Fez And A Bonus City

Fez And A Bonus City

First order of business today was to get our Covid test in order to get back to the US.

Breakfast at the riad. Carbs on top of carbs, paradise for a carb lover. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

After arriving at the public Covid testing site, we realized that the turn around time was too long, and there was a chance that we may not get the results in time. So our driver Mohamed started looking for some private laboratories with quicker turnaround time. Unfortunately, there were none in Fez (something to do with corruption, it was unclear to us), so Mohamed made an appointment for us to get it done tomorrow morning in Meknés, which is an hour away.

Then we were off for our 6-hour tour, which later turned into a 3-hour tour because Mohamed got us a Covid test appointment for the afternoon.

The first stop was the Royal Palace gate, which is one of the top things I had wanted to see in Morocco.

I noticed that the morning sun was behind the gate and I thought to myself, “that’s a bummer” as the door looked dull. I was debating whether to return in the afternoon on our own to get a better look. One thing I noticed was how empty the area in front of the gate was. Normally, I’d expect to see crowds and Instagrammers in front of a site like this trying to get a photo. However, it was just the 3 of us. So refreshing.

The Jewish quarter is right next to the Palace. The distinguishing features of the Jewish homes from the Muslim homes are the windows and balconies. Muslim homes have very few windows to protect the female resident from “prying eyes”. Their homes “open inward”, which explains the riads with the open courtyards within the four walls.
Examples of Muslim homes – notice the lack of windows on buildings.
The Semmarine Gate next to the Jewish quarter
Check out that huge stork in its huge nest atop the wall. Storks migrate up to Europe during summer and return to Morocco during the winter months.
Fried honey treats for people getting ready for Ramadan next week
Mohamed then drove us up to Borj Sud to get a panoramic view of the old Fez Medina, which is the oldest (since 808 AD) and largest medina in the country.

One of the things tour guides will do is to bring tourists to shops hoping to make a commission off a sale. It can be a waste of time, but sometimes the shops will show you how everything is made and that makes these tours worthwhile.

Check out all the hand written signs in different languages. They all say one thing – “Do Not Touch”.
End result is a pile of colorfully shaped mosaic pieces
A second person assembles the pieces upside down (the pattern is on the underside). Fiberglass resin is then pour over on top to hold the pieces together to form a table top
Or a water fountain

We finally got to the Medina and started working our way through the different souks.

This cat is knee deep in shrimp shells
A beautifully restored fondouk

Our walk was punctuated by beautiful doors to our left and right.

One of the doors to Zaouia Moulay Idriss
The door to Zaouia Sidi Ahmed Tijani
Carved wooden panel
Mules and donkey are common sights in the Medina

Every once in a while we’d duck into tight alleys to get to a hidden shop.

A quick peek inside a public bakery. Homes in the Medina do not have ovens, so families bring their dough to have them baked at the public oven.

Finally we made it to the other must see in Fez – the Chouara tannery.

A birds eye view of the tannery from one of the terraces. Our guide told us the place is normally packed with hundreds of people, but today we were the only visitors.

Hide is collected from meat processing slaughter houses, and then treated to remove the fibers and oil.

Hide is first dunked into the white cisterns containing limestone and pigeon poop (the ammonia supposedly kills off bacteria).
Once clean, the hide is dunked into different colored vats for the dying process. The tannery in Fez still uses natural colors (e.g., indigo, poppy, henna, charcoal, date powder, saffron) instead of chemicals. The entire tanning process can take between 2-3 months depending on the type of hide (sheep and goat take shorter time, while cow and camel take longer).

Workers work between 2-3 hours a day during slow season (i.e., now) , and 10 hours during busy season. The seasons depend on how much hide they can procure. Busy season usually follows Eid that results in a lot of animal sacrifices.

After lunch we headed to Meknés for our Covid test, but that ended up being a snafu since they stop testing at noon, which means we have to return tomorrow morning. Since we were already there, Mohamed showed us around the Meknés Medina. Bonus!

The Meknés Medina has 3 fortified walls to protect the “Warrior King”, Ismail Ibn Sharif, the second Sultan of the current Alaouite dynasty, and the father to 867 children. Yikes!
Bab Mansour – purportedly the grandest gate in the country
The door to the Ismail mausoleum.

Back in Fez, I asked Mohamed if he could swing by the palace gate again since the afternoon sun would be casting a light on the doors.

Again, no one else at the palace gate other than the guards from all different divisions (the current King is in town).
What a difference 7 hours make.

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