Morocco Day 4October 15 in Morocco
Up and out this morning for our first stop, the Jewish Quarter, called Mellah, in the 14th C section of Fes. During the time of the Spanish Inquisition many Jews fled Spain for Morocco. At one time there were around 120,000 Jews in Fes. Today there are around 200. We visited one synagogue and walked the quarter now inhabited by Muslims. Architecture is Spanish Colonial with the wooden (cedar) balconies. The area is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and being restored.
The remainder of our day was spent in the Medina, or old city of Fes, a vast system of narrow alleys (over 9,000), restaurants, shops and artisans of every kind. The experience was amazing and a fascinating day. We visited a madrasa, or school within a mosque. One of the fellows in the group mentioned that the madrasa are now known as schools where Muslim men go for training in violence. Sections of the medina are laid out according to "specialties" e.g. wedding/celebration dresses, metal (very noisy), leather, furniture, etc. Following lunch at a very nice Moroccan food restaurant, we went to a tanner "factory" within the medina. All leather made from the skins of goats, sheep or camel. The secret to the soft leather is the process of soaking the skins in water with pigeon poop (for the ammonia) for 2 weeks to take out the smell!! Their leather was beautiful and so soft. And then, of course, there was the opportunity to buy any of the leather products, primarily jackets. I resisted. :-) Illene did not
Following this experience, we went to another artisan, a weaving place where the products are loomed by hand. Materials used are cotton, wool and silk. The silk is not from silk worms but from the agave plant, called vegetable silk. Amazing to see the speed of the weavers as they foot peddle the loom. Another opportunity to buy scarfs, tablecloths, curtains, etc.
Back to the riad for a rest and happy hour on the beautiful roof top deck with a panoramic view of the city of Fes and the surrounding Riff mountains. Our evening was spent visiting and dining with local families as a cultural exchange. We split into 3 groups of 5 or 6 each. The family my group visited was a father and daughter. The father did not speak English but was very active and interested in the conversation with his daughter as interpreter. The daughter at 19 is in her 3rd year of medical school. Obviously, the education system is different than the US. Lots of topics covered during a delightful dinner. E.g. Moroccan history with the French, educational and health care systems, family life, etc. An interesting and fun-filled day.Read more