Morocco: West Atlas
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours
 
       
  Morocco flag Fes: "Mecca of the West" and "Athens of Africa"  
       
  Football / Soccer Stadium, Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Fez, MoroccoYou need to be patient to making a judgment as you enter Fez. It has become a large sprawling city. The "outer donut" is very much like the newer development of other Moroccan cities. One route into the city took you past the football / soccer stadium and a soccer ball sculpture in a traffic circle. Smile you are in Fez sign, Morocco
       
    Flag lined boulevard, Fez, MoroccoFlag festooned traffic circle, Fez, MoroccoEntering from another direction you pass a Royal Palace (which can't be photographed), the pass down a flag-lined boulevard, which leads to a flag festooned traffic circle.

This is still miles from the city center. A section of the connecting road has a stripped bike lane and designated horse-cart track (far right).

Bike lane and designated horse-cart track, Fes, Morocco
       
    Outskirts of Fez, MoroccoOutskirts of Fez, MoroccoMiles of main streets are fronted by commercial activities and services businesses, and back streets are predominately residential.  In a very suburban way, a sign-board announces the presence of a nearby McDonalds restaurant.  
       
  Medina wall, Fez, Morocco Reconstructed gate in city wall, Fez, MoroccoThe outskirts of Fez don't provide a clue to the richness and craftsmanship of its core.

Historically, the city was confined by the city wall. Today, the ramparts that can be found are modern reconstructions.

Rooftops of the medina, Fez, Morocco
       
  Bab Boujloud (gate), Fez, Morocco

Bab Boujloud (gate), Fez, Morocco

One of the main gates to the medina is Bab Boujloud. Beyond these gates is one of the world's largest pedestrian zones, car-free area. It is blissfully, pretty much free of motorcycles, which, in other Moroccan souks, are loud, squirrelly, and intimidating.

The Mauresque-Andalusian style gate (bab in Arabic) was constructed by the French in 1913, but the 12th-century original -- oriented with an indirect entrance to frustrate battering rams -- can still be seen next to it on the left (partially out of the photo). The lobed, horseshoe arches are decorated with Fassi blue tiles on the outside (left) for the sky and green tiles on the inside (right) for the forest. The tiles are patterned in the form of stars and swirls. Standing outside looking in, there are two minarets. The one on the right belongs to the crumbling 20th-century Sidi Lazzaz Mosque. The other minaret, topped by two golden orbs, is part of the recently restored, historic, 14th-century Bou Inania Medersa.

Bab Boujloud (gate), Fez, Morocco

Bouinania Madersa and Sidi Lazzaz Mosque, Medina, Fez, Morocco

       
  Fez, Morocco

Children in narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco

Vegetable market, Talâa Sghiro, the medina, Fez, Morocco Shoppers, Talâa Sghiro, the medina, Fez, Morocco Shoppers, Talâa Sghiro, the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street, Talâa Sghiro, the medina, Fez, Morocco

The are two parallel roads that run much of the length of the medina; Talâa Sghiro (the narrow ascending street) and Talâa Kbira (the wide ascending street). Life on Talâa Kbira tends to be of a bit scaled down and more residential than Talâa Sghiro.

The sides of Talâa Sghiro is predominantly shops. It is fairly standard for them to be stocked from floor to ceiling with goods.

Bead shop, mediina,  Fez, Morocco Fabic decorative trim ribbon shop, Fez, Morocco Jewelry shop in the medina, Fez, Morocco Decorative trim ribbon shop, Fez, Morocco

Donkey transport in narrow streets, Fez, Morocco

Cloth shop in the madina, Fez, Morocco

    If there is one of an item in the market there is likely to be at least a hundred others just like it.  
  Clothing and accessories shops, Fez, Morocco Women's clothing shop, Fez, Morocco Shops in the medina, Fez, Morocco Sweets shop in the medina, Fez, Morocco Shops in the medina, Fez, Morocco Metalwork shop in the madina, Fez, Morocco
       
  Nut seller, souk, Fes, Morocco Dried fruits and nuts, Fes, Morocco Merchants, Fes, Morocco
       
  Public fountain, Fez, Morocco Public fountain, Fez, MoroccoPublic fountain, Fez, MoroccoFez is also noted for its over 60 tiled public fountains. These were the source of piped in water for many neighborhood and water troughs for donkeys. As individual houses get direct water service some of the public fountains have been turned off. Some still functioning but are drab from lack of maintenance. But the best are gorgeous. Some of the most beautiful are on Talâa Sghiro and Talâa Kbira. There are others tucked away in the neighborhoods. A local association is nowTraffic circle fountain, Fez, Morocco working to save and restore the fountains of Fez.

Fez is continuing its association with water features, but the new ones are being installed to enhance traffic circles (right).
 

Public fountain, Fez, Morocco

  Buildings near the edge of the medina, Fez, Morocco Antique / used door market, Ain Azliten, Fez, MoroccoSmall tannery, Ain Azliten, Fez, MoroccoFifty meters northwest of Talâa Kbira is the Ain Azliten neighborhood. It is one of the oldest district in the Fez medina, dating to the early 9th century.  Its name comes from an ain (water source) bearing the name of an Amazigh (Berber) group, the Azliten. The quarter is largely residential, with some light industry (small tannery (right), weavers) and antique / recycler businesses.
 
 
    Merinide Necropole, Fez, MoroccoOn the hill, beyond Ain Azliten and outside of the city wall, is the Merinide Necropolis (cemetery) and the tomb of Marinades. The Marinade Dynasty was a Sunni Muslim dynasty of Zenata Berber descent, that ruled Morocco from the 13th to the 15th century. This was the Golden Age of Fes history and probably gave rise to both of city's nicknames, "Mecca of the West" and the "Athens of Africa", are derived from this learned and dutiful history. Farmland at the edge of Fez, Morocco
       
  Qaât Smen Fondouk, Fez, Morocco Qaât Smen Fondouk, Fez, MoroccoQaât Smen Fondouk (The Butter Market) dates back to at least the 17th century. The interior is most and the gallery is narrow. On the ground floor you can buy rancid butter, honey, olive oil and  Khliâ, Fassi-style dried meat, which is cooked and preserved in animal fat. The second floor houses leather and weaving workshops. Ceramic shop in the medina, Fez, Morocco
       
    Leather craftsmen, Tazi Fondouk, Fes, MoroccoTazi Fondouk is simple, with the interior walls free of any decoration except for a few lobed-arches. It has gone through many transformations. Today, on the ground floor leather craftsmen fashion belghas (slippers for men), cherbils (slippers for women), poof (foot cushions) and bags. The second floor has maintained it original function as a temporary residence for visitors and traveling merchants.  
       
  Courtyard, Qaraouiyine mosque, Fez, Morocco Ceiling of entry, Qaraouiyine mosque, Fez, MoroccoCourtyard, Qaraouiyine mosque, Fez, MoroccoQaraouiyine mosque is described as "the most emblematic landmark of the City of Fez and a true icon of Moroccan architecture." It was founded in 859 by Fatima Al Fihria, a pious woman from the holy city of Kairouan, Tunisia. Over the centuries, as its reputation grew it became an import center of learning. It is considered the first multidisciplinary university in the world. Some of the distinguished scholars who studied and taught here are: Avempace (c. 1085 – 1138) and Averroes 1126 – 1198) (philosophers), Al Idrissi (1100 – 1165) (geographer), Maimonides (c. 1135 – 1204) (Jewish doctor-philosopher), Ibn Kaldoun (1332 – 1406) (historian), and Ibn Hirzihim (d. 1163), Abou Madyane(1126–1198), and Abdeslam ben Machih (1140 – 1227) (mystics). Qaraouiyine remains a center of Islamic spirituality. Non-believers can't enter, but it is still very impressive from the door, and this is only a fraction of the 800 square meter complex.. Carved plaster, Qaraouiyine mosque, Fez, Morocco

Seffarine Madrasa, Fes, Morocco

       
  Seffarine Square, Narrow street in medina, Fez, Morocco Metalworkers in the medina, Seffarine Square, Fez, Morocco

Seffarine Square dates back to the 9th century. It, a cacophony of coppersmiths and other metal workers, pounding out pots, pans, buckets, incense burners, trays, teapots, sugar boxes, food strainers, kettles, couscous steamers, samovars and more. The finished products are on display in the shops around the square (and throughout Fes). The skills are learned through apprenticeships. Seffarine gives it name to a nearby madrasa and hammam.

Metalwork shops, Seffarine Square, medina, Fez, Morocco

Metalwork shops, Seffarine Square, medina, Fez, Morocco

       
    Seffarine Madrasa, Fez, MoroccoThe Seffarine Madrasa was built in 1270. It is the oldest of the Merinid madrasah in Fez. The Merinid's madrasas were a symbol of the Dynasty's attachment to Sunni orthodoxy. They were an instrument for the authorities to impose teachings that conformed to their political convictions and assert the legitimacy. The prayer hall contains what's thought to be the oldest mihrab in the city. The students rooms are arranged around a rectangular patio, with a pool in the center.  
       
    jewely shops, Fes, MoroccoJewelry souk, Fes, MoroccoSimilar to the cluster of coppersmith, there is a cluster of jewelry shops. There always seems to be a lot of people actively shopping in the jewelry souk.  
       
  Decorative door and entry, Nejjarine square fondouk, Fez, Morocco Nejjarine square fondouk, Fez, MoroccoFitting for the carpenters souk, the façade of the door to the foundouk at Nejjarine complex exhibits an abundance of craftsmanship. Nejjarine name refers to the carpentry and other wood working that is the main activity around the square. The foundouk (a historic traveler’s inn), is now home to a carpentry museum. The entrance is made up of a wooden canopy, and an arch that combines sculpted plaster bands with inlay and fields of multicolor zillij (tile). Inside, the interiors are decked out with magnificent wood-carved balconies and sculpted pillars. The permanent exhibition houses a collection of wooden arts, crafts, and carpentry tools, dating back as early as the 14th century.

Near the entrance is the Nejjarine fountain, which is also admired for its craftsmanship (right).

Nejjarine fountain, Nejjarine square fondouk, Fez, Morocco
       
    Mosques, Fes, MoroccoMosques, Fes, MoroccoGenerally non-believers are not allowed in mosques in Morocco, but doors are often wide open during pray times and there seem to be no restrictions on photography. It is not unusual to see believers inside the mosque, pointing their cell phones at the architecture and taking pictures. Mosques interior, Fes, Morocco
        
  Place Lalla Yeddouna restoation, Fez, Morocco

Channelizing river, Fez, Morocco

Channelizing river, Fez, MoroccoPlace Lalla Yeddouna at the heart of the Medina is currently undergoing reconstruction and preservation measures following a design competition sponsored by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (Washington D.C.) and the Government of the Morocco. The construction projects scheduled for completion in 2016 encompass historic preservation of particular buildings, construction of new buildings that fit into the existing urban fabric and regeneration of the riverfront. The intention is to not only preserve the quality and characteristics of the UNESCO World Heritage Site but to encourage the development of the area as a sustainable, mixed-use area for artisanal industries and local residents.

It was disturbing to see one man washing hides in the river.  Not far away another man was at the river side with a jug of chemicals, wearing chemical resistant gloves and attending to a couple of large baskets of newly cast teapots that needed cleaning. It had all the makings of a poor outcome for water quality.

Cleaning hides in the river, Fez, Morocco

Cleaning brass pots with a chemical at the river side, Fez, Morocco

       
  Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco
  Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco

Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco

Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco

Chouara Tannery is the largest of four traditional tanneries still operating. It is almost 800 years old. The tanneries process the hides of cows, sheep, goats and camels, which are turned into high-quality leather products such as bags, coats, shoes, and slippers in the surrounding workshops. This is all achieved manually, without modern machinery, and the process has barely changed since medieval times. Between the colors, geometrics and men at work it is mesmerizing to watch, a bit mind-boggling and disturbing to think about, and so odiferous you can come close to passing out. Hides are first soaked in a mixture of cow urine, quicklime, water, and salt. This caustic mixture helps to break down the tough leather, loosen excess fat, flesh, and hair that remain on them. The hides are soaked for two to three days after which tanners scrap away excess hair fibers and fat in order to prepare the hides for dyeing. The hides are then soaked in another set of vats containing a mixture of water and pigeon poop. Pigeon poop contains ammonia that acts as softening agents that allow the hides to become malleable so they can absorb the dye. (The pigeon poop and cow urine produce a stench so pungent that the tour guide supply sprigs of fresh mint to visitors, to hold under their noses, to help them endure the odor -- it works.) The hides are then laid out on the rooftops to dry before dying. As one of the few, and perhaps regrettable, changes for the times: The vegetable dyes -- poppy (red), turmeric (yellow), mint (green), indigo (blue) -- have been replaced by industrial chemicals.

The tanner uses his bare feet to knead the hides for up to three hours to achieve the desired softness. The hides are then placed in dying pits containing natural vegetable dyes, such as poppy flower (red), indigo (blue), henna (orange), cedar wood (brown), mint (green), and saffron (yellow). Other materials used for dyeing include pomegranate powder, which is rubbed on the skins to turn them yellow, and olive oil, which will make them shiny. Once the leather is died it is taken out to dry under the sun. The finished leather is then sold to other craftsmen who make the famous Moroccan slippers, known as babouches, as well as wallets, handbags, furniture and other leather accessories.

Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco

Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco

Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco

  Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco Chouara Tannery, Fez medina, Morocco
        
  Cracking argan nut for cosmetic oil, Fez, Morocco On the stretch of road between Essaouira and Marrakech, prickly-leaved argan trees span out to the horizon in every direction, thriving in the arid climate where few other plants could prosper. Argan oil is so versatile and valuable it’s likened to ‘liquid gold’. With a wide variety of uses, both culinary and cosmetic, and a long list of medicinal properties, the oil is an attractive commodity and the rest of the world is catching on to its healing benefits. Exports more than doubled in the last 5 years to 700 tons, Bloomberg reported in 2013, adding that growing demand had bumped up wholesale prices 50 percent since 2007, to $30 a liter. Retail prices can exceed 10 times that amount. Morocco’s argan forests cover about 800,000 hectares near the Souss Valley, an area framed by the Atlas Mountains, Atlantic Ocean, and the Sahara Desert, which hosts roughly 21 million trees and has been given UNESCO protection as a ‘biosphere reserve’. Argan husks are reportedly 16 times tougher than a hazelnut shell. Stories, dating back to the 13th century, explain that goats would eat the argan fruits, locals later collecting their droppings to retrieve the argan nuts, which had been conveniently softened by the animals’ stomach juices. This method saved on labor by making the kernels easier to salvage, but the resulting oil had a distinct stink to it. Today, argan oil production skips the goats’ intestines. The work is done with the hands of tireless women. Argan nuts must be cracked manually — attempts to mechanize the method have failed to keep the delicate kernels intact. It takes 30kg ­of argan nuts, roughly the annual yield of one tree and between 15 and 20 hours of hand processing to make 2 liters of cooking oil or 1 liter of cosmetic oil. The process of splitting the nuts to retrieve the oil-rich seeds is highly labor intensive and this, coupled with the rarity of the argan tree, explains why argan oil is the most expensive edible oil in the world. According to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), argan trees support the livelihoods of 3 million Moroccans, about 10% of the country’s population, who use the husks as firewood, the fruit for animal fodder and the pips to make precious oil. Argan oil is an important economy for locals — particularly for women, who have grouped together to form more than 150 cooperatives. Chemistry professor and founder of Morocco’s first female-run argan collective, Zoubida Charrouf, told the IDRC that the women’s incomes have increased to about €6 a day, 10 times more than a few years ago. Argan oil has a multitude of uses: it can be drizzled over salads, couscous and tagines to add a nutty taste, applied as a scar healing, skin rejuvenating, nail strengthening and hair vitality treatment and used medicinally as an anti-inflammatory and to aid with immunity and blood circulation. No wonder Berbers call argan the ‘Tree of Life.’ Cracking argan nut for cosmetic oil, Fez, Morocco

Tutorial on argan oil, Fez, Morocco

Fez, Morocco

       
  hammam door, Fes, Morocco  Door of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, MoroccoDoor of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Door of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Door of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Door of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco
    Details around door in the medina, Fez, MoroccoDoor and awning detail,medina,  Fez, MoroccoLike most old medina, Fez has some many well-crafted doors. In some towns they distinguish themselves with color and style, Here the quality is in the craftsmanship, carving, architecture and proportion.  
  Door of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Door of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Door and awning detail, Fez, Morocco Door, Medina, Fez, Morocco Door, medina, Fez, Morocco Door in the medina, Fez, Morocco
       
  Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco

Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco

Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, MoroccoMostly, the doors can impress you in themselves, but they keep everything beyond them a secret. The best opportunities to get past these guardians is often mosques, inns, and restaurants. Opportunities to penetrating into the city's interior architecture and craftsmanship should not be passed up. They are  is impressive and almost infinite in its variety.

Fez, Morocco
Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Interior Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Moroccoiad (Garden house), Fez, Morocco Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco Interior of Riad (Garden house) in the medina, Fez, Morocco
       
  Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco
  Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco The streets of the old city dance along like architectural jazz with a thousand textures and shapes, and scarcely a parallel line or plain. Architectural detail, medina, Fes, Morocco
  Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco donkey in narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the medina, Fez, Morocco Doors and windows in the madina, Fez, Morocco Narrow street in the madina, Fez, Morocco Door and windows in the madina, Fez, Morocco
         
  Boujloud Garden, Fez, Morocco Boujloud Garden, Fez, MoroccoBoujloud Garden, Fez, MoroccoThe largest garden near the medina, Bou Jeloud share its name with the nearby gate to the medina, and a former fortress built by the Almoravids in the 11th-century. This 18th-century garden is considered the "green lung" of the medina. In the 19th-century, it became an imperial garden -- it is near the Royal Palace -- and was enclosed by a high wall. It was reopened to the public in 1917. Arboreal species include giant bamboo, cedar, pine, palm, orange, lemon, pomegranate, and myrtle, to name a few.  
    Royal Palace, Fez, MoroccoRoyal Palace, Fez, MoroccoThe Royal Palace is not as big as it once was and some of the buildings of the complex have been repurposed. Here are some of the gates around the Royal Palace area. Royal Palace, Fez, Morocco
       
  Bab Semmarine, Mellah, Fez, Morocco The Jewish quarter of Fez, the Mellah, was built near the royal residence in Fez Jdid, in 1438. The Mellah, at first, consisted of Jews from Fez el Bali and soon saw the arrival of Berber Jews from the Atlas range and then Jewish immigrants from al-Andalus during the Inquisition of 1492.

Bab Semmarine used to effectively separates the Jewish community of Fes from the rest of the world. It is another example of the sublime design and craftsmen of the Merinid Dynasty artisans. The wall and corridor feature several arches. The exterior gate has a main structural semicircular arch which is surrounded by a multi-lobe decorative arch. A band of geometrical knot work surrounds the gate.

Bab Semmarine, Mellah, Fez, Morocco
       
  Buildings with balconies, Mellah (Jewish enclave), Fez, Morocco Buildings with balconies, Mellah (Jewish enclave), Fez, MoroccoThe Jewish community of Fes hasn't always fared well: In 1033, when Zenata Berber Banu Ifran Chief Tamim conquered the city from the Zenata Berber Mahrawa, 6000 thousand Jews were killed in the Fez Massacre. In 1276, another massacre of the Jews was fermented by the population, but it was stopped by the intervention of the Merinid Emir.

One of the distinguishing features of this Mellah is the buildings with balconies. In Moslem districts balconies are almost nonexistent and windows are covered with wood lattice so occupants can look out, but not be seen by the public (hiding the women).

 
       
  Buildings with balconies, Mellah (Jewish enclave), Fez, Morocco Buildings with balconies, Mellah (Jewish enclave), Fez, Morocco Newtown, Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco street scene in the madina, Fez, Morocco Covered street and arches in the Madina, Fez, Morocco
       
    Synagogue, Mellah (Jewish enclave), Fez, MoroccoCemetery, Mellah (Jewish enclave), Fez, MoroccoIn the Mellah, there are a couple of old synagogues, one of which has been restored.

Adjacent to the Mellah is a well maintained Jewish cemetery (left).

 
       
  Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco
Old Jewish Synagogue, Medina,  Fez, Morocco Jewish item, Fez, MoroccoBecause the residents of the Mellah worked in the medina and they wanted a convenient place of worship midday, there were also synagogues in the medina. Some of these have been converted into antique shops / museums. Even sixty years after the majority of the Jewish population left there is still a large inventory of Jewish objects in a half dozen museum shops and antique shops. On display were menorah and other candle holders, a variety of plates, boxes, doors, hands (protection against bad and evil) and much more. Jewish item, Fez, Morocco
       
    Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Jewish items, Fez, Morocco Jewish items, Fez, Morocco  
    Menu, casual restaurant, Fes, MoroccoEating al fresco, en plein air, or simply in the cool or outdoors, is very common and popular in Fez. Besides the regular pop-and-water-stands, there were juice bars (left), steamed snails (center) and sidewalk tables for cafés and restaurants. Generally, the temperatures were more comfortable and the people watching more interesting.  
  Juice bar, Fez, Morocco Women eating snails, Fez, Morocco Women eating snails, Fez, Morocco Dining in the medina, Fez, Morocco Fez, Morocco Boys in the medina, Fez, Morocco
       
   

Moulay Idress Ifran Plateau

 
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Morocco Bicycle Tour: Fes