We took a grande taxi to Fez, passing well tended fields along the way….
and lots of olive trees.
Arriving in Fez.
Checking into the Riad Salama.
The door to our private balcony.
In no time we were out sightseeing with our guide, Mahomed. These are the palace gates. Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco and Commander in Chief of the Royal Moroccan Army spends some time here and it is not open to the public. His main palace is in the capital of Rabat.
We were taken to the pottery and ceramics centre. The clay is fine and lead free, perfect for making cookware like tagines.
Can you guess what they use as fuel for the kilns?
Answer: Olive pits. Apparently they give an even slow burn.
One of the kilns.
An example of their most popular product. We saw large packages ready for shipping overseas, including one to Dural, NSW.
Unless you are on the main streets with all the shops, there is not much to look at in the alleyways of the medina. At times your shoulders touch the walls on either side of you. There are 13,000 alleyways in the Medina of Fez. As our guide Mohamed says, the outside of the houses are very plain so as not to arouse the jealousy of one's neighbours. The wealthy are protected by huge locked gates. As with the riad that we stayed at, once inside you enter a small protected paradise. Beautiful, but Don and I found it a bit claustrophobic. Paradise or fortress? At least there was no need for the armed guards that protect many houses in India.
Once outside one's private sanctuary one steps into streets littered with rubbish,manure, stray cats and beggars who have never had dental or health care. We suffered culture shock on arrival in Tangiers and have spoken to other tourists about it. I can imagine now how the young man Siddhartha felt (according to the story of the early life of Buddha), after living behind palace walls all his life, when he first went outside. Culture shock in his own country!…leading to a search for enlightenment and an end to human suffering.
We saw some donkeys but the horse is the Mercedes of the Medina.
There used to be a rug market here. The ladies who wove the rugs would spread them on the ground and then modestly retire behind the wooden latticework on the overlooking balconies, where they could see anyone who came in and bargain with any would be buyers.
Unesco is doing great work in The Fez medina where many old buildings such as the one above have been heritage listed.
Below: This is inside a similar building that has already been restored to its former glory and is now the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts.
Next we were taken to the tanneries. The white vats are used first. The skins are soaked with pigeon poo.The leather is made from the skins of goats, cows, sheep and camels.
This man is cleaning the fur from the skins. We were lucky to be there on a cool day. The smell was not as bad as I had imagined it would be.
Below: I hadn't been planning on this purchase. We bought a soft black waistcoat for Don. Unfortunately when we got back to our riad we discovered that it had been swapped for a child size one. We are trying to be very alert all the time but they got one up on us this time.
To be given a tour of the city is to be taken to all the handicraft factories and shops. No obligation to buy but all due pressure will be brought to bear on you. Here you can see two very bored ladies. One is cracking open the seed pods of the argan tree while the other then grinds them for 3 hours to produce oil.This oil reputedly has wonderful cosmetic properties. I am now the proud owner of an expensive bottle of argan oil so I will be able to let you know how good it is.
The next day we passed by the shop and I took a picture of the owner, closest to camera, who waved back happily to me. The poster shows goats in the argan tree. I read a story on the plane to Morocco telling the story of how the goats climb into the trees to eat the nuts. The seeds, having passed through the goat are then ready for pressing, eliminating stage one of the process. Somebody once must have woken up one morning and thought, “I know, today I will collect goat's droppings and see if I can make a cosmetic oil from them” !!!
In this space I should be able to show you some beautiful Moroccan rugs. However I was afraid to even take a picture in case it indicated a desire on my part to buy. I can photograph some in the streets of the next medina I go to, which will be in Marrakesh.
Our tour is not yet over. Now we can see some cloth being woven. I was fascinated to learn that some of the cloth being produced was from the fibres of the aloe vera plant. All the dyes are from natural products as well. I bought some scarves in the end. Don unintentionally did some good bargaining here as we really did not intend to buy, certainly not at the prices they first quoted us!
This man is holding up the dried fibrous aloe vera plant leaf. I also learnt that he has only 3 children and thinks it would be too expensive to have any more. Our guide Mohamed had told us that children are an insurance for the future and that when you ask a Moroccan how many children he has he may reply “Only eight”. Apparently this does not apply in the medina where property and livelihood are handed down from one generation to the next. I had actually expected this man to be too young to have any yet.
I happened to peep through a door and see these little people hard at work learning the Koran by heart.
Outside the Clock Cafe, where we had lunch.
Inside the Clock Cafe.
Rooftops and satellite dishes.