Fes Medina

Beez Neez
Skipper and First Mate Millard (Big Bear and Pepe)
Wed 22 Oct 2008 23:31

Manesh and Stephanie had suggested a guide is the only way to see Fes, we completely agree. The town is a complex series of very skinny streets, dead ends and confusing directions. We are so pleased we had Hakim to show us around, details at the bottom. This is just a small flavour of our day, there is so much to see and so many varied sights, you trip over a pile of rubbish, see the most beautiful fountain, hear music, smell spices and food cooking, can chose every kind of fruit, I cannot do justice. You will certainly be tempted to lighten your purse - carpets, fabrics, leather, jewels, lamps, clothing, you name it you can buy it, but only after serious haggling. The city is separated into three parts: Fès el Bali (the oldest part of Fès, a walled city that is now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Fès-Jdid (new Fès) and the Ville Nouvelle (the newest part of the city, created by the French). The three parts of the city are all a short bus/taxi ride.




The Water Clock -  or Clepsydra - Less than five minute's walk from Dar El Menia is the Water Clock opposite the Bou Inania Medersa ( see blog on Mosques ) which in itself is well worth a visit. There are 12 windows under which there used to be 13 copper bowls. The inequality of bowls to windows shows that at the time of its use, this water clock measured "unequal hours". This means that it measured hours by the length of the day, and not in equal 60 minute intervals. Using a complicated system whose details still remain a mystery - except to the magician who invented it - the bowls filled up with water at a speed that would change daily. When a bowl filled up, a weight would drop and open up one of the small doors. If one door was open, it was one o'clock. If two were open, it was two o'clock, and so on. As I write this UNESCO are still trying to restore the bowls. It is said when you enter through the gates of the city, time goes back to medieval time.




The water clock. Bear and Beds in a cross between a spice shop come Apothecary. Allegedly patronised by one of Bill Clinton's chefs. You don't see these hanging in any Plymouth butcher Halal or not. The camel didn't look very old but non the less looked a bit surprised. "and I'm worth ten of these ? should have asked alive or dead I suppose" I have just asked for a comment here - he declined as he is being careful to add one.

Moshe ben Maimon – Maimonides




Moses Maimonides, (we walked down a little alley and on the wall was this plaque showing his house, his monument in Israel), became a Jewish philosopher who codified the Talmud, composed the Mishneh Torah, and the Guide for the Perplexed, written in Arabic. "Must get a copy". In the non-Jewish world, he is known for his work in science, medicine, astronomy and philosophy. Rabbi Maimon moved to Fez, Morocco when his son Rabbi Moshe was 25 years old. Here, like in Spain, the Jews endured great hardship and persecution at the hands of the fanatical Mohamedans. Rabbi Maimon, then wrote a famous letter in Arabic, which he sent to all the Jewish communities in North Africa. In this letter he urged them to remain loyal to their faith despite all their hardships, to study the Torah and practice the mitzvoth and to pray three times daily. A few years later the position of the Jews in Fez became unbearable. Maimonides and his family journeyed to Egypt, which was known as a "land of enlightenment and freedom" in those days. There were pressing communal affairs, there was his medical practice, his regular hours of study of the Torah and Talmud, his correspondence and so on. Yet in the midst of all this strenuous work he produced his second outstanding work - the Mishneh Torah or YadHachazakah, (in 1180).  Maimonides died at Fostat on Teveth 20, 1204. His body was taken to Tiberias in the Land of Israel to be interred. No other man has ever earned such a great tribute, and no other tribute has ever been more deserving.




Perhaps the most "famous" photos of Fes are of the tanneries. The pale colour 'dye' is a mix of pigeon poo and lime, this rots off the remnants of fur, dunked for about three weeks, stirred continually. The coloured dyes are Green from mint. Red from poppy flowers, no guesses why they are grown in the first place. Blue from indigo. Brown from Cedar wood. Yellow from Saffron. There is no health and safety, pension or sick pay, this is a rough old job. The delivery end stinks, its painfully hot in summer and the water in the vats is really cold in winter. The men who do the stomping, like possessed grape pressers have a rub down with olive oil as their only bit of protection. We only saw one chap wearing wellies, so we guess he was the foreman. The result is thousands of shoes, coats, "dog beds" aka empty pouffes, bags, bellows .... the list is endless.



The Hamsa ( Arabic: خمسة, Khamsa‎, literally "five", Hebrew: חמסה, Khamsa‎) is a symbol used in amulets, Charms and jewelry to protect against the "evil eye."  An alternative Islamic name for this charm is the Hand of Fatima or Eye of Fatima, in reference to Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Muhammad. An alternative Jewish name is the Hand of Miriam, in reference to Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. It is a kind of "protecting hand" or "hand of God".




Some associate the significance of the five fingers to the five books of the Torah for Jews, the Five Pillards of Islam for Sunnis, or the five People of the Cloak for Shi'ites. This symbolism may have evolved at a later stage, in view of the fact that archaeological evidence suggests the hamsa predates both religions. In recent years some activists for Middle East Peace have chosen to wear the hamsa as a symbol of the similarities of origins and tradition between the Islamic and Jewish faiths. The fingers can point up or down.




Arab custom

The hamsa is widespread in Arab countries, and is sold in many different forms especially in the marketplaces of Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. It is often painted on the fronts of homes. Nevertheless, many Arabs, Christian and Muslim, regard this as a superstition. They believe that only God protects them, and the hamsa is tantamount to shirk, or idolatry. The symbol may have originated in Punic religion, where it was associated with Tanit. Hamsa plaques, often made of turquoise-colored ceramics, are very common in modern Egypt. The Hamsa is a protection or "magical pendant". I put in loads of examples because I know ladies like to see jewelry, and boy, do you see a lot of them.




The secret window, a woman can look down if she doesn't know who is at the door. Fatima's hand seen on all doors, usually as hinges. The lower knocker for family and friends. The upper-outer knocker for tradesmen, people who don't know the occupants and folk on donkeys or camels. A woman with a good ear will know exactly which knocker has been used. It is said a woman from a strict family gets two outings, the Bath and one to the Funeral.




Every town has a public bakery. If you want to get a good match for your daughter, get down to the baker, he knows all there is to know about everyone. People drop their prepared dough, ready to bake on trays and collect later, he knows exactly what belongs where. This private Kindergarten was a delight, I took a video of the children going through their catechism. These wall markings we had assumed was some kind of ball game marker. Wrong. They are for the manifestos and votes of candidates in elections held every five years.


Katabatic Cloud

I haven't shoved in anything maritime since we've been in Morocco, the urge has come upon me. Bear went to "the hole in the wall", I looked up and saw this.
A katabatic wind, from the Greek word katabatikos meaning "going downhill", is the technical name for a drainage wind, a wind that carries high density air from a higher elevation down a slope under the force of gravity. Such winds are sometimes also called fall winds. Not all downslope winds are katabatic. For instance, winds such as the Foehn, Chinook or Bergwind, are rain shadow winds where air driven upslope on the windward side of a mountain range drops its moisture and descends leeward drier and warmer. Katabatic winds can rush down elevated slopes at hurricane speeds, but most are not that intense and many are on the order of 10 knots or less. Examples of true katabatic winds include the Mistral in the Mediterranean, the Bora (or Bura) in the Adriatic, the Santa Ana in southern California ( when all bets are off ), and the Oroshi in Japan. A katabatic wind originates from the cooling by radiation of air atop a plateau, a mountain, glacier, or even a hill. Since the density of air increases with lower temperature, the air will flow downwards, warming adiabatically as it descends. The temperature of the wind depends on the temperature in the source region and the amount of descent. In the case of the Santa Ana, for example, the wind can (but not always) become hot by the time it reaches sea level. In the case of Antarctica, by contrast, the wind is intensely cold. Who'd have thought it - and I was just looking for a Fez for Pete. OK back to donkeys.
Gas man, Coke man, Henna delivery and No-Poo policy wearing a nappy. These animals, other than hand carts are the only means of shifting stuff about. They have to work so hard, we hope they are loved !!!
Donkey car park. Coming through, this one I named Nijinsky, the next Red Rum, both like coiled springs raring for the off.
When we say you can buy anything, cloth straight from the loom with vegetable silk from cactus, cotton and wool. Teeth, some looked like the had been "borrowed" from various pets and wedding chairs. The stunning chair on the left is still carried overhead to deliver the bride by ladies, groom by men. The chair on the right used during the ceremony, both chairs are normally hired. The bride has to wear 7 different highly decorated frocks, the celebrations continue for days.
El Hakim Mohammed - Tour Guide - 00212 (0) 71 07 45 42   email: melhakim77 {CHANGE TO AT} gmail {DOT} com

All in all a wonderful, interesting day - we feel we saved the best till last, a couple of days to get ready to sail and we are off to Agadir for a weeks beach holiday.