Magical Morocco 2011
May 6th – 16th, 2011
 


Wednesday, May 11th, Fes

Travel back in time in the Fes el-Bali, the ancient medina, or walled city, of Fes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site believed to be the largest car-free urban area in the world. With its labyrinth of narrow, endlessly twisting streets bustling with shops, tanneries, workshops and stalls selling fruit or spices, it is one of the largest living medieval cities on the planet. View the beautifully decorated theological college of Bou Inania Medersa built in the 14th century and the Karaouiyine Mosque, founded in 859 AD and one of the oldest mosques in the western Muslim world. You’ll be welcomed to La Maison Bleue, an elegant riad, for an unforgettable dinner this evening – a highlight of your Morocco tour.

After breakfast, we started the city tour of Fez with a visit to a pottery shop, where they saw how pottery is made including the famous tiles. Here you can buy tagines that are safe to cook in as well as many other pottery items. We bought tagines and more including a water fountain! The city’s very numerous monuments are worth a very attentive visit and have thousands of stories to tell every visitor. To name but a few, Jemaa El Karaouyine (the first university to be established all over the world), Al-Karaouine Founded in 859, the university is one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world and is considered the oldest continuously operating institution of higher learning in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Bou Inania Medersa is one of the most beautiful and extravagant monuments in Fez. This Merenid monument is infinitely splendid and almost perfect in every aspect – its carved cedar is a masterpiece of handcrafted sculpture involving endless hours of pinpoint concentration. The Medersa shares its name with the powerful first ruler of the Merenid Dynasty, Sultan Abu Inane. The Sultan completed – although he did not initiate – the building of the medersa between 1351 and 1358 and its twin sister by the same name in Meknes. The layout of the medersa is similar in design to many mansions in Fez: a large courtyard opening into an oratory and surrounded by halls. The courtyard holds much of the extravagant decoration that covers every possible surface. Cedar eaves and the upper patio walls are carved in floral and geometrical motifs, mid-level walls carved in stucco and the lower walls covered with geometrical designs and an elegant Kufi script praising the Sultan.

The tanneries - perhaps the most fascinating, area is the traditional tanning and dyeing section. Even in the Middle Ages, Moroccan leather was the finest that could be bought. Wool dyers, like the leather ones, also thrive in the souk. They are not traders in their own right, but dye fabric to order for the textile merchants and carpet wool for the carpet makers and artisan quarters and the fascinating souks are just some of the too many places to see. This souk at Fez is enormous! The area of the Medina, the Old City, covers 300 hectares and most of this is taken up by the souk, so large that it contains 250 community districts. Each has its own mosque, hammam (Turkish bath), Islamic school and baker! No trip to Morocco is complete without a stay in Fes, the most ancient of Imperial Cities anywhere in the Muslim world. This is a city that has been the spiritual and political capital of Morocco for over 1,000 years since its inception by Moulay Idriss. The golden age of Fes was in the Middle Ages, when it was at the center of political, cultural and religious life in Morocco and beyond – throughout the Muslim World. Medieval Europeans who wrote about Fes were in awe of this “citadel” of mathematics, philosophy and medicine. Today, Fes is unmissable as a spectacle: this is a city that still exists suspended between the Middle Ages and modern life. The Medina (ancient town) has retained much of its medieval soul, spirit and architecture. You will discover narrow alleys and wilding streets leading to enclosed courtyards and arched gateways. The architecture is intricate with courtyards created of lavish marble and intricate tile and medrassas (religious schools) surrounded by fountains of carved plaster with quotes from the Koran.

It was amazing, all manner of things bought and sold and you really have to know where you are going. We enjoyed all our visits today. Going into the tanneries was very interesting. We each got a handful of spearmint to smell when the mood struck. It wasn’t really all that bad because there was not that much happening while we were there as you can see. But you could still smell it. They are first rubbed manually with salt, dried in the sun, the hairs removed, then soaked in lime, rinsed with water and trampled before being soaked again in wild pigeon droppings for several days before going on to be dyed. This has been going on since the 12th century. This is a business that will continue as long as there are skins.

Lunch was at Palais Jemai The palace was built in 1879 in the finest Moorish style and was the residence of the Grand Vizir of Jamaï.

Dinner this evening at La Maison Bleue, another fantastic venue and meal.

 

 

  • New Eden
  • Kids Garden
  • Plant a Row Grow a Row