On our second day in Morocco, we traveled 4 hours by train to Fes where we spent two nights in the medina. I only took a few pictures in Fes because in general I find that it takes away from my experience. The medina in Fes is a warren of very narrow – about 8-10 feet wide – roads that are often covered by buildings. This turns the roads into passageways in which you often have to stoop to walk down. If you were to look at a satellite Google map of the Fes medina, you would see only a small fraction of the 9,000 + roads because they are obscured by buildings.
We hired a guide in Fes who showed us around the medina. It was particularly interesting because he was born there and still lives there today at the age of 50. The first part of the day was spent showing us what every resident of the medina needs to live – a communal bread oven, free potable water, a hammam, a mosque (there are over 100 of them in the Fes medina), places to buy food, and a school.
Having a guide is essential– even those who’ve lived there all their lives get lost and you learn much more than simply wandering on your own. For example, each neighborhood has a community oven where residents you drop off loaves of bread to be baked. Usually a boy in the family will pick up the baked bread later in the day. The entryway of these ovens is a narrow (about shoulder-width), low (about 4 ½ to 5 feet) “hallway”. Without a guide most wouldn’t even know what was down the hallway and thus wouldn’t venture in. The wood-fired oven is in a dome-shaped room and two or so men carry out the baking. The bakers manage to keep track of what bread belongs to whom and we were told that if you wanted to know where someone lived, you could ask them because they know everyone.
Bear with me as the bread topic continues…We hired a car and driver took a day trip south of Casablanca to El Jedida and Azemmour on the last day in Morocco. We traveled with an art professor (Manuel Aguilera-Moreno) who specializes in the art of religious architecture; the assistant to the executive dean (Kathy Poole) who directs the study abroad program at U of O, and a lifelong learner or adult passenger (Connie Sween). It was a great combination of people. In the sleepy coastal town of Azemmour we walked part of the medina and as we went buy a community oven, we were invited in (with the assurances that no money was involved – unusual in Morocco which is understandable given the poverty) to watch them bake. In addition to the residents’ bread, they seemed to bake for sale at local stalls as they had hundreds of loaves rising. At one point, they removed a paddle-full of hot bread from the oven and Kathy was offered a loaf. I captured what followed on video:
We gave the guy about 50 cents for the loaf and it was delicious. He really wanted cigarettes – that is what he is asking for near the end of the clip – but we didn’t have any. We’d considered bringing Marlboro’s with us on the voyage, but our consciences prevented us from doing it. Maybe we should’ve…
Here are some photos in no particular order!
|Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca|
|Love the juxtaposition of the satellite dishes with the crumbling stucco walls and clothing on the line.|
|Repairing the walls.|
|Portugese Cisterne in El Jedida|