Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dr. Plotnick's Moroccan Cat Adventure - Day 7 - Last Day in Fes

Dr. Plotnick's Moroccan Cat Adventure - Day 7 - Last Day in Fes (Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6)

Today our itinerary was simple.  Just stroll through Fes with no sites in mind and no agenda to speak of.  There’s 9600 streets and alleys.  Plenty to explore.

We made our way to Bab Boujeloud, but this time we veered right, onto the other main artery, Tala’a Sghira, to see what we’d find.  The first stretch consists of another market.  I saw one of my favorite sites again, a butcher stall with cats politely, if impatiently, waiting below.

We arrived at the Attarine medersa.  Attarine medersa translates to “Koranic school of the Spice Sellers”. This medersa is not as awesome as the Bou Inania medersa, but its graceful proportions, elegant geometric carved-cedar ornamentation and excellent state of preservation (it’s from the 14th century) makes it a really great example of Moorish architecture.

It was founded as a student dormitory for the Kairaouine Mosque next door.  Check out the spectacularly intricate stucco carvings. 

 I’m always drawn to the stucco calligraphy. 

And of course, the mosaic tilework.

Look how amazing!  And so well preserved!

I always love the view where the tile, stucco, and cedar appear in the same photo. 

We never get tired of these places. 

Here’s a funky shot, using a neat setting on my camera.

After the medersa, we wandered and stumbled upon an area where there was stand after stand of candy/nougat sellers, like this boy here. 

I was tempted to buy some, but much of the nougat samples were covered with bees.  Harmless, I’m sure, but still, kinda gross.  We passed a cool shop selling lanterns, and more market stalls selling meat and fish.

And once again, I took a cute photo of a cat anxiously (and adorably) waiting for a scrap of meat.  Here are two views of it…I don’t think it’s overkill, do you? 

The Zaouia of Moulay Idriss is a sanctuary that was originally built by the Idriss dynasty in the 9th century, in honor of the city’s founder. It was restored by the Merenid dynasty in the 13th century and has become one of the medina’s holiest shrines.  The entrance of the sanctuary area is marked by a wooden beam about 6 feet off the ground.

It was orinigally placed there to keep Jews, Christians, and donkeys out of the horm, which is the sacred area surrounding the shrine itself.  Moroccans have historically enjoyed official sanctuary here.  They cannot be arrested if sought by law.  Unfortunately, much of it was shrouded with scaffolding, as it was being spruced up,

but enough of it was un-shrouded, and the colors

and geometric designs

were fabulous.

Strolling along, we encountered many more cats, of course.  Check out these adorable calico kittens.

At a furniture shop, we saw a queen tending to her kittens. 

We eventually came full circle and ended up back at the base of Tala’a Sghira, where we ate at the well-known Chez Thami Restaurant. 

Situated at a busy thoroughfare, it’s the perfect place to just have a meal and a drink, and people-watch.  Which is exactly what we did.  Here’s a short video of the typical comings and goings in Fes.

The medina in Fes is divided into two separate little cities: Fes el-Bali (Old Fes) and Fes el-Djedid (New Fes).  Fes el-Bali is where we stayed, and what we’ve seen so far. It’s the intricate web of lanes, blind alleys and souks.  Fes el-Djedid is a bit more straightforward, dominated by a vast enclosure of royal palaces and gardens.  We decided to leave the insanity of Fes el-Bali and cross over into Fes el-Djedid.  As you proceed, the labyrinthine alleyways and souks disappear and you find yourself walking to the public gardens of Jnane Sbil.

We were amazed at how beautiful these gardens are, and yet they scarcely get any mention in the guidebooks.  There were beautiful palm tree-lined paths,

colorful trees,

nicely manicured herb gardens,

neatly landscaped lawns,

and a man-made lake and island. 

It was a totally calm, peaceful oasis and a dramatic respite from the chaos of Fes el-Bali. 

We drifted away from the garden and soon arrived in Fes el-Djedid, and got onto the main thoroughfare, the aptly named Rue Fes Jdid. 

The souks here were calmer and more low-key. 

At the end of the road, you come to the entry gate into the medina, called Bab Semmarine.  This gate is different in that it has two openings, an entry and an exit.

Nearby was Dar el-Makhzen, Fes’s Royal Palace. My guidebook said that security in this area is high and should be respected, and that guards watch visitors carefully and warn that photos are strictly forbidden. I took out my camera anyway, and the guys guarding the entry threw a fit, yelling that no photos were allowed.  So we walked away.  But I turned on my camera, aimed it under my arm and quickly snapped a photo of the entry gate.  You can see my body and arm in the photo

It always ticks me off when I’m denied a photo.  I didn’t travel all the way to Morocco to have some guard deny me a nice photo.  So here it is, cropped and fixed up. 

Nyah, nyah.
We went back to our riad and chilled out for a while.  Mark was happy to just grab some dinner and mellow out for the rest of the evening, but I really wanted to head up to see the crumbling remnants of the Merenid tombs, which are high above the medina.  I had read that it’s a particularly atmospheric place at dusk, where you can watch the sun peacefully descend over the medina as the sky swarms with a frenzy of starlings and egrets.  Thankfully, Mark and I are of the same mind when we travel.  We figure, “who knows if or when we’ll ever visit this country again, so we should really try to see as much as we can while we’re here.”  It wasn’t easy finding a cab, but we did, and were rewarded with a spectacular view over the medina.

First we came upon some white gravestones, on the hillside. 

Then we hiked up to the remnants of the Merenid tombs. 

I have no idea who was buried in these tombs.  The tombs were interesting, but again, the reason why people come up here is for the fantastic view of the entire medina.

We watched the sun set peacefully over the city

and then hiked back up to the top, where we were surprised to see a shepherd tending to his little flock of sheep. 

We managed to snag a cab outside a nearby hotel, and we returned to Bab Boujeloud, the entry gate to the medina.  On the stroll back to our riad, we passed through the market again, and discovered that the most happening place in the city – if you’re a cat – was right in front of the butcher stall.  I counted nine cats hanging out there

Tomorrow, an interesting day trip is in store, and then we say bid Fes goodbye.

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