Discovering the enchanting ancient city of Fes, as if I was taken back in time, the old buildings, imposing mosque, and it’s minarets towering the skyline. The city is listed UNESCO World Heritage sites, old buildings and customs and practices that I’m eager to learn more and capture it’s splendid beauty.
I’m venturing outside my comfort zone. My very first travel to a Muslim and African country. I’m heading to Fes Morocco and yes I’m travelling solo. I have read and seen beautiful photos of the Old Medina and tanneries. So here I am with my backpack and eagerness to find out and experience the Moroccan hospitality first hand! As I arrived in the evening, I was picked-up by the airport with prearrange taxi from my hotel. We swiftly snake-away from the airport and joining the traffic to the city. I have been informed before hand about local traffic, so I wasn’t ignorant about two lanes being used by 3-4 cars. With the simultaneous noise of the horn and flashing lights as they overtakes each other. Sounds like a welcome greetings of Moroccan’s for my arrival!
The balmy night and breeze of the Sahara, warmly welcomes me. The sticky feel of the night, and the echoing conversation of the locals in a dizzying Arabic words. The feeling of curiosity and with my tummy rambling I can’t wait to sample the local Moroccan Cuisine. My weary mood and been a long day travel, I just wanted to have a quick bite. One of the hotel staff has escorted me to a nearby restaurant, and on the way we drop by at the phone shop to purchase a local sim card. After savouring my first authentic Moroccan lamb tagine, with my satisfied full tummy and suddenly I felt so tired. So I decided hit the sack, to catch up badly needed sleep for the following days full pack adventure.
On the following day, upon studying the map and assessing my bearings. I was ready and eager to wander around the Medina. Meandering around and stumbling from the labyrinth of narrow alleys to the different souks. The everyday chaos, the echoing sounds around is so enchanting. Or even confusing my sense of direction, getting lost in the narrow alleyways. The smells of different species and my admiration to the vibrant colours, the pungent odours that stings the nose, that awakens every fibre of my senses. The higgledy-piggledy of rubbish on every corner, next to a bread vendor’s cart. The colourful dresses and carpets hanging on the walls, and the pedestrians wading their way to their daily life routine.
As I walk passed a group of tourist with their maps and cameras, with their curious looks or should I say a looking loss. Fes Medina is the oldest and comprises of 9,500 alleyways, I wouldn’t be surprise if how many tourist get loss around each day.
As I continue to venture and find my way to the tanneries for some photography. On my way I met a Thai girl, solo travelling as well and we just got on well and walked our way to find the Leather Tanneries. We first stumble in a small tannery with only a few men working. They are processing the sheep skin these area, where they scraped off the hair and sent the woolly hair fibre to the carpet makers. And the skin will be sent off to the main tanneries site for dye treatment.
We visited two further tanneries and the one of which was the biggest tanneries in the city. The Chouara Tannery was built during the 11th century. It’s so fascinating watching the same method which was used thousand years ago. Where the workmen dye the animal skin to different colours transforming to a fine leather. We were guided to the viewpoint by the leather store owner, they even offer to have a mint leaves to masked of the rotten and pungent odour of the place. The smell didn’t bother’s me at all, after a few minutes you get used to the smell. I was just busy clicking my camera capturing the workmen in the tanneries.
After the visit to the tanneries, I decided to go for my architectural photography stroll. It’s so fascinating wandering around admiring the old buildings, beautiful wood carvings and those intricately designed tiles thats perfectly laid on the main entrance.
I first visited the Madrasa, it’s an arabic word for any type of eduational institution. Al-Attarine Madrasa is located near the spices and perfume market, where it takes it’s name from Souk al-Attarine. It was built by the Marinid dynasty, sultan Uthman Abu Said. The central courtyard displays the traditional pattern of artisanship of the dynasty as evidence of the stunning zellij ( tilework).
While walking around the lunch time call for prayers, as so many mosque around it was echoing in the air in every direction. The haunting sounds that almost gives you a goose bump hearing it. Every mosque was busy this time of the day, and the doors are widely open to have a nose, its a bit strict only Muslims are allowed to get in, so I was just happily taking photos from outside.
But the funny thing I almost got into the Al Quaraouiyine Mosque as they greeted As-Salaam-Alaykum and I greeted them back Wa alaykumu Salam and they asked me if I was from Malaysia or Indonesia but I say No. Al Quaraouiyine Mosque was built in 9th century and still functioning todays as the major religious centre that dominates the Muslim festivities across the country. It features the stone minaret and lovely marble fountains in the centre of the courtyard.
Looking for a place to see the world go by head towards the Blue gate there’s a plaza few steps away. Why not join the locals to chill out there in the afternoon, there are food vendors like Escargo and chickpeas with hot soup. There’s even an entertainment. The vibrant atmosphere is so fascinating, kids running around, you can see their excitement.
If ever you want a good view of the entire Fes City, I highly suggest to walk outside the Medina, passing through the old gate and head towards the Marinid tombs and Borj Nord. Best to go there is just before the sunset, and the panoramic view of the city is so stunning. And the city lights slowly lit up and the evening prayer call echo’s in the air. It’s a fascinating evening or a romantic place to watch the world go by.
Insiders Tips :
When arriving from the airport its better to pre-arrange a taxi from your hotel. Or if taking an airport taxi before getting on, you need to agree with the price to avoid conflicts later. Price range should be between 150 MAD to 200 MAD
Try to stay near the Medina to fully immerse yourself to the chaotic and bustling life of the locals.
You don’t need a guide to go around the Medina. It’s better to wander around and discover every corner or even better get lost in the small alleyways.
If you are loss on your trails and locals offer you to show you the right direction, say that you are not paying them so that they wont expect anything after. Or if your feeling generous just give a small tip.
When visiting the tanneries it’s best to go in the morning. You don’t need to pay a guide to go there, you just need to go a leather shops and they will gladly take you to their viewing point.