A Living Leather Factory; FES, Morocco

In April 2015, 8 young people from 6 different countries went to Morocco to explore mix of Arabic and Berber culture and tradition in Africa. I felt really lucky to book my ticket from Barcelona to Fes which is a city in the northern Morocco for only 25€. I can easily say that flying outside of Spain is always cheaper than travelling inside the country.

When you reach Fes, you can get a taxi to go to Old Medina (Fez el- Bali) where all the touristic attractions are. You should probably make some bargain to get a lower price for taxies to reach the old city. Once you reach the Old Medina, a Blue gate shows the main entrance of the old town where you can see thousands of stores like leather shops, souvenir shops, restaurants, hostels and tiny streets.

Old Medina is an actual labyrinth and it surrounded by high wall ruins. There are around 9500 streets in that old city. You can not drive a car in those small tiny streets. It is not really possible to find your way without help of a map or a tourist guide.

You wont have any problem to find a tourist guide as plenty will be waiting for you in the city and probably they will just find and start to guide you suddenly.

We booked our hostel before coming to the city. We asked some people to direct us to our accommodation that was in a close area to Blue Gate and between so many tiny streets. The hostel was pretty authentic and traditional; walls were colourful and full of mosaics. We even had a bed curtain like princess’ beds in our room. The price for the hostel was pretty cheap and it also included breakfast which contained Moroccan pancakes and some more typical ingredients with mint tea that was one of the best parts of Moroccan tradition. If I am not wrong, you might book a bed for around 8€-10€.

After leaving our stuff to the room, we started to discover that little mysterious old city. We started our trip from Blue Gate and walked through main streets, watching the colourful shops: clothes, leather manufacturing, scarfs, carpets, antique stuff are the ones you might see most. The leather bags are common and shoes are fashionable for tourists. While walking on the streets, a tourist guide started to help us to find our way and see the best part of the town.

When you walk around that old city you should definitely see the Tannery’s Quarter where workers dyeing the leathers since 9th century barefoot-ly. You can go up of some leather shops to see the view of colourful leather areas. You have to get ready to smell the heavy scent of camel leather. People who welcome you in the shops will probably give you a bunch of fresh mint to keep bad scent away from your nose.

When we got up to the building the smell was extremely strong, and in those conditions we saw some people in tanneries working without masks. I can not imagine people living in such hard condition in order to earn money for survival purpose. While watching the colourful and wonderful view you might see the difficulties on other people’s lives and accept that how great lives we have but not aware.

Inside the shops you can buy anything made of leather in those areas. The shops offer you really good quality stuff and pretty cheap prices compared to Europe. When you think about their currency which is Moroccan dirham, it might sound like expensive but when you count, an 1€ is around 11 Moroccan dirham then it is cheap enough. You can buy a small leather bag for 7€ if you are good at bargaining and lucky.

After the visit of the tanneries, you should also see the Royal Palace, part of an important Moroccan history. Remember that you can not enter the palace. You might only see the great gate of it. After that you can visit the Jewish quarter of Fez. The cemetery entry fee is only an 1€ and you can see full of whiteness and graves. In Jewish history, Fes is pretty effective so you can add it into your list.

Apart from all those touristic places, there are some mosques, madrasahs that you can see but mostly entries of mosques are not allowed for non-Muslims so if you are lucky enough for not being asked identity then you might able to go in.

Remember to wander on the streets of Old medina as much as you can, visit Jnan Sbil garden which is a beautiful garden that contains a small lake in the new Medina. Drink a lot of mint tea, it tastes great, eat “tajine” which is a very typical Moroccan food in the rooftop restaurants, talk with sellers and be friend if they don’t keep greeting you in Chinese as they did to me (I do not even look like Chinese), buy some souvenirs especially shape of Fatima Kuskus hand cheaper than what seller say.

Visiting Fes will prepare you to see more of Moroccan and Berber culture so after some days in Fez you are ready to take a trip to go to Marrakesh and ride camels into Sahara as we did with our group of friends. After all you will find yourself into desserts, camels and Berber villages. Get ready for an amazing and incredible experience.

By Emine Ülkü Şimşek from Turkey

 

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