Fes is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, and the second largest in the country. It consists of two old medina quarters, making it one of the world’s largest urban pedestrian area and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We have another guide today that will show us some significant places in the city. First stop is the Royal Palace, and we admire the large ornate entry gates with its cool gilt bronze doors and the tiled mosaic.
This is as close as us regular people can get to this palace, because…the King of Morocco lives here! Don’t wanna intrude! Then we take a short walk through the Jewish quarter, which is no longer home to any significant Jewish population. But there are still remnants of the heritage remaining today.
The monumental southern gate Bab Semmarine, is the entry to the quarter and one of the most notable in Fes.
Then it’s time to briefly leave the city for a drive high up on a nearby hill for an incredible panoramic view of Fes, which some say resembles the shape of a heart.
And now back down into the old medina to wander through the old souks making a few stops along the way. We arrive at a ceramics factory- guys here are making dishes, painting them, and chipping marble to make mosaics. Cool!
Next stop is a metals shop, and I am able to purchase an engraved metal plate.
And now for the most famous sight in Fes…the tanneries!! We visit the Chouara Tannery, the largest and oldest in the city.
We view it from above; you can see all of the dye colors in their stone vats and many animal skins that have been left out to dry.
And here’s how it works: they take the skins of goats, cows, sheep and camel and soak them in a special liquid to clean them and soften the tougher skins which takes a few days.
Then the skins can more easily absorb the dyes, and they are soaked in various colors and left to dry under the sun. And this is all done by manual labor…no machines!
But the downside of these tanneries is they contribute to a lot of pollution due to the waste runoff and strong smells. There was talk of moving them to another location where the pollution wouldn’t affect the people as much, but they were just restored and still remain today. I will say the smell is quite awful; we don’t stay for too long because of that reason. And now it’s back to wander the souks, and the aromas you’ll discover here range from spices, baking bread, leather, and raw fish/meat. Yikes! The souks are also very narrow which leads to me almost being run over by a guy with cart, by a mule, and by the dude with the ladder that almost beheads me. Haha
Next stop is Cherratine madrasa, which is a school that usually teaches the religion of Islam.
There are no students here right now, because most of these schools are no longer in use. They are usually serene and quiet, a nice escape from the bustle of the medina that surrounds it. The architecture is beautiful and is made of brick and cedar wood. A simple but pretty fountain sits in the centre of the courtyard.
On the upper floors you’ll find the small dorm rooms where the students lived.
Now it’s time for lunch and we head into an old riad (a traditional Moroccan house), sitting directly under the skylight with a yummy spread of Moroccan tapas and a tasty chicken tagine.
The last stop of the day is a textiles shop, where we can pick out a cool scarf to wear on our heads when we visit the Sahara Desert.
And what’s more relaxing after a long jam-packed day in Fes? A Hamman and massage! A Hamman is a public bath where me, Liz and Bronte get soaped up and scrubbed down by a large Moroccan woman. It is a bit weird to be washed by someone else, but it’s a popular thing here so I’m going with the flow. And the massage is greatly appreciated after a few days of exploring. Tonight, for dinner we head over to a place that serves Western cuisine and opt for burgers and fries. It is our guide, Mo’s, birthday today but we definitely can’t celebrate with any drinks because it is still Ramadan. I sleep well tonight, and tomorrow we make our way to the desert!