Fez Festival of Sufi Culture to be held in April
Fez - The third Fez Festival of Sufi Culture will be held April 18-25, with the participation of artists and men of letters from around the globe.
The festival program will take visitors into an amazing journey through the culture of Sufism, its essence and practices and will provide opportunity to get acquainted with the scholars of this Islamic mystical movement.
The festival features several cultural, religious and political discussion panels that will focus on how to incorporate spirituality in a world marked by globalization, the event organizers said at a press briefing in Fez.
Whether in Africa, Asia or Europe, Sufis songs, art and literature convey the same message: self-centredness must be transcended in order to experience the ultimate and universal meaning of love and compassion, said president of the festival, Faouzi Skali, during the briefing.
Several icons of Sufi music such as Sabah Fakhri, Mohamed Tarwat and Saad Tamsamani are expected at the festival.
Conferences on “Ibn Al Arabi Manuscripts” and workshops on various topics are also on the program.
The second Sufi culture festival had attracted over 16,000 people from 15 countries
The Medersa el Attarin (medersa - college) was completed in 1325 by the Merinid sultan Abou Said which makes it one of the earliest and finest medieval colleges in Fes. The entrance opens onto a courtyard with a fountain in the middle where you may find the prayer hall right ahead. Take some time to study the detail in the woodwork and patterns; they are perhaps the most complex of decorations in Fes. Compared to the rest of the building, the prayer hall is very simple which focuses on the prayer niche surrounded by marble pillars.
The Medersa is an interesting stop and shouldn't be missed; it opens daily 8.30am - 5pm and costs 10dh per person.
The Royal Palace is situated at the far end of the Mellah's main street; it has been expanded and rebuilt over the centuries and is by far one of the greatest buildings in Morocco; its surrounded by vast and beautiful gardens. You may not enter the palace, however in the '70s sometimes it was possible to gain permission to enter part of the grounds. Only official guests may visit.
Unlike Western countries, shopping in Morocco is a unique experience because YOU decide the value of the product! Nothing is priced and that's where the fun begins... a glass of mint tea, super haggling power, lots of persuasion and you can get some fantastic bargains! Their specialities include Berber rugs, ceramics, leather goods, silver and the list goes on...
Tip on haggling: Start with a very low price (even if it sounds ridiculous) but then that gives you space for bargaining. Don't give up insisting that this would be your final price; pretending to walk away and buying it elsewhere works wonders :) Try it!!
Fes el Djedid was an entirely planned city built by the Merinids at the beginning of their rule; work begun in 1273 by Abou Youssef and was completed within 3 years. In this city one may find plenty upmarket hotels, restaurants and also the Royal Palace and Mellah - the Jewish quarter. After exiting Bab Boujeloud you leave behind you the souks of the Medina to be replaced by a massive expanse of walls and gardens: the private Jardins Beida and the Jardin de Boujeloud where you may wander around and rest on the grass for a great change of scenery from the busy souks.
Whilst walking around the old city of Fes at one point you will smell this terrible stench! Yup you've made it to the Fes tannery! Anyone will gladly show you the way to view the men at work from a rooftop... they will explain to you how the process is done... a mixture of pigeon poo and lots of other vile stuff - no wonder the stench! :) It's quite interesting though; be sure to tip the man who gives you the 'tour'. He will then take you into his shop and persuade you into buying some of their leather goods - I ended up buying some beautiful yellow slippers (babouches) made from extremely soft goat leather... you cannot leave there empty-handed! Get ready for some good bargaining power and you're sorted... Anything from bags to belts to poufs to shoes!
Some of the baths are used to color the leather. There is none showing here : nobody was working as it was two days after the end on the Ramadan, and it was a rest day. I have older slides that show it. I will scan and add them later.
Mutton skins are bathing in various baths in order to remove any remaining flesh and the wool. Though it was winter, the smell was pestilential as always, but we came here to visit, then, we MUST visit, whichever the strength of the smell ! By the way, in summer, the smell is really atrocious, much worse than in winter !
A Maristane was a hospital that received travelers and pilgrims for free.
The disabled who were cured leaved the crutch they did not need any more ! (hang on the left).
Wealthy people of the city gave money for the Maristane and should be rewarded in Heaven.
A Medersa is a traditionnal Coranic school where students work and live. Medersa Attarine was built by the Merinide Sultan Abou Dazid in the 14th. It is one of the oldest and is no more in use . Medersa were the very first Universities. There were several Medersa in Arab Spain and the model spread to whole Europe and later to the whole world. The oldest European Universities, such as Montpellier, were made closely following the Arab model.
There are many Merdersa scattered around the medina, some with very ornate and beautiful interiors. Medersa as-Seffarine was probably my favoutite although it was in a state of disrepair.
10 Dirhams entrance
These old ruined walls are up on the small hills on the western side of the Medina, near to the bus station and Hotel Merinides. The view of the whole medina from up here is great, and you can climb around the ruins aswell.
I went up there in the evening and watched the sun come down, listening to the prayer calls wailing out from the scores of mosques
There are many small scale tanneries all around the Medina, you need only follow the less than subtle smell of rotting animal remains to find them. At the main tannery you will get the hard sell from the locals, with a fee to look at the tannery, a fee for someone to show you their leather products, a fee not to buy something and a fee to leave.
I preferred the smaller scale tanneries that my guide took me to. There was no hard sell, just men getting on with their work. You would not find these without a guide. They are not for the faint hearted though as i found the smell quite overpowering, and the blood squishing through my flip flop wasn't very pleasant.
The best way to get a feel of the Fes is to hire a guide to show you around. This way, you will get to see things that you would not see by yourself. Official guides have a badge and certification, but there are many unofficial guides aswell, regularly offering their services as you wander around the Medina. My guide was unofficial (I realised when two mounted police chased him off through down a hillside and through some bushes) but I couldn't have asked for a better experience. He took me into local homes, back street handicraft workshops, small scale tanneries, local Hammas, and into the hills overlooking the city. I paid him 150 dirhams for about 3-4 hours, plus an extra 50 to bribe the police.
The Medina is a staggering array of tightly woven streets and alleys, lined with souks, cafes, homes, shops etc etc etc. It's impossible not to get lost just wandering around, but quite fun to do so anyway. There will always(usually too often) be someone to guide you to where you want to go, but at a price of course.