Magical Morocco 2012
May 8-17th, 2012

Saturday 12 May 2012 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.

After a glorious day of discovery we enjoy dinner at La Maison Bleue, an elegant riad, for a Moroccan dinner this evening – another highlight.

Start your day with a tour of the ramparts for a generous introduction to the history and the culture of the city. Fez will stimulate all your senses as you go for your guided tour inside Fes el Bali (old Fes) across food and spice markets, handicraft quarters, auction markets and colouful Souks. Visit the medieval children’s school and meet the school teacher and the pupils, enter artisan workshops and discover the secrets of their ancestral arts, visit the public bakeries and pastry makers in the residential quarters and see their historical fountains, mosques and sanctuaries.

Some thoughts on going into the souks…

Watch out! When you hear Balack, Balack, move fast to the sides of the walls as donkeys are coming laden down and do not stop for anyone. You cannot hear them either as they do not have the traditional metal horse shoes. They wear rubber and it is usually tire rubber. We heard it often and even when I moved up against a wall I was one of the lucky ones who got pinned between the wall and a donkey laden with cartons of goods…it could only laugh about it as everyone was so concerned.

For the most part walking through these areas is an exercise for all the senses. You must approach them as an experience. They are a labyrinth of paths, shops, lanes, people, product, animals and noise. You come out of them exhausted because you have never had all your senses so aware at the same time. But you come out of them smiling because you have just experienced life as it was, as it is now and as it forever shall be… Everyone came out smelling of spices, it was wonderful!

The highlight of your morning visit will be inside the 14th century Medersa (theological school) for its most intricate architecture, and around the Karaouine mosque which was once the oldest university in the world, founded in 857 ad. by a lady from Fez. 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.

We also visited the tanneries and noses stuffed with fresh mint we can only say it was another Moroccan experience. I had been before to another tannery but I liked the set up of this one better. They use all natural dyes made from plants in the vats. Except for the white vats…those are filled with pigeon droppings and those are the ones that smell. These vats are used to remove the hair from the skins. They wear rubber boots and gloves in those vats.

Lunch at Palais Jamai

We had a visit to see how pottery is made including the famous tiles. Here you can buy tagines that are safe to cook in as well hugely less expensive than back home as well as many other pottery items.

Continue the visit to the royal palace of the late 19th century where King Hassan I lived and see the central four parts garden and the gigantic oak. Dar Batha is an elegant late nineteenth-century palace designed for the reception of foreign ambassadors and now serving as a Museum of Moroccan Arts and Crafts. This is where I took the picture of that double pomegranate flower with the white edging. I have a feeling there are many more unique plants in this old garden.

Continue the walk through the historical park and gardens of Jnan Sbil and see their medieval irrigational system before you reach Fez El Jedid (new Fez) for a stroll in the Jewish quarter where you will be able to visit a 17th century synagogue.

Dinner at La Maison Bleue- which is the ancient home of the astronomers of Fes . La Maison Bleue was built as a family palace in 1915 by Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a famous judge and astrologer of the times. Today, Si Mohammed's grandchildren keep the spirit of the house alive by opening it to guests. Here, you may enter the mysterious inner courtyards and lifestyle of the city of Fès, jewel of the Arab world, where blue zellij mosaics, finely carved cedar-wood doors, stained glass windows with wrought iron grilles and stucco cornices come together in refined harmony to make for a beautiful ambiance for your meal this evening.

A beautiful and very romantic place to enjoy dinner. 


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