THE LEATHER TANNERIES OF FES

Culture, Travel

THE MEDINA OF FES IS ONE OF THE LARGEST AND BEST PRESERVED OLD TOWNS IN THE ARAB WORLD

Founded by Idris I in 789 AD, Fès is the third- largest city in Morocco with over one million inhabitants. Alongside Meknès, Marrakech and Rabat, it is the oldest of the so-called four royal cities. Even today, the Medina enchants visitors from all over the world with its special atmosphere, which was created thanks to the long and multicultural history that is still evident in every corner.

 The special charm of this city is created by intricate ornaments, architecture and mosaics with great attention to detail, which characterize the cityscape and are reminiscent of bygone times and fairy tales like those from 1001 Nights. The gate at the entrance to Fès Al Bali, the old town, is the famous Bab Bou Jeloud city gate. It is decorated with blue and green mosaics and is one of the most important symbols of Morocco. The blue color symbolizes the city of Fès and the green color for Islam.

The entire Medina was declared a pedestrian zone and is considered the largest of its type in the world. All transport is therefore carried out with donkeys, mules and handcarts, as has been the case for centuries. Magnificent palaces and mosques, artistic fountains and gates, numerous colorful markets with fresh dates and olives, spices and even beguiling perfumes captivate every visitor with a mesmerizing mix of smells, colors and sounds.

The Tala Kebira is one of the two main streets that divide Medina with its approximately 70,000 inhabitants. Today the old town has  more than 1200 artisans who continue to practice the same millinery crafts that once made Fès rich and famous. From blacksmithing and copper ware, carpets, jewelry, pottery and mosaic art to dyers and tanneries, they all produce in accordance with ancient traditions of which the residents are very proud.

In early history, the leather trade in particular was an important part of the economy and allowed the city to flourish. The leather goods became well known far beyond national borders for their superior quality and were exported to distant countries. From the initial 86 tanneries, more sprang up and were constantly expanding and rebuilt. In the Andalusian Quarter, there are still around 50 tannery shops that offer visitors a colorful spectacle. Seen from above, the numerous filled clay basins of Chouara tannery look like a giant water paint box.

Read the full article in Issue 18

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