A trip through time is almost everybody’s dream. There is a time machine right at your fingertips, and it starts on the plane. The journey begins when you land in Morocco. This little North African country sets on the modern side of history. Its roots, however, go way back to before the Romans and Phoenicians came. So let your Moroccan itinerary begin in the timeless setting of Fez.
Berber peoples found their way to this place and stayed. Many of Morocco’s now famous cities were once Berber settlements. Take for instance the city of Fez.
At twelve hundred years old, Fez is known by many names. The “oldest living medieval city of the world” and the “soul of Morocco” are but a couple of nom de plumes attached to this wonderful city. Join the traditionally dressed throngs of people and donkey carts as they thread their way down the Talaa Kebira, the main thoroughfare of Fez. You will be able to feast your eyes on all manner of beautiful relics, shrouded figures and mazelike streets. Spires of minarets rise above the centuries old buildings giving the city a mysterious feeling.
Luckily, many of the structures have stood the test of time and are being restored to their former beauty. Unlike other cities in Morocco that have torn down to make way for new, Fez has embraced its past. Some travelers have called Fez mythical because of its connections to the past. Which are real, and which are fodder of myths?
It might be said that Fez is the medieval city that it once was. Comparing it to Marrakech, Fez is considered to be the cultural and and spiritual center. Fez has sunk deeper in its roots of Islamic past. While Marrakech and Casablanca have opened up to more western influences, Fez has nurtured its history. In fact, it is living its history.
French occupation brought a new city of Fez, but it is mostly ignored. Instead, forked paths of the medina hold most of the attention. High walls carved with symbols, mosques hidden away that call to the faithful, old ceramic workshops billowing black smoke into the ever-blue sky, all seem to transport ones senses to a long ago time. Every day, you can see the mourners carrying candles to the tomb of Moulay Idriss II, paying homage to the city’s founder.
Moulay Idriss II is purported to be the great-great grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Another link to the past is the oldest, still being used, institution of higher learning, the Karaouine University. Founded in the 9th century, it is still a flourishing college.
Some people get lost in the labyrinth of more than 9000 streets. Over a million people live within. Yet to some, Fez seems to be a hidden city. High windowless walls painted with flowing Arabic script line the streets, making them appear to be closed to outsiders. Many men are still wearing hoods as women wear veils. Traditional dress is the norm. Berber peasant women can been seen with their tattooed faces. Roosters can be heard crowing along with the dogs barking but are not within sight. Talismans protect from the unseen world of djinns. All this adds to the mystery of Fez.
This old city plan is based on the rule of five from the Koran. There are five concentric rings to the medina. At the center is the holy or religious places. The next ring would be the souks and places where the residents make a living. Residential areas make up the next ring. Each neighborhood would have its five obligatory institutions such as a mosque, a school, shared fountain, a shared bread oven and hammam. Of course, most of this part is not open to visitors. Souks and the center of the rings would be the place for visitors.
City walls make up the fourth ring and the fifth would be the gardens and cemeteries. Five comes up in many places in Islamic life. Five times a day, the faithful are called to prayer. Five kinds of designs are on most religious buildings. Tiles are made in one of five colors, each color has a meaning. These factors add to the mythical feel of Fez, part of the Five.
It is said that even the guides sometimes get lost in Fez. The more one gets lost in Fez, the more one discovers. Magical, Fez lets your tour guide take you to the one place that has been sheltered from time. Magical, Fez, let your Moroccan adventure begin in the soul of Morocco. Your Moroccan tour operator can arrange modern and comfortable accommodations, set up you with a guide through the medina and make your Moroccan trip unforgettable.
by Carole Morris, JBT