We are finishing our Moroccan adventure with a half day in Fes with our local guide Ali and a walk through the old Medina. Fes has 2 Medina’s. The new one (14th century) and the old one (9th century). Very different from the Medina in Marrakech. In Fes, the old Medina streets are very narrow and cars and motorcycles are prohibited. The old Medina covers a massive 600 acres. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, it covers more area than all the UNESCO sites in Spain combined. The only way to move goods through the city is by donkey, mule or man. This little guy was waiting in a passage way for his owner. Notice the lock on his feet. This is their style of bike-lock I guess.
We started out our morning with a lovely breakfast at our home Dar Roumana. This beautiful Dar was built at the end of the 19th century and recently purchased and restored and turned into a guesthouse. We will definitely stay during our next visit to Fes which is definitely worth a trip on its own.
Our local guide Ali picked us up at 9am and lead us off into the depths of the Medina. We don’t normally hire guides but this was fantastic. Ali is a very traditional Moroccan that grew up in Fes. He had some great insight into traditional life in the Medina. Especially around the home design and how it related to the “protection” of the women. Wendy loved it. More on that in person. All of the homes were built with no windows on the outside. This is why all homes had to have an open roof to allow light in. This was done for several reasons but not the least of which was to maintain privacy and not allow outsiders to see your women. There was normally one window over the door that would allow for answering the door if someone unexpectedly arrived, although this was not proper to show up unannounced. One could open the window and if it was a friend, you could lower a key to them. It was also used by women during the day while the husband was at work to look out to see what commotion was happening in the street. This gave it the nickname the “gossip” window. Too funny. And yes, Wendy also has some thoughts on this but not for posting.
We visited this amazing 14th century wooden water-clock. The Dar al-Magana is a water-clock that used water, balls and brass bowls that chimed out the hours of prayer. Please check it out on the link.
We told you in an earlier post, all villages had 5 things. One was a fountain similar to this one.
Another was a communal oven. This one was very old and fully operational. Families would bring their unbaked bread to this oven and the baker would bake them without mixing them up with the other families bread. Each family had their own special recipe. The trays would arrive from all over with different coloured towels covering them. The baker would have up to 200 loaves in at any time and would keep them all straight. It was unreal. He was so fast and bread was coming and going like crazy. The video is great. We can’t imagine again this job in the summer when it is 50 degrees outside. Today was 8 and the oven room was about 30.
One of our “must see” spots in Fes was the 11th century Leather Tannery. First we visited a pre-tannery where the hides are soaked in limestone, water and pigeon poo. This opens up the hide pores and allows the fur to be easily pulled off and used for pillows and stuff. This guy was more than happy to have his picture taken. How would you like this job? Bear in mind today was about 8 degrees. Imagine 50 degrees celsius. A little hummy I think.
In the big tannery, the lime pits are the white pits on the far side. Then the hides are washed and then soaked in the coloured pits. Each tank holds the various colours made from water and vegetable or minerals that give off the appropriate colour. Indigo for blue, Brazil-wood for red, leaves and birch bark for greens and brown and a whole bunch of others we can’t remember. All natural though. The hides are soaked for 2 weeks and the workers continually mixed the hides in the mixtures to ensure the dying was thorough. This was all done manually as you can see. Again, imagine at 40-50 degrees C. These views are from the observation balcony at the leather shop.
One of the highlights had to be visiting this little one room school. Ali made a donation to the teacher and the children welcomed us in. They diligently recited verse from the Qur’an and then sang us songs in Moroccan, Arabic, Spanish, French and then twinkle twinkle little star in English. It was amazing. The little guy 2nd from the right was the loudest and taught us some Moroccan. He is definitely bound for politics. We only wish we had video-taped it. You had to be impressed. They were so cute and thanked us for our visit and said goodbye in Moroccan, Arabic, French, Spanish, English and Japanese.
We also visited this great school that was built in the 11th century. It was a Quranic school and is now used as a mosque but we were allowed in for some pictures. We were not allowed into mosques nor could we take pictures normally. This was too bad as they are just so beautiful and we can only imagine how gorgeous they would be inside.
The markets were unreal. If you want fresh chicken, then this is the place. This vendor has his chickens in the cages behind him. You request one and he feathers, cleans and cuts it up for you to go. That’s fresh. We didn’t have any however. Of course the cats are never far away. Unfortunately it was not permitted to take pictures of local women so we could not take pictures in the depths of the local food markets. Suffice to say the sights were incredible. Tiny little streets filled to the brim with foods and vegetables and women shopping for them. Pushing and shoving to get what they wanted and seemed to have no issues with pushing us out of their way. It was cool but wish we had photos.
As we say goodbye to Fes and the rest of Morocco, we leave with the most incredible memories. Our entire trip to Morocco was an accident. It was not planned but seemed like a good idea at the time when we finished work in Holland (also completely unplanned) and wanted to go and see something. As we have said before, flexibility is key and when faced with an unforeseen situation, you must look upon it as an opportunity. Sometimes it is hard to see it but it is always there if you want it to be. We had such a great time in Morocco. We saw things we could have never imagined and certainly did not think we would see this year. The people were amazing and considering how difficult life here is, they were very accommodating and always helpful. Well except for some of the touts in the souk in Marrakech and that snake guy but hey, that’s their way. We are so incredibly fortunate to be able to live all of these experiences and hope you all enjoy reading about them. Bye for now.