12 2 / 2012
The second day of our dual day weekend excursion was to Fez, which is another fairly close city to Meknes and also fairly large. Fez is known for having quality leather and other artisan products that can be purchased within its medina. Fez is also the last city on the pilgrimage for the Prophet’s birthday throughout the region. The local color of Fez is cobalt and everything throughout the city reflects that aside from the petite taxis which are interestingly enough red (and they are blue in Meknes, which doesn’t make much sense…) Our tour of Fez began with the palace located within the city that is housed behind a giant wall that extends for many blocks, as we stood outside the actual doors of the palace which are giant and ornate actual gold doors. While waiting for our tour guide we took various pictures in front of the doors, and were told by one of our Directors Iman to knock, which of course we took as literal and knocked, before we were yelled at from inside the palace doors which was more entertaining than I’m sure it should have been considering how inappropriate such behavior I’m sure was viewed.
Our tour guide then took us through the medina and made sure to show us the Jewish part of the town, as well as a synagogue that was prominently known to the Jewish population. It makes sense that those who were Jewish had their own portions of the town when it was founded although I was surprised at how sharp the distinction was from the street names to decorations to markings between the areas. Afterwards we went to a scenic overlook for the entirety of the city. The medina of Fez is composed of 9,500 alleys with 12,000 people and is built within a valley. Only mules and donkeys are allowed within the narrow streets and it is locationally situated between the Atlas & Reef mountains. We then went over to an artisans area where pottery was made and were able to see each step of the Moroccan process to making pottery including the wheel used, the kilns, the individual decorating of each piece, as well as the mosaic side of the artisan area where the stones are cut, pieced together, decorated and created. It was clear the amount of skill and detail put into each piece of work that came out of the shop and I wish I could have bought one of everything due to how beautiful it all was, especially the mosaic fountains and faucets. Traveling into the old Fes we visited the biggest mosque within the city, as well as the Sahrij Medersa which is known for its architecture, as usually is the case with Medersas. The narrow streets of the medina date back to 9AD and have specific sections devoted to the different trades and artisans. It was immensely interesting to see the different artisans at work throughout the medina but it wasn’t worth purchasing anything because Fes is known to be extremely touristy and thus all the prices we were given were extremely elevated (i.e. 3000 dhs for a leather jacket, around $350) First, we stopped at a silk weaving shop where a giant loom prominently featured and we watched as the machine weaved beautiful scarves and fabrics that were sold in every color imaginable throughout the shop. We saw the metal workers area where immensely large pots are kept in order to be borrowed by various town members, and went to the leather making section of town. The leather making section is easily found by its intense smell, as the tanneries exist below the shops, which even offer a scenic view of the whole experience. Upon entering the shop you are given a stem of mint in order to smell as the entirety of the four floored shop not only is filled completely top to bottom with leather, but also each floor looks out upon the various vats of dye below in which the leather is soaked and dyed as well as dried. I can easily say that the entirety of that experience has been my least favorite in all of my time spent in Morocco, that and the giant camel head that is a prominent feature within the meat souk in Meknes. In retrospect I realize that I don’t have as much to say about the state of Fez though I did extremely enjoy the day because at the time I was really very cold and it was windy and I was tired for the entirety of the day (rough life, not).