Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Morocco: Tour of Medina (Fez), part 5


You guessed it right. Not finished with the medina of Fez just yet. The most important and most famous thing to see I believe inside the old medina is the tanneries. Without a guide, I don’t think you’ll find it. Perhaps you will, but not easily and only because you got lucky.

I have Googled the heck out of the tanneries and according to some authority on the web, the best place to see the tanneries is go by building/house #10. Seriously, that is what it said on my research.

I have not seen a house number to be honest, I tried to look. Thankfully, I was on a guided tour and like herded sheep we just followed the man/woman in front of us in the very narrow alley.

It was so narrow that no two people can go at the same time. We had to stop and allow other groups to leave before we can use the alley.

At the doorway, a man handed us a sprig of mint – to counteract the smell of leather. This much leather smell can be really suffocating. I like the smell of leather, but this was really beyond my tolerance.

Anyway, up one floor, there was a display of leather goods, we were told to browse. Up another floor, still more leather goods for sale. Same thing up one floor. Honestly, we climbed way too many narrow stairs that what floor we ended up going is to anyone’s guess.

At the top floor, we got a great view of the tannery (tanneries?). We saw numerous large vats filled with different colored dyes and some have leather soaking on the dye. It was a one-of-a-kind sight.

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We saw mules (or donkeys?) carrying in more leather to be dyed; men working on dyeing the leather. These men were working without the benefit of PPE or personal protective equipment like gloves. You see them inside the vats, their bare skin soaking in the dyes with the leather. I am sure in the long run there is harm done on the skin, if not on other parts of the body.

There were more than one group that was in the rooftop at that time and we were herded by group again. Once the first group left, we were asked to gather around the benches and the sales pitch commenced. While I had one ear on the presentation and the rest of my body on spying and feeding the kittens around, I learned that leather from camel is much lighter than leather from cattle. Much softer too.

On the way down, we stopped to look at the merchandise. We were told by the tour manager at the beginning of the day that prices for leather goods are much cheaper in the much bigger souk in Marrakech, which we will be visiting later on in the trip, so save our shopping until later. Listening to him, most of us did not buy anything big, or substantial. Until one of the ladies got a nice bucket style leather bag for $8. Great quality bag too. Too bad she told us about this when we were in the tour bus on the way to the hotel.

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While in the rooftop, we were not only looking at the vats down below, we were also looking at other things.

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Fez has become a city of satellite dish.

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Zoomed to this fortification.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Morocco: Tour of Medina (Fez) , part 4


We have seen so much already in this outing to the medina and we’re not halfway done yet. I wondered how much more our senses could take with all the stimulations it was getting.

Not far from Attarine Medersa is the Nejjarine Museum of Wood and Crafts. The building consists of three floors. It was once upon a time a funduq (hotel) or a caravanserai (roadside inn for travelers) where traveling merchants stored and sold their goods below and took lodgings on the floors above.

It is a beautiful building with a spacious covered courtyard. The rooms have been converted to showrooms showcasing traditional artifacts, tools, and exquisite wood carvings, furnitures, clocks, etc. Signs of no photography were posted and law-abiding citizen me followed. I am pinching myself because the displays were really intricate and as I’ve gotten to know, very typical Moroccan craftsmanship. However, the building alone is enough make one happy.

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(me taking a little break)

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Another item in our itinerary is the Nejjarine Fountain, which I completely did not pay attention to during the tour. When I went back to look at the photos I took, it was only this one that surfaced. Probably one of those times when there's a big crowd and little old me couldn't get a good shot. By the way, I don't know the significance of this fountain.

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In this tour we have made stops at different shops featuring local artisans in their crafts.

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Woodworking/woodcarving

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Sample

Next to the woodcarvers shop is a shop specializing in furnitures used for weddings.

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Guy sharpening knives.

These guys were in the process of making cooking vessel.

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The pot.

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The handle for the lid.

A tip: Do not photograph anyone without asking for permission. These guys are okay to photograph and we were given the green light to do so because they are part of the tour. Otherwise, always ask for permission first and accept a NO answer.

OUR WORLD TUESDAY

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Morocco: Tour of Medina (Fez), part 3


The tour continues. We spent a good deal of the day touring the medina, so we got to see so much. Some of the attractions were not accessible, you can only peek from outside, like the University of A Karaouine, which is considered by the Guinness Book of World Records as well as by UNESCO as the oldest continuously-operating, degree-granting university in the world.

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Others I don't even know what they are, probably mosques, because we can only look from the open doors.

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The doors are simply magnificent.

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A private residence. I wish I could go inside and see all the tilework.

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Another angle.

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Then we passed by an incredibly ornate door with a crowd in front of it; I was only able to photograph a little detail.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Morocco: Tour of Medina (Fez), part 2

ATTARINE MEDERSA


One of the highlights of the medina tour for me is the visit to Attarine Medersa. A medersa or madrasa is a school for Islamic studies. This is going to some sort of photographic post, because no amount of description would fit the exquisite beauty of this place.

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The Medersa el-Attarine, in keeping with other Marinid madrasas of Fez, is richly decorated, with the focus being on the rectangular arcaded courtyard. Leading from the courtyard, the entry wall of the prayer room of Medersa el-Attarine has superlative examples of skilful tile cutting. A master tile cutter has cut out the word “Allah” in calligraphic script from a green tile less than two centimeters across and inlaid it in a white tile, with the curving edges of the word and the background fitting perfectly together. Using this work of art as the center, a pattern expands to cover the entire wall. (source)

Fortunately we were the only tour group at the medersa that time. I don't know if that is by design that only one tour group at a time goes in or we just got there really early, but it whatever it was, I was incredibly thankful for.

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A specialized technique of tile cutting called “taqshir” or “peeled work” is beautifully displayed at Medersa el-Attarine. This technique involves scraping off the tile glaze in order to leave behind a shiny pattern. This technique is most often used on black glaze with the exposed terracotta base of the tile being allowed to weather naturally, contrasting with the glaze even more beautifully as time goes by.

Apart from the magnificent tile work displayed at Medersa el-Attarine, intricate carved stucco adorns the walls and carved and painted wooden arches frame the doorways with marble columns in strategic places. The courtyard of a medersa is the most public and most decorated area, with the accommodation for the students being almost ascetic in comparison.
(source)

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The prayer room is just off the courtyard.

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If you are like me and adore tiles and tilework, put this in your itinerary when you come to Fez. If you get a guide, I'm sure you'd be taken here. This is a source of pride for Fez.

OUR WORLD TUESDAY