The Merinid Tombs.
After escaping from the attentions of the Chouwara Tannery touts, I made my way north out of the Medina through Acces Bin Bakr, left onto the main circular highway Abu Bakr Ibn al Arabe and after a long hike in the hot sun arrived at the fifteenth century Merinid Necropolis, it was a steep climb straight up the hillside Al Qolla from the main road but worthwhile for the impressive view of the city below, my guide book warned of the possible presence of petty thieves, but there was only one old man who appeared from a plantation of olive trees carrying a pile of kelim rugs draped over his shoulder and intent of selling me one or more, but when I showed no interest he disappeared back to his afternoon siesta in the shade of the trees.
The remains of the burial site are very dilapidated but surprisingly still standing after six hundred years, In medieval times overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions in the Medinas were the cause of many diseases including leprosy, the area around the tombs and beyond is dotted with caves where outcast lepers banished from the city were compelled to exist.
An interesting afternoon's visit and change of scenery from the Medina.....
- Historical Travel
The Fes Tanneries.
The Chouwara Tanneries in Fes el Bali Medina are a big tourist attraction, the colourful vats are much-photographed and postcards are on sale everywhere. However, most tourists prefer to get their own pictures to add to their travel collections and want to visit the everyday industrial site, this has led to the unwelcome presence of greedy touts offering guide services for "best photo, good price!"
The leatherworks are in two locations, one is the skinning factory off the Talaa Kebira where the hides are removed from the animal carcasses then transported on the backs of donkeys along to the Chouwara Tanneries for processing and dyeing. I arrived at the tannery in mid-afternoon (bad decision) the street was infested with touts offering unofficial guide services (which is illegal) for a variety of inflated prices. I displayed only casual interest and dismissed all offers with my favourite Arabic phrase "yemken ghedda" (maybe tomorrow) this was universally received with dismay but with map and compass in hand I proceeded north to investigate the Merenides Necropolis. Amidst the street rabble I had noticed one man who appeared to be a semi-official gardien sitting at the tannery entrance, he had not tried to hustle me for money, this was the man I was looking for and a plan began to form in my exhausted brain.
Next morning I left the hotel early at 8 am and "galloped" along the almost deserted Talaa Kebira quickly arriving at the tannery, there were no touts ( they are are not "early morning people") only the gardien, so I asked him how much for the best pictures on the high terraces, he replied "whatever you like", I already had a crisp new twenty dirham banknote tucked into my shirt pocket and was prepared to pay more, but he nodded in agreement and the deal was done!
The presence of the gardien is advisable to be warned of the dangers posed by wet greasy steps and the absence of safety barriers on the high terraces, visitors with mobility problems should avoid the tannery. The gardien showed me the best photo positions and led me around the dyeworks, a successful visit and only a little money well-spent.
- Historical Travel
- Budget Travel
A walk back in time.
The majority of places of interest in the thousand year old working city are to be found along the Talaa Kabira (great climb) and to a lesser degree on the almost parallel Talaa Seghira (short climb.) The more important sites now have information tablets displayed in English and French and tourist trails are mapped by overhead signs of various colours, each one denoting a particular route. Where this navigation system falls down is when a sign is missing or obscured and the street forks, usually out of a small square with several possibilities, then a shopkeeper who will have accurate local knowledge has to be consulted, I found them all helpful and friendly.
Before starting out on holiday I obtained, free of charge, an excellent map of both Fes el Bali and Fes el Jdid by writing to the Moroccan Tourist Office, 205 Regent Street, London, I found this map and my pocket compass indispensable for exploring the ancient city where it is easy to become distracted by all the activity and lose the way.
During the day the narrow streets can be very congested with shoppers, overladen donkeys, bicycles and mopeds, progress on foot can be slow, when I visited the Chouwara tanneries I chose to reach the site before 9 am when most shops are still closed and only people going to work and schoolchildren were on the streets, it was much easier to make rapid progress!
- Historical Travel