Spring Break (3): Fes, Morocco
DAR EL MAKHZEN
In the morning, our local tour guide brought us to The Royal Palace, home of Mohammed VI. Inside, there are beautiful gardens, intricate mosaics, and even a Madrasa, but unfortunately the palace is closed to the public. Despite this, we admired the door of the entrance and learned more about it's designs and what they signify.
The door is made with cedar wood covered with bronze that can last for more than 10 centuries. The designs are based on flowers, with the star always in the center representing the light of religion, and the middle shows representations of the cedar trees.
After marriage, the bride and groom, as well as their friends and family, hold the door with two fingers and make a wish. Traditionally, those who aren't married yet make the wish to get married. Green is used as it is the color of Islam, and blue represents purity. The left photo below shows the French 'fleur de lis' flower as a motif for dignity.
The marriage dowry usually ranges from 5-10k, and includes presents like large plates of dry dates stuffed with walnuts, jewelry, henna, etc. Below are examples of the kind of presents that the bride would receive before her wedding day.
Boxes to hold jewelry.
Dates stuffed with walnuts.
We went to the southern tower of Fes that was built with the northern tower (Borj Nord), fortresses that were erected to protect the city from foreign invaders. The tower provided a birds-eye view overlooking the city, and if looked closely, satellites can be seen on top of every building. Television is the major form of entertainment, and some households even have a T.V. for each person so there wouldn't be conflict over who gets to watch their specific program.
The noticeable difference about Fes from Marrakech is in their building color. Marrakech is full of earthy corals, whereas Fes is tan in comparison.
FES POTTERY + ZELLIGE TILES
We were taken to a factory to learn how pottery is made, as well as shown the amount of work that goes into creating tile-work (the trade that Fes is most known for).
A lot of designers draw on the traditional designs by memory:
Afterwards, the designs are painted, and some colors change once fired (purple turning into blue, and black turning into green).
RIght photo: dried pressed olives are used for their firing.
Shapeless tiles are skillfully chipped away to create certain geometric shapes.
Pieces that have been chipped and shaped:
After receiving all the pieces, the mosaic is assembled backwards, and can take up to 25 days depending on how large the project is.
Left: Carving the tiles. Right: Assembling the tiles to create the final pattern.
FES EL BALI MEDINA
Fes el Bali is the city's oldest neighborhood, and the medina gives you many opportunities to explore the local Fes atmosphere. It is a lot less touristy than the medina's of Marrakech, with a lot less people trying to aggressively sell you things. While exploring, wear comfortable shoes, and be warned that since they eat camels, their may be camel heads shown in meat shops (there will not be a photo of that in this blog post).
Doors of homes have two entrances, one smaller than the other to make you bow your head in respect for God when entering. The two knockers make different sounds, the middle knocker for family, and the top for others.
Some alleys are narrow enough to only allow one person walking through at a time.
Place to get your clothes re-dyed.
In this 1000-year old tannery, we watched how leather is dyed and dried, and the tubs' color can range anywhere from red to purple depending on the dye cycle. The day we visited featured various shades of brown dye. The smell is also very distinctive.
Sabra silk, is taken from the Aloe Vera Cactus grown in Morocco, and after the leaves are harvested, the silk strands are removed from the filament to be dyed, spun, and woven into beautiful fabrics free of wrinkles.
Traditional weaving method.
Left photo: Aloe Vera cacti.
If visiting, do yourself a favor and get a local guide. We were so thankful for ours because he seemed to know the old city like the back of his hand, whereas we would have gotten lost in the maze of over 9000 streets and narrow passageways!
After the medina, we went to a mall so we could surprise Ali for his birthday with tarts and some wine. Rebecca and I got henna from one of the girls back in the riad, and we played music on the guitar and drums, and ate dinner for the rest of the night on the riad's rooftop. A perfect ending to a perfect spring break!
Left photo (from the previous night): cat that curled up next to me during dinner. Right photo: Celebrating Ali's belated-birthday
My only regret was that I felt nauseous and got an upset stomach starting from the medina, but everyone was extremely nice in making sure I felt okay throughout the trip. During lunch, the manager of a restaurant let me rest in a quiet place as the rest of the group continued eating, showing how the people here really take good care of their customers. Although Fes didn't have as many photos as Marrakech because of this, it was still just as amazing, and I am more than glad we had this experience.
Finally, I hope you had as much fun reading about Morocco as I did writing about it, and I hope all three blog posts has inspired you to take your next journey to this amazing country! Let me know in the comments below if you have been, or are planning a trip!