Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Medina in Pictures

A medina is a city within a walled fortress with lots of satellite dishes on the roofs; in the case of Fes, the medina was constructed between the 8th and 11th centuries as a refuge for Muslims expelled from Spain (a few years before the satellite dishes).
It is a labyrinth of 4,000 streets and 9,000 businesses, or something like that. The bottom line: lots of short, narrow stone-lined lanes just wide enough for two Moroccans or half an American to pass. 
The walls are originals; the stone on the walkways was upgraded to uneven brick and cobblestone when underground water and sewer lines were added. Electrical lines run along the outside walls in a modern pop-art configuration.

Today, exhausted from our travels, we hired a guide to walk us all around the medina at a very sedate pace, and stand and wait for us while we shopped in an agonizingly slow, back-and forth pattern. In return we let him take us to his favorite friends' carpet and leather shops where we didn't buy anything.

I almost got sucked into buying a gorgeous $300 blue suede jacket which JUST HAPPENED to fit me perfectly--fate??? Thank goodness the sleeves were a tiny bit short and the original material was the skin of a sweet, adorable little lamb, or my willpower might have melted away.

You have to admit the colors are beautiful, no? And the handiwork magnificent.

Speaking of lambs and bright colors--also sheep, camels, and cows--the tannery in the Fez medina supplies markets around the world. All hides are hand-processed in cleaning, softening, and dying vats, and hung to dry.

The leather dies are all-natural: saffron yellow (shown below), poppy red, henna orange, indigo blue, wood browns.

Having a guide was not as much fun as getting hopelessly lost, but it was mentally relaxing to not have to agonize over which direction to go to escape the smells and donkeys and hawkers and fighting cats. The whole experience-- crooked ground; steep slopes; 300-year-old,12-inch-tall stairs; and jostling by donkeys, carts, wagons, boxes, and grimy people--was physically taxing.

It wasn't all shops; there were a couple of museums and tombs and mosques.

And, of course, a colorful expensive lunch just for tourists sucked into hiring a guide, who disappears upstairs for the $5 lunch and a laugh with his mates while he collects his commission.
Ah well, we are back on our hotel terrace overlooking the medina, sipping mint tea and snacking on dates and strawberries, afraid to venture out alone into the maze, and in need of a rest for our feet anyway. (Photo courtesy of Linda Bennett)
Such is the nature of a Moroccan rendezvous.

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