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© 5 June 2005


Fès

Picture Pages:  Fès  |  Palace  |  Medina  |  Shopping  |  Tannery  |  Market  |  School  |  Bread  |  Family Dinner

We arrived at Fès in the early evening so there was a chance to walk the main commercial street (Avenue Hassan II), which runs from one end of the new town to the other.  It is one of the nicest places to stroll.  The wide pedestrian walk, lined with palm trees, is equipped with stone benches.  It was nice to stretch the legs.  From our hotel balcony we could easily see the Rif Mountains.

At breakfast we were offered the truffles we bought on the road.  They tasted sandy and were returned to the kitchen for further cleaning.  We had them again the next day, but they tasted no better.  Oh well!

After breakfast we were off to see the Royal Palace (Dar el-Makhzen).  There is a palace in every large city.  The main gate was magnificent in brass.  We were not allowed inside the palace grounds so we walked to the medina.  

The medina area (the largest in Africa) is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The New Medina (Fès el-Jdid)  is from the 14th century.  The Old Medina (Fès el-Bali) is from the 9th century, the beginning of Islam in Morocco.  About 500,000 live within the medina walls.  Most of the day was spent shopping in both medinas.  There are 9400 alleyways, 350 mosques and numerous souqs.  

An interesting visit was made to an Islamic theological boarding school (Medersa el-Attarine).  Students come from the rural area to receive a general education plus theological studies.  The central courtyard had elegant stucco, zellij tile and cedar wood carving walls and ceiling.  In the center was a ablution pool    We were able to speak with some students and take their pictures.

As we walked down one alley there was a call for prayer and following the people we saw the entrance to the Kairaouyine Mosque, one of the largest in Morocco.  It was founded in 859.  Attached to the mosque is the Kairaouyine University and library, one of the world's oldest (founded in 850) and highly regarded center of Muslim learning.

We also learned the difference between "live" and "dead" wool.  The "live" wool is the normal spring shearing.  The "dead" wool is taken from sheep before the slaughter for certain holidays.

We visited a carpet shop, a brass store, some souqs, and the market.  Some more education -  material for women's dresses can cost $100 to $400.  One alley had clothes being dyed in big vats in front of the souq.  The tannery was very interesting.  Still operated like it was centuries ago.

There were numerous children (and some adults) carrying bread dough to the local bakery since homes do not have ovens.  Each family probably consumes a couple loafs per day.  Each day the bread is baked fresh in a wood burning stove.  The bakeries charge ½ dirham (less than 5 cents) per loaf to bake

That evening we were split into small groups of 4 or 5 and picked up by a local family to eat dinner at their home.  Our family lived in a 5th floor apartment.  The father came to pick us up and paid for a taxi since we were a group of 5.  The children all went to private school and were learning English.  Both parents spoke English OK.  We learned how to eat with our fingers, but still we used utensils.  All three children sleep in one bedroom.  At lest they had air-conditioning.  We had a wonderful evening.

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