Friday, November 9, 2018

Fez, Maroc, November 9, 2018

I spent the day in the Medina.  It was a national holiday but a lot of shops were still open.  More opened during the day while others closed.  I think this meant fewer people milling around so the streets weren't as crowded as they might have been.

The Medina-

 is a gigantic maze of narrow streets where more than 200,000 people live in 3.9 square kilometres.  The outside is surrounded by a wall-

and many gates-

 Streets are narrow-

and even narrower-

Many lead to family homes like this one where thirteen people live on three floors-

They have a bathroom on the main floor and a kitchen with a fridge but it is very small-

Shops include tomb markers made of stone that can be engraved-

Beautiful wood cut outs used as coasters and decorations-



Living chickens-

And others freshly plucked-

There are many mosques-

But non Muslims cannot go in, especially during one of the daily five prayer times-

There are schools, including this kindergarten class-

I was 'tricked' into going into a carpet shop.  The man was sitting along the narrow street and guessed I was Canadian.  "Canadienne?"  he called out.  "Oui", I answered.  Then he went to Engish.  They always say "Toronto?  Montreal?  Vancouver?"  No one yet has said "North Battleford?" :)  As soon as I said Saskatchewan, he said "Regina"?  He has family there.  So we visited about, guess what?  the cold!  And then he asked if I knew about the Widow's Cooperative.  Of course I didn't and soon I was in a carpet shop, but this one was different.  Prices are set, quality is excellent and they arrange shipping.  There was no pressure at all.  He and his lackey rolled out carpet after carpet.  They were very beautiful and cheap.  These were about 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters and cost $270 plus $90 shipping.  I've paid A LOT more for carpets.  I couldn't think of where I would put one, so I said thank you and left.  He was not disappointed and he did not chase me, nor did he offer a lower price.  He just asked me to enjoy Maroc!

"My" carpets-

I also stopped in a shop where a man was making blankets-

Probably the biggest attraction in the Medina is the tanneries.  I visited two.  The first one was smaller but just as smelly.  Before going out on the terrace for the best view, I was given mint to hold at my noise so I wouldn't smell the disgust-

The smaller tannery was started in the 11th century. 150 families work here.  They tan goat, sheep, camel and cow skins.  First, the hides spend four days in the white vats and soak in a concoction of pigeon poop for the ammonia, salt, carbon and water.  This process helps loosen the hair from the skin-

Then the hides are put in a 'washing machine' -

to clean the chemicals away and then they are hung to dry for one week-

Lots of the hair is used to stuff pillows and foot stools-

The view from the tannery terrace is nice-

When I left the terrace, I was expected to shop.  I tried on a beautiful black leather dressy jacket that fit like a glove.  The nicest leather comes from goats and it was super soft.  I could have bought it for $270 but passed.  On my way back onto the street, I was 'accosted' by a worker who took me right onto the floor for closeup views-

This man is dragging away a black hide and a Holstein hide-

Stirring the vats-

The hides are soaking in the vats of chemical-

Scraping off hair-

Only the best pieces are dyed.  The red color comes from the poppy flower, yellow from saffron, green from mint, brown from henna and blue from indigo-

My last stop was at the Jewish Cemetery-

Luckily, a group was going in so I went in with them without having to call.  All the graves are white-

except this one which I thought was a crematorium to begin with but it's a tomb.  Candles are burned in the fireplace on the left hand side and they must get quite a fire going because the chimney is huge-

The main attraction seems to be the grave belonging to Solika Hatuel the Righteous.  She was born in Tangier in 1817 and was decapitated in Fez in 1834.  She refused to renounce her Jewish faith and was consequently put to death.  The group visiting said prayers around her tomb and then many placed their hands or faces on it and continued individual prayers-

I stopped at Carrefour on the way by.  They always have such interesting things like this shark with his nose wrapped and an eel curled up-

I had a great day and got back to the camp via public bus about 4 pm.  I'm looking forward to another day in Fez.

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