Day 4 – The Medina of Fes

Fes/Fez is the oldest imperial city in Morocco and its fourth largest city. It actually consists of three separate cities – a 9th Century section (the Medina), a 14th century section where the royal palace and Jewish quarter are located and the 20th century section (ville nouvelle) which was built by the French. This is where our hotel is located.

Our first stop was at the Place des Alaouites, recognisable by its 7 spectacular doors, which provide entrance to the royal palace.

Nabil dressed up for us today – in his traditional djellaba, a hooded robe worn by both men and women.

He pointed out some nearby housing- part of the Jewish quarter – architecturally different to typical Moroccan dwellings in that they have balconies. Traditional Moroccan buildings are typically rectangular or square.

In order to provide a perspective of the 3 cities we were taken up to a lookout, where the delineation of the three cities is fairly clear to see, before going back down and through the old city walls into the Medina.

What an experience the next few hours were. The sense of history was palpable as we wound our way up and down narrow cobbled alleys, lined with shops, market stalls, even narrower entrances into winding alleyways, restaurants, hotels and homes.

I mentioned a while back that Fes has a chequered history of restoration. Some of the alleyway walls were propped up with an elaborate criss crossing of timber beams; in other places original timber work sits side by side with reproduction cedar work. Many places are in dire need of restoration – but what a task that must be to contemplate amidst this tangle of historical buildings and add ons.

One of our first stops was at a carpet business – and entering that building could not have demonstrated a greater contrast in the unrestored state v restoration (in this case funded by UNESCO). Above and below are photos of the outside of the building.

Look at the breathtakingly beautiful interior. This was once a family home!

The carpets were truly beautiful, and one amongst us gave in to the very strong temptation to own one.

Within the complex network of alleyways people rushed by, ambled along, touted their wares or sat on steps in doorways watching the bustle around them, all the while dodging the handcarts that we have become accustomed to seeing everywhere. Donkeys and mules stand patiently waiting or doggedly carrying their loads from one place to another.

And there are sheep everywhere – in cars, in handcarts, in trailers, in alleyways and within some of the homes that we passed. Their days are numbered! Tomorrow is Feast day.

 

Throughout the day I was captivated by the thought of how much history had happened within the Medina during the last 1200 years and there were so many examples of the extremes in history in this amazing place. Sitting along the crumbling walls were young men connected to the internet on their smart phones, twisted coils of electrical cable run in and out of medieval walls and windows, ancient metal doors sit alongside elaborately decorated and carved Moroccan doors.

This door has 2 door knockers – the low one for those on foot, the higher one for those astride a donkey or mule.

This is a country of such contrasts – a man could be riding a donkey or mule alongside a car, a lonely herdsman on a mountaintop walks along the roadside, earphones firmly in place. Grand homes in cities sit separate to the seeming hodgepodge of apartment buildings as far as the eye can see, and on the city fringes and in the countryside are dwellings ‘constructed’ with whatever can be made useful.

The people of Morocco have been ever so friendly wherever we’ve been. We say ‘Australian’ and they come back with koala, kangaroo or oi, oi, oi! They check out our name badges and delight in saying our names. They patiently explain things when the language barrier threatens to hijack progress. Moroccans tend to be bilingual and we find it easier to make polite French responses rather than the more challenging Berber phrases. Each morning we greet Nabil in his native tongue and he tries unfailingly to expand our vocabulary, but they aren’t the easiest sounds to grasp, remember and repeat!

Our internet access is a little frustrating at the moment so I’ll post more of today’s photos later.

Til next time….
Chris

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