Mohammed Tazi, 71,  is the last bucketmaker in Fes as his children see no future in a trade that now earns so little. His handmade cedarwood buckets, still preferred in upmarket hammams, are being replaced elsewhere by cheaper imported Chinese plastic ones.
Fes – Been There

Getting lost in Fes to find the hidden treasure

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Fes – Been There Getting lost in Fes to find the hidden treasure

Hemmed in by mountains all around, by the new city and by its own ancient city walls, the medina of Fes is an inward-looking place.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

It is always easy to get lost in Fes. The narrow alleys lined with shops at the center of the medina give way to even narrower paths that meander or come to a dead end. The buildings themselves turn blank walls to the outside, their dilapidated state bearing little relationship to the glories within. Half-open doors offer glimpses of mosaic tiling and ornate furnishings but any windows are high overhead and barred with tight latticework.

The shops cling together in specialized sections, from shoes or clothes, to spices or pirated DVDs. They vary from the neon-lit glass and steel boxes of jewellers in the center to piles of misshapen seasonal fruit laid on a plastic sheet, lit by the human color of a hissing paraffin lamp, out on the dark muddy fringes where trade is slow. Scattered throughout are workshops where the goods are made: workers of leather and wood, hammersmiths beating copper and tin into pots, pans and ewers, weavers whose looms spill out into the street.

The medina is the cycle of life, a labyrinth, like those the pilgrims walk in the great gothic cathedrals of Chartres or Reims. Keep your shoulder to the right and you will find your way to its heart and, eventually, back out to its end. But, by then, you may need the places where gravestones are chiselled in neat Arabic calligraphy.

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