Life in Medina part I – Fez, Morocco

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When days start to get shorter and shorter here in Brussels, the best way to keep your vitamin D high is to find a sunny weekend escape destination. To be honest, I have never heard about Fez before finding a cheap Ryanair ticket. But  as soon as I saw Google describing Fez as Morocco’s cultural capital, I did not need to know more.

It was the last weekend of October, 3 hours flight, 30 minutes drive from the airport and we found ourselves in a 1000 years old Fes el Bali, a world heritage site. We had 2 days in front of us to learn everything we need to know about Fez and what’s life like in this Medina.

Medina is a Market

First of all, Medina is a market, and here you will be offered to buy beautiful artisan handicrafts (leather, pottery and of course carpets are Fez’s specialties), you will also be intensively approached by the locals offering you a private guide, a very special shop, the best restaurant, and many other ‘hidden secrets’. The thing a bout the market is that you need to know how to bargain, and to say no, and you will need to say no here many times…

A little advice, if you are on the budget or you  are really not interesting in buying anything, the easiest way to do it is by not entering any shop. Shop keepers here are very skilled sellers and they know  how to do it. It will only take them to see a doubt in your eyes and you will end up leaving a shop with a carpet/lamp or a tea set…

All sorts of leather goods are Fez’s specialty. Head to the tannerie Chouara,  the biggest open air leather coloring fabric. It is a big tourist attraction (and a trap). Be ready for a mix of smells and to say no to  very persistent sellers and ‘guides’.

Donkeys of Medina

The 9000 tiny streets of medina are closed to cars therefore donkeys do the transportation job here. They carry anything and everything, from Coca Cola cans to gas containers.

Medina is beautiful

The walls of Fez guards hidden beauties, waiting to be discovered by you. You will need to work hard to find it. The old city is full of Riads – private houses with gardens, also called paradises by locals, and thick  grey walls are separating them from street passers.

Medina’s underground world

Every neighborhood inside the Medina share two main facilities, essential for people living inside the walls. The oven – to have fresh bread and tajines, cooked in the right way. and Hammam a necessary ritual and a treat for your body. What many passes by without noticing are the people, who make it possible, in their little caves:

Medina’s forbidden mosques

Mosques in Morocco are only accessible to the Muslims. Therefore, we were left outside, on our toe tips, trying to get a glimpse at their beauty and the inner life from the doorstep.

Medina is full of life

Before the sunset go down go to to one of the medina’s gates, then sit down, order the sweet the a la menthe, relax, and watch the people pass by. The streets will get busier, the real market for the locals will open, watch and learn the tricks of getting the price down. As the sun is going down watch the contours of the city, the walls, the palm tress. Relax and don’t rush, you are in Morocco now…

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