Fès, The Living Medieval City of Morocco

Moroccan Architecture and Design

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Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco.Bab Bou Jeloud, western gate to the medina, main entrance, Fes, Morocco.Green, the color of Islam, predominates on Fes walls and doors. Beautiful Moroccan Muslim Architecture, Fes, Morocco.Detailed Moroccan Interior Design, Fes, Morocco.
Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco.
Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco. | Source
Bab Bou Jeloud, western gate to the medina, main entrance, Fes, Morocco.
Bab Bou Jeloud, western gate to the medina, main entrance, Fes, Morocco. | Source
Green, the color of Islam, predominates on Fes walls and doors.
Green, the color of Islam, predominates on Fes walls and doors. | Source
Beautiful Moroccan Muslim Architecture, Fes, Morocco.
Beautiful Moroccan Muslim Architecture, Fes, Morocco. | Source
Detailed Moroccan Interior Design, Fes, Morocco.
Detailed Moroccan Interior Design, Fes, Morocco. | Source

The oldest of the imperial cities, Fès is arguably the symbolic heart of Morocco. Founded shortly after the Arabs swept across North Africa and Spain, it soon became the country’s religious and cultural centre. All the great dynasties left their mark on it, but the city owes much of its magnificence to the people who fuelled its cosmopolitan population. In the early days, thousands of families from the Muslim Spain (followed by Arabs from the east and Berbers) moved here, yet Fès retains a distinctly Arab identity.

Long considered the centre of Islamic orthodoxy, its allegiance, or at least submission, has always been essential to Morocco’s rulers. With such symbolic importance attached to their city, Fassis (the people of Fès) are conscious of the power they wield and the city continues to act as a barometer of popular sentiment. Morocco’s independent movement was born here, and when there are strikes or protests, they are always at their most vociferous in Fès.


Arts and Crafts in Fes, Morocco

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Fes's beautiful silk creations.Craftsman working with wood in the Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco.Craftsman working with metal in the Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco.Fes's textile craftman.Leather shoes or Babousch dyed in every possible color.
Fes's beautiful silk creations.
Fes's beautiful silk creations. | Source
Craftsman working with wood in the Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco.
Craftsman working with wood in the Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco. | Source
Craftsman working with metal in the Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco.
Craftsman working with metal in the Old Medieval City of Fes, Morocco. | Source
Fes's textile craftman.
Fes's textile craftman. | Source
Leather shoes or Babousch dyed in every possible color.
Leather shoes or Babousch dyed in every possible color. | Source

Old City or Medina

Fès is distinctly divided into three different parts: The medina (medina = old Arab parts of modern towns and cities) of Fès el-Bali (Old Fès), Fès el-Jdid (containing the Jewish quarter and the Royal Palace); and the ville nouvelle, the administrative area constructed by the French.
Fès el-Bali is the area of most interest for us visitors. A number of gates pierce the encircling walls of the medina , being western Bab Bou Jeloud the main entrance. Fès el-Bali is one of the largest living medieval cities in the world - with the exception of Marrakesh, Cairo and Damascus, there is nothing remotely comparable. Its narrow winding alleys and bazaars are crammed with every conceivable sort of workshop, restaurant and market, as well as mosques, medersas (college for teaching theology, law and Arabic literature and grammar) and extensive dye pits and tanneries. Fes has always been the artisan capital of Morocco. The choice of crafts is wide, quality is high and prices are competitive. As a shopping tip, I recommend to seek out the craftsmen workshops rather than the boutiques, you will find much cheaper prices and you’ll learn more about the crafts themselves and the range of quality available. You will also have to develop your bargaining skills to get the best price possible, it is part of their culture.


World Known Tanneries of Fes

View of the dye pits at the tannery. Old City of Fes, Morocco.
View of the dye pits at the tannery. Old City of Fes, Morocco. | Source
Leather drying in the sun, tanneries of Fes, Morocco.
Leather drying in the sun, tanneries of Fes, Morocco. | Source

Moroccan Leather Work Place

During your walk through the leather area you will be invited into the leather shops lining the streets. They all have terraces overlooking the tanners’ pits where you’ll be given an explanation of the processes involved; you don’t have to pay but a small tip or purchase will be appreciated. Tanneries provide perhaps the greatest illustration of how resolutely some parts of Morocco have clung to practices developed in medieval times. Moroccan leather, and more particularly the Fassi leather produced in Fès, has long been highly prized as among the finest in the world. Another type of leather, a soft goatskin used mainly in bookbinding, is simply known as morocco.
At the tanneries of Fès, little has changed in centuries. Skins are still carried by donkey to the tanner’s souq (market), tanning and dyeing vats are still constructed from mud brick and tile, the strictly male tannery craftsmen and apprentices are still organised according to medieval guild principles, and their health and safety practices are also disturbingly old fashioned.


Other sights in Fès

  • Fès el-Jdid (New Fès) which contains the Dar el-Makhzen (Royal Palace) and Old mellah (Jewish Quarter).

  • The ville nouvelle, section of Fès laid out in typical French colonial style with wide, tree lined boulevard, squares and parks.

 

Africa, North Morocco

show route and directions
A markerFès -
Fez, Morroco
[get directions]

B markerMeknès -
Meknès, Morocco
[get directions]

C markerRabat -
Rabat, Morocco
[get directions]

Political Capital

© 2011 Claudia Tello

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Comments on "Fès, The Living Medieval City of Morocco" 6 comments

irene tello 5 years ago

Again: you create the feeling of: let´s head to Fez


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Claudia Tello 5 years ago from Mexico Author

Thanks! I am glad that I can transmit that. It is all about describing what I saw and felt and making a good visual travel guide for others to use.


prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 4 years ago from Tumkur

Good article with first hand information. Thanks to you.


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Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico Author

Prasadjain, thanks for your interest and comments, it is my pleasure to share my experiences in Morocco and the photographs I took in Fes with you all.


miscellanea profile image

miscellanea 4 years ago from Morocco

I love it :)


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Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico Author

Fes is a fantastic place that takes us westerners into an exiting adventure into a different culture and way of life. Particularly interesting are its Moroccan style artistic expressions in every detail and designed involved in anything from clothing to architecture. I am glad you enjoyed this hub. Thanks for dropping by!

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