Last night, we went to a restaurant with a show that included traditional Moroccan music, belly dancers, a fire swallower, magician and group dinner. The place was hidden in an alley, but when we went inside, it was a massive restaurant in the Fes Medina, with incredible mosaic and wood details, plus a rooftop view of the Medina. Several men in our group were called up to dance with the first belly dancer, including Jim, who reluctantly went up to the stage. It was a hoot. We didn’t get back to our hotel until 11:30 pm. Yikes!
By the way, our room here is a suite, not a closet, like the previous one. And no four poster bed, either, thank goodness. We can comfortably seat nine in our living room and we have two air conditioner. It is nuts! We slept well.
After breakfast, we went to the largest Royal Palace in Morocco, one of two here in Fes. It comprises 164 hectares (over 405 acres), but the king never sleeps there. He sleeps in his other, smaller palace in Fes. All the mosaic pieces were placed there one by one, meticulously. Close up, you are in awe of the craftsmanship.
Around the corner is the Andalusian architecture of the Muslim and Jewish quarters. The balconies face the street, which is not typical of Morocco. Normally, Muslim balconies face inward, toward the courtyards, while the Jewish home balconies face the street. However, these mirror each other. There were thousands of Jews in the quarter until after WWII. The poorer people fled to Israel, Paris and Montreal. Many of the professional Jews stayed in Morocco. Of the approximately 5,000 Jews in the country, 90% live in Casablanca. The rest are in Fes, Rabat and Meknes, but not in large numbers.
The Fes Medina is divided into three sections, part from the 9th century, part from the 14th century and the Nouvelle, or 20th century area. 250,000 of the 1.5 million people in Fes, live in the Medina. The university here is the oldest in the world, dating from the 9th century. Maimonides taught mathematics there for five years.
We then went to a ceramics school and factory, where we witnessed the artisans being trained making the greenware (unfired) clay pots, plates and cups. The gray clay is unique to Fes, although there is red and white clay, as well. They train for five years. The mosaic work is amazing to watch. People from all over the world buy the tables, pots and unique items made there.