number written on the back of our name tags.
Yes, it truly was that confusing and I loved every moment of it…
There are shops lining the way with hawkers offering colorful wares, fresh fruits, dates, olives, clothing, copper pans.
There are tradespeople to sharpen your knife, sew new clothes, make you a pair of leather shoes.
Go down another alley and observe blank sand colored walls broken up with a large wooden door. And then a sudden burst of color.
You could be walking down one small alleyway and suddenly walk through a large door to enter a courtyard filled with the most amazing and intricate architectural detailing. In this case it was the famed Al-Bou Inania madrasa.
(You can click on any of these pictures to see a larger version)
When you get near the tannery area you are assaulted with pungent odors. I had really been looking forward to visiting the Chouwara Tannery. Probably one of the most well-known photo opportunities from Morocco is seeing the enormous vats where the hides are dyed. You have probably seen something like this:
But, due to a large renovation project that is being funded by the King, the entire tannery has just been refurbished.
The tanks are shiny clean and empty.
They are waiting for the King to visit next week so that they can have a ceremony and then get back to business. So I got a rather unique opportunity to take a rare picture, even if it was not the one I was hoping to get.
The walls throughout the medina are also being redone which you can easily see if you compare the walls of the homes on my picture v.s. the one above.
Occasionally we needed to move aside for a beast of burden to pass by. It was also VERY important to watch where you stepped along the way.
Of course we had the obligatory stop to shop for authentic Moroccan carpets plus a short visit at the Nejjarine Museum to browse the collection of wooden arts and crafts.
Our tour ended outside the Karaouine Mosque and University, the oldest continuously functioning university in the world, founded in the year 859.
We exited via the Bab Boujloud, or “Blue Gate” which I believe there is a replica of this gate at Epcot center in Florida.
Back on our bus, we drove through the Jewish Quarter, or mellah, built in 1438 and walked past the King’s Palace.
Our long day was topped off with a typical Moroccan dinner hosted by a local family in their home.
Overnight: Fez – La Perle De La Medina
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for having three guides with us as we wandered, wove, dodged and explored the medina. Fun day!
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