Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Festival

The main part of the Festival was over by the Palais Salaam and the Provincial Headquarters where the new fountains are.

 It was half-term so there were treats for the kids and the fountains were in full flow and looking good.

 They were putting out the chairs for the evening concert 

and there was a large tent with some interesting displays, sadly in arabic only, and mostly of a religious nature. I hadn't taken my specs with me so did not get the best out of the philately and coin exhibition. There was a display of photographs from the time of Mohammed V, a display on rural religious schools and an astronomy display of rather better and certainly cleaner telescopes than Beloved's and  books showing planetary motion up to 2100BCE. That display seemed to be manned b timekeepers from the mosques and of course the Islamic world has a long history of great astronomers because of the importance of fixing the dates of Eid and Ramadan. 
Round the corner by the side of the Palais Salaam were  a range of stalls selling local traditional craft products. 

There were at least eight Argan co-ops represented so I bought some argan oil for the Quaker who despite having taken home loads wanted more for a friend. There were stalls selling furniture

 and metalwork

 and the knock-out stall sold embroidered tablecloths and napkins which sadly I could not think of a home for.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Fes; The Andalusian Quarter

Fes medina is divided into two by the River of Pearls, the Oued al Jawahir. The right bank is dominated by the Andalusian Mosque and is hence known as the Andalusian Quarter. It was quite a disappointment. The famous Bin Lamdoun Bridge was undergoing renovations and all that could be seen was a lot of steel sheeting and the sound of running water. The descent to the bridge had been quite steep but the ascent on the other side was very steep. Lots of places of interest were listed in the guidebook including some medersas, all of which turned out to be closed for restoration. The Andalusian mosque was impressive and is one of the few Almohad buildings in Fes but of course we couldn't go in.

 Coming from Taroudant which is a Barca town we found some of the wall art a bit unsettling.

Football supporters in Morocco are similar to or worse than Milwall supporters in the 80s. A recent game in Casablance resullted in 2 dead and 54 injured in clashes outside the ground.

We managed to come out near Bab Ftouh, the Gate of Victory. It was originally built in the 11C but was expanded in the 18C. It has a pleasant modern fountain just outside. The wall crenelations like all in Fes were of small square pillars with a pyramid on top unlike the crenelations in Marrakesh or Taroudant.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Festival or not?

We went for a drink with the Canadian on Thursday morning and noticed a big sound stage in the main square. Enquiry of the waiter indicated that there was a concert that night, the artist having previously performed in Fes and Meknes. We asked a friend about it. He had heard nothing but said it must be a religious group from one of the brotherhoods. As he has a shop 50m from the square it seemed the publicity was not very good. We decided to go that night. We were confused by the time change and went at ten past eight but last prayers is now ten past nine. They took a while coming on after prayers so did not start until ten. There was a barriered off area in front of the stage which was just for women and children. This appeared a big improvement on a mosh pit. 

 I enjoyed the music which was religous as the only word I could understand was "Allah". There were some arab lute-type instruments, violins played upright, a large percussion section and several of those shawm-type woodwind instruments.It was cold and we sat at a cafe and drank coffee to keep warm.

 By half ten the cafe was shutting up. so we left after the first act. We decided not to go to the Friday concert to stay warm.
On Saturday we had lunch with the Teacher. He knew nothing of the concerts in the Square. He was aware of a much bigger stage near the provincial headquarters by the Palais Salaam Hotel but did not know what it was for. 
The concert we went to was quite poorly attended which isn't surprising given the lack of publicity. All the concerts were free and had obviously been quite an investment by somebody, presumably the state. So, was Taroudant having a secret music festival or was it for very crowd-phobic musicians?

Fes; The Nejjarine Complex

This complex consists of a souk, a fountain

 and a foundouk, now converted to a wood-working museum.

 The 19C fountain is famous as an example of zellige work and appears on several guide-book covers.

The foundouk is a gem. It has been restored by a charitable foundation

 and entrance is 20Dh. There are views of the medina from the roof where you can get a drink for 10Dh but sadly no photography is allowed in the interior. 

The exhibition has lots of traditional woodworking tools and examples of traditional doors, furniture and marriage chests. Ali Baba would have loved it.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Mark 1 or wreck?

I think it's a good job we can't buy a car here as we do not have residence permits or Beloved may have fallen for a restoration project.

Fes; The Attarine Medersa

Further down Taalib Kbir (and it is definitely down) it twists , changes it's name to Rue ech Cherablyin and comes to a range of souks and buildings around the Kairaouine Mosque. This mosque is perhaps the most important culturally in all Morocco. It was founded in 837CE and still fixes the timing of Morocco's religous festivals. It is a vast complex but closed to non-muslims, and has an extremely important library again for muslim scholars. Other religous foundations in the area such as the important zaouia of Moulay idriss are also closed to non-muslims and several of the medersas are closed, either for religous reasons or for renovation, but the other jewel of Merinid architecture the Atterine Medersa is open to visitors.
Finished in 1325 it is earlier than the Bou Inania and has a lighter more fluid feel.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Fes; Medersa Bouinania and the Margana

A short stroll down the Talaa Kbira from the Boujloud Gate is the Bouinania Medersa which the Rough Guide rates as the best building in all Morocco. Just to show that great religous buildings are not the sole domain of the pious, this merdersa and mosque complex was built for Sultan Abou Inan whose other claim to fame is fathering 325 sons in 10 years (there must have been girls as well but they don't seem to have been counted), deposing his father and a rather grisly line in murder and execution. He was eventually strangled by his Vizier. However many of the great Merinid  monuments were built under him.
This last Merinid medersa (built between1350 and 1356 CE) is a kalaidescope of carved cedar laceria,


 and stucco 

and showcases the heights of Merinid craftmanship. Such artistry does not come cheap but when presented with the accounts Abu-Inan is reported to have cast them into the river unread saying

"Whatever is beautiful cannot be too costly at any price. What is enthralling is never too costly."

Unusually the kufic script dividing the zellige from the stucco is not solely quotations from the Q'ran. It is largely a list of the properties whose income was given as an endowment to the Mosque/Medersa complex.and also fulsome praise for Abou-Inan.

Opposite the medersa on Talaa Kbir is the Dar-al-Magana or clockhouse. The waterclock built by Tlemsani was unique in the world.

The lower level of struts held 13 brass bowls.The motion of the clock was presumably maintained by a kind of small cart which ran from left to right behind the twelve doors. At one end, the cart was attached to a rope with a hanging weight; at the other end to a rope with a weight that floated on the surface of a water reservoir that was drained at a regular pace. Each hour one of the doors opened; at the same time a metal ball was dropped into one of the twelve brass bowls. The rafters sticking out of the building above the doors (identical to the rafters of the Bou Inania Madrasa) supported a small roof to shield the doors and bowls.