While in Morocco, I took the train to Fes for a day to go on a tour of the medina. Medinas are technically old, walled cities. The streets are too narrow for cars to pass through—all traffic consists of donkey carts and the rare motorbike. Though I was apprehensive about taking a guided tour, I’m ultimately glad that I did. The Fes medina is huge—the largest medina in the world, so they say—and I certainly would not have seen as much as I did if I explored on my own.
As expected, many of the streets were designated market areas. Tasked—as always when I go anywhere—with buying some sort of snack item for the dance group back in Jogja, I eyed several stalls, trying to discern what might be tasty or interesting. I ended up managing to buy cookies using only French (although there were long pauses while I squinted and tried to rid my mind of the Indonesian words that kept bubbling up).
Our guide said that neighborhoods in the medina are defined by a few things. Each neighborhood has a mosque and each neighborhood also has a fountain. Many of these fountains appeared not to be in use any longer, as with this one.
This is a water clock. Though no longer in use, apparently it used to function through a combination of dripping water and glasses that would slowly fill up. From this you would be able to tell if it was time to pray.
Among the stops on the tour was a madrasa—a school of Islamic learning. It was unclear to me what the madrasa was actually used for, but the construction was impressive. Actually, all the buildings in the medina were impressive. I would walk down the streets and an oppressive feeling would slowly build—it felt like I was constantly walking down alleyways. Then, suddenly, we would enter a building and space would open up.
This is one of the oldest universities in the world, according to our guide. I do not know its name.
We visited a tannery where my guide got the salesman to drop the price of a wallet that I was about to buy, even though I’d already agreed to buy it. This, above all else, was what made me like the guide.
Walking through the medina, I kept reminding myself that I was walking through a place that had been a city for a long time. This is the entrance to an elementary school. Look at the dates above that door.
As we walked around the medina, we passed by streets where you could buy any number of things: wedding thrones, postcards, embroidered verses from the Quran, and these impressive bellows.
Apparently each of these rectangles is assigned to a political party. The party then hangs its campaign poster in the appropriate rectangle.