Monday, 28 October 2019

Exploring the Moroccan city of Fes / Fez

I have always been fascinated by the interesting scenes from Morocco - it is quite unique & a country with  a long & varied history which was influenced by the many invaders / occupiers. Yes was founded during the 8-9th century, a long & interesting history.

Fes or Fez as we write it is the fourth largest city in Morocco & it is located close to the lovely Atlas Mountains. It has the oldest university in the world, founded by Fatima & her sister Maria & influenced by their connection to Spain. The intricately carved doors lead to the most beautiful courtyard in this university building of  Al-Attarine Madrasa the arched windows on the upper level are the residences of students even today. Every bit of this courtyard was covered in detailed tiles & scripts - a fascinating space.

Fes has a population of 2.5 million & our tour headed to the 14 century Medina with its 25 km of walls - vast space.

To see the massive Medina from the lookout on the surrounding hills was quite staggering; I admit to thinking ‘this is not the place to get lost in’ - fortunately, our two drivers Paul & Lisa, Mohammed (our full time guide for the week) and a specialist Medina guide were with us to make sure we enjoyed our time in the Medina.

Leading us in to the many passages, some barely wide enough for one person, some long, some dark, some just walls, others with doors or shops ...

I have visited markets in many African countries & these reminded me of the markets in Mekele & Addis Ababa in some respects but on a much larger scale.

Don’t you just love the beautifully displayed fruits & vegetables? The numerous tangines were outside some of the many Medina restaurants - delicate aromas wafting down the alley ways ...

Shouts of ‘Balak’ (watch out) rings out as hand carts & donkeys pass with goods - these narrow passage ways mean that goods have to be carried in  ...

So many sights, smells, sounds, colours, textures in each passage ....

A round bread is local to Fes & it is good - Mohammed passed some around & it was really good as it was freshly made & hot.

The market is divided up in to sections - this is the copper beater section - the melodic sound of hammering is heard long before you get to see the gleaming copper. How absolutely beautiful are the wares?

A visit to a market weaver with their looms & stunning bolts of fabric - from finely woven threads of Aloe Vera which gives a silky thread. I admit to buying a lovely scarf ...

 Then on to a scene I have seen often on the covers of travel brochures - the huge vats of dye to stain the beautiful soft leather hides that they pride themselves on. The Chouara Tannery dates from the 11th century, one of the oldest tanneries in the world. Can you see the men in the vats of dye?

The hides are treated in vats with chicken poop, salt & magnesium to soften & sure them ahead of the dyeing process. There was a decided ‘wiff’ in the air in the hot sun. Can you see the hides drying on hangers on the top of the building? 

Inside the shop had the most beautiful coloured shoes, bags & wares .... 

We were led up a very long alley, past so many interesting shops to a beautiful building - the venue for our traditional Moroccan lunch. The venue was beautifully decorated with the extraordinary tile patterns & colours - a total delight to view. 

We had a selection of beautifully presented bowls of vegetables (centre bottom) along with some of that beautiful freshly baked round breads - heaven. 

This was followed by the beautiful tagine (top left) which has chicken, cous cous, potatoes which were clearly spiced with saffron or pimento (sweet paprika), carrots, legumes & more. It was spicy but not hot. At home I add more fruit & chilli to my tagines so it was interesting to have their authentic version. 
We finished off with thinly sliced orange, spiced with cinnamon and traditional sweet mint tea, poured at great height from a very decorative metal pot. A thoroughly enjoyable lunch stop. 

We also had the opportunity to visit a pottery factory outside of the market - they make the most stunning mosaic work, really skilled craftsmen who work with pottery made on the premises. 

I have a fondness for blue & white & this factory made my heart sing - just look at the stunning, detailed patterns. 

Morocco is almost unique in that it still has a sizeable Jewish Quarter & all three religions - Jews, Christians & Arabs have lived side by side for generations.

A sight that is often seen are storks nesting up high on electricity poles in the countryside or on buildings as seen here ...

These shops / houses are unique near the Jewish Quarter because they have balconies. Arab homes have no windows on to the outside from privacy, which is why they have the central courtyards common in Moroccan architecture. However, this row of shops with their homes above were home to Jewish tradesmen, bankers & shopkeepers ...

The Mellah or Jewish Quarter in Fes / Fez - still a religious site where the two religions co exist - very interesting.

I hope you have enjoyed visiting Fes with me, feel free to follow my blog so you don’t miss any new posts & I always enjoy reading your comments,
Dee ~💕~

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