The Sahara and Us Morocco 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fes Medina

Our medina guide starts with the Royal Palace doors and then the door of the ‘brother’s palace’.
Brother's Palace door

Then, we are directed inside a dark doorway and we step down into a ‘bakery’. In these old medina’s not everyone had an oven for baking and it was also inefficient considering the wood fuel, so people would make their own dough and take it down to the baker in their area where the baker would bake the bread in a wood fired oven. To this day they still do it this way. People differentiate their bread by a trademark mark on the dough, 2 knuckle marks, 3 or a squiggle, something that would make it unique. When someone new would come into the medina and be looking for someone they would always go to the baker, who knew everyone because he baked their bread.

Baker down in the hole with the oven

Family's bread order

Medina Garden
After a quick visit to the central medina public garden we catch a ’petite taxi’ to the outer edge of the medina where we get a panoramic view of the old medina. 350,000 people still live in it. Next we are off to the southern most part of the medina where the pottery crafts are done.

Mixing the tile goo from the clay
Forming the tiles roughly outside
Finishing the shape
Shaping different tiles
Roof tiles formed

Working on a Vase made from 3 pieces

Vase being shaped

Some finished Products

This worker gives me this tile and a heart shaped one for Sandra

Hand painted ceramics

 Here we see some amazing skills with a chisel and hammer or a horse hair paintbrush, and the incredible hard work in horrible conditions for kids as young as 5 or 6, young men and older people in fabricating tile and pottery products. It is evident that many of the clothes that are donated across North America make there way here to these people. The Berber market which is the poorest of the markets within the medina have clothes scattered everywhere in heaps. I’m not sure of how things are bought or sold but this is where it happens. You’ll notice in one a young fellow wearing a ‘southwest bank of Texas’ T shirt and I’m pretty sure he didn’t holiday there on his salary.

Watermelon Man
As we walk away from one market to another we walk thru the fresh fruit market and it is scorching hot out so our guide convinces the watermelon guy to slice up some watermelon and sell it to us. Wow, best watermelon on earth.

From there we venture into the weaving market areas first clothes then carpets where we get the sales pitch everyone gets, and of course served with some mint tea which is quite good. 

Loomer with an Ipod

Now on to the tannery which is the largest and oldest operating in the world. It smells putrid there and how they treat leather so we can wear will make you reconsider wearing a leather product which has been soaked in pigeon crap for 2-3 weeks to soften it. Next time you comment about how soft that leather is just remember what softens it.
The Tannery

Tannery worker lower right corner of original photo "love my zoom"
How many would you like?

Next onto the spices and oils area where Sandra buys a small vial of some oil that smells nice.
Another cheap cab ride, 15 dirhams ( $2.00) and we are back near the front of the medina and one of our final things to see after nearly 6 hours is another darkened doorway and

How hot would you like it?
 into the chamber where they heat water for the hamman, (a Turkish bath). Here a guy sits facing an open hearth shovelling with his hands sawdust, oil pits, and excrement into the fire to heat water that will be used for a communal bath.

Finally our guide shows his true colors by showing us an artisan friends ‘work’ as a carpet artisan. Read carpet sales person. Finally we bolt from there, pay him his money and make our way back to our Oasis in Fes, our swimming pool and shower, of which we need both after experiencing some of the filthiest conditions we’ve ever seen. But it was worth it to understand. Now as I write this we have been talking with some Portuguese travellers who come to Morocco for their holidays and they all claim the medina in Fes is still the only authentic one in Morocco and still practices in the same fashion as 4-5 centuries ago.  And there is also differences between the Berbere areas and Arabic areas and actually still a Jewish quarter.
Berber market 

general Market hustle
Universal accessory for Kids "Backpacks".
These last 3 kids followed Sandra like she was a queen for quite some time.

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