Fes’s old Medina is still based on traditional industries, such as tanneries, soap making, textile and flourmills, along with oil processing.
Cereal grains, olives, grapes and beans are the major crops of the area. On the train ride from Rabat to Fez we saw grove upon grove of olives, as well as acres of grape vines near Meknes, fields of onions and other crops, and hoop houses full of strawberries; sheep, cattle, and goats grazed on the hillside and in pastures.
Outside the Medina we visited a pottery and saw the artisans at work – some painstakingly chipping tiles of different colors to create miniature tiles that will later be formed into a beautiful mosaic. Some of the pieces were curved and some less than half an inch in size but all were cut by sight rather than measurement. Others chipped away the glaze to make a geometric design on large vases or vessels. Others were hand painting or in-laying silver to decorate pottery pieces.
Inside the Medina we visited a pungent tannery and saw the natural process for producing world-class leather using methods that have changed little since the Middle Ages. After climbing to the top of the building we could view vats filled with curing solutions, dyes, and the racks for drying hides.
A man creating beautiful cutwork in cedar.
A herbal shop with the iconic Argan products.
A public bakery where residents take their dough to be baked.
An old Moroccan saying describing someone who is capable: He or she is “a bakery big enough for a neighborhood”. The saying originated in Fez, as each neighborhood within the Medina has a public bakery.