The enchantment of Fez, Morocco

Travel Destinations — By on April 10, 2007 at 3:27 pm

There is a nice travel story in the NY Times about Fez, Morocco. It describes this 1,200-year-old city as the soul of the country.

… this mazelike city of minarets, shrouded figures and forgotten passages can seem impossible to decipher – yet tinged with a deep enchantment.

“It’s a mysterious place,” said Abdelfettah Seffar, a craftsman and cultural entrepreneur, as he stood on the roof of a beautiful but dilapidated 18th-century Moorish estate that he is restoring into a vast guesthouse and arts center. “It’s even a mystical place.”

Around us, crowing roosters and shouts in Arabic and French reverberated through the tangled streets – wholly bereft of automobiles and all but the simplest machines – as black smoke billowed in the distance from the city’s old ceramic workshops. Farther off, beyond the ramparts, a late-afternoon glow illuminated the hillside tombs of the Merenid sultans, who presided over Fez’s Golden Age in the 14th century.

“Fez is really just the medieval city that it was,” Mr. Seffar went on, contrasting his hometown with its fast-developing jet-set sister and rival, Marrakesh. “We are a little scared of what Marrakesh has become. Fez is the soul of Morocco. It’s the last bastion of what Morocco really is.”

Faded but stately, crumbling but proud, the walled city of Fez might well be the largest and most enduring medieval Islamic settlement in the world. It is indisputably Morocco’s spiritual and cultural heart.

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