Category Archives: Africa

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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Born in Africa: The Belgian connection in Plettenberg Bay

DSC_0250Cries of amazement are the first sounds we hear when we visit a little school close to Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Three white young men enter the classroom, not an everyday event. “What are they doing here?”

Thanks to the Belgian organization, Born in Africa, we were allowed to visit a primary school in the township Kranshoek, a few kilometres from the beautiful beaches of Plettenberg Bay.

In brief: Born In Africa tries to provide the children of Kranshoek of education, by building schools, but also by organizing extracurricular activities. One of the Belgian student, Rien, spent a few months organizing football games. You can read all the information in English, Dutch and even Norwegian on the website of Born in Africa.

Township Experience

The visit of the school is also our first township experience. With around 10.000 inhabitants, Kranshoek is only a small township. Everyone in Kranshoek knows what Born In Africa is doing for the children, so it’s not a dangerous township. It’s not a problem to walk around with a photocamera or with a phone, not like in Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Remarkable: the township consists of stone housings only, a project of the South African government. The small stone houses look nicer than the ones of wood and corrugated sheets, but that doesn’t mean the people who live inside are less poor.

DSC_0266Fist Bump

The school looks less old fashioned than we had feared. In terms of infrastructure, it is comparable to a Western European school of a few decades ago. The classes of around 35 students are a bit larger than schools that we know. But it there was certainly no question of overcrowded classes.

What struck us immediately was the heat in the classroom, no air conditioning o or ventilation. It apparently did not bother the kids. They are very energetic and make is a point of honor the give us a high five or fist bump.

The girl with the crayons

In the second grade of the school in Kranshoek studies, one girl is the only one in the class with crayons. Because she’s the only one, she always have to share them with the classmates. By chance our gift to the school was drawing and craft material. And so we gave the little girl the pack full of crayons.

The girl didn’t really know what was happening, certainly not when she had to pose for a picture with her brand new crayons. The good deed of our trip was hereby done. 😉

Toon Voets, from Belgium