For centuries, the old city of Fès, or Fès el-Bali as the locals call it, had been a secured city, in which outsiders were only allowed temporarily to do business and leave. When the French arrived in 1912, they left the old city intact and just built a new one next to it. This allows the modern-day visitor an amazing look into what the city looked like centuries ago. It is easy to believe that little has changed, apart from the plastic bags in which goods are wrapped when something has been sold.
I stayed right at the edge of the city, behind one of the large city gates which served to protect Fès in days gone by. Entering into the old city and its souqs means to leave behind any points of reference and just plunge into the maze of little alleys and squares that make up the city. It is like a labyrinth, with twisting lanes, dead-end alleys, secretive doors, narrow streets that hardly deserve to be called like that. While you enjoy the enormous amount of local goods offered in the souqs, you have to be careful not to be hit by a passing donkey carrying heavy loads without respecting any minimal distance to the pedestrian traffic.
The excitement of the souqs, the shops, the craftsmen working on their products which are sold next door, the sounds, smells, people trying to sell anything from a bunch of mint leaves to intricately designed jewellery, the beggars, small food stalls, is a thrilling mix of the senses. Apart from taking in the daily life scenes, you can also visit some of the medersas, of which only the el-Attarine was open during my visit. Built in the 14th century, it is still a display of the amazing artwork in zellij tiles, cedar wood delicately sculpted into fine walls like curtains, calligraphic representations of koranic verses in the walls.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Old Fès (Morocco). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Old Fès.
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