[sep height=”30″][sep height=”30″]Fez: The Gem of the Arab World
1. Fez: An Overview
Fez is the cultural, historical and spiritual capital of Morocco as well as the most imperial among Moroccan imperial cities. Fez is the intellectual capital of Morocco, the capital of Moroccan craftsmanship and the gem of the Arab world. Just like world heritage capitals such as Florence or Athens, Fez is also a treasure of civilization where there is an inexhaustible richness of culture and history. In short, everyone can find in Fez something he/she loves
[sep height=”30″]In Fez, nobody knows where the pleasure of mind ends and the pleasure of senses begins. Fez is a unique city which invites you to multiple trips. A holy city with an infinite prominence; a jewel of the Spanish-Arab civilization; Fez does not proceed to the first comer. Secretive and halftone, Fez cannot be discovered at once and should be discovered with a great deference. Fez remains a calm ocean of roofs bristling with minarets and gentle cascades of terraces which slides on both sides of Oued Fes. Once you enter, the madrasas will reveal their splendor and you will yield to an irresistible call of the medina.
[sep height=”30″]Bargaining with craftsmen and merchants, experiencing the sounds, smells and colors and the endless whirl of an ever dense crowd. A multitude of passages, stairs, courtyards open in a tangle of alleyways where you can find stalls that sell silver jewelry, copper plates, blue painted pottery, colorful djellabas, honey cakes, lamb skewers, grilled almonds, mint tea….
[sep height=”30″]Besides the European city with wide avenues, built after the First World War, Fez splits into Fez El Jadid (the new Fez) and Fez el Bali (the old Fez). Fez has a central geographical location with regard to different regions of northern Morocco. It lies at the eastern end of the rich agricultural plain of Sais, sandwiched between the Rif and Middle Atlas, and at the intersection of the main roads of major interests in the Kingdom. This privileged location gives the city a special importance at all levels: political, economic, cultural and spiritual. The location of Fez allows the city to be protected from river floods, especially Sebu, one of the largest in Morocco, while enjoying an abundance supply of water from many sources of the region. North of the city, a series of ridges rising to over 900 meters (Mount Zalagh and Mount Tghat) provide a green space very rich in diverse plant species and inexhaustible touristic resources. This is in addition to regal forests of the Middle Atlas , fishing in streams and lakes, snow fields and winter sports, holy shrines, hot springs, the range of excursions , tours and recreation that the region offers is very diverse. The location of Fez does not, alone, explain the prominence that the city has always known; the dynamism of its people and the tradition of a commercial bourgeoisie also helped the city to develop several economic and industrial activities.
[sep height=”30″]Boasting a rich and variable environment favorable to the development of crafts: abundant water and clay quarries, cedar forests of the Middle Atlas and silver mines of the South; all of those are advantages which allow Fez to be the capital of Moroccan craftsmanship par excellence and the repository of art which come from the East and introduced to Morocco by the Arab conquest through Kairouan and Umayyad Spain; Fez has encouraged the development of this magnificent art and has given it a Moroccan uniqueness. With its ramparts, its great mosques, madrasahs, houses, palaces and fountains, Fez has retained its character as an imperial city par excellence through twelve centuries of its history.
[sep height=”30″]The architectural design of the city meets the criteria of a Muslim art city. The religious monuments and the historical neighborhoods are arranged concentrically from the great Al Karaouiyine mosque. Near the center, souks deploy all their colorful streets and the warm exuberance of their shops. Trades are grouped by specialty and they often give the name of the trade or craft to the area where they operate. For example, Najjarine (carpenters’ quarter), Seffarine (coppersmiths’ quarter ) Sebbaghine (dyers’ quarter) Méchatène (the manufacturers of combs’ quarter) Attarine (grocers’ quarter) Fekkharine ( potters’ quarter) , Chrablyène (manufacturers of slippers’ quarter). Cottons, silks, brocades, slippers, jewelry are all grouped together with a flattering taste in “Kissaria”, the center of commerce. Within the city and the excitement it offers to everyone, craftsmen skillfully repeat actions from which their timeless art and creative genius emerge; carving plaster and wood, metal and leather work, textiles , clay (pottery , zellij and mosaics). At the head of each craft is a designated Amin (literally the honest), the provost of the craftsmen, who is usually the oldest in the business, the most honest and most reputable. He ensures the smooth running of the craft through the respect of its internal rules and the fight against fraud.
[sep height=”30″]In addition to this rich and diverse artistic heritage, culinary art makes Fassi cuisine one of the most popular in Morocco. In fact, the kitchen is the result of tirelessly renewed experiences. All natural products permitted by the precepts of Islam are used by the creative ingenuity of Fassi women who know how to unlock the secret to the palate of gourmets.
2. The History of Fez
“The surroundings of Fez are well watered as the water gushes profusely from several sources. Everything is green; the gardens and orchards are well-cultivated; Fassi are independent and proud of themselves … Fez is considered to be the central point of the Western Maghreb as it is visited by travelers from all countries; a city where people enjoy the luxury of life. ” Describes the twelfth century geographer Sharif El Idrissi who bears witness to the flourishing prosperity of Fez only three centuries after its foundation. It is worth noting that this prosperity did not only take a material aspect but it was also developed in the intellectual and scientific level. Thanks to Fez, Europe had access to knowledge and theories of the great scholars of the East.
[sep height=”30″]Fez is, indeed, a rich melting pot as it benefited from the experience and achievements of several diverse artistic, technical and scientific generations of Arab, Andalusian and Kairouan exiles. Clearly, Fez knew, from its early days, a fabulous development. Such a strong prominence has been prevailing throughout its history. Fez was founded in the ninth century under the reign of the memorable Idrissid Dynasty; since then, the city has continuously enjoyed a particular attention of several successive royals.
[sep height=”30″]The foundation of this mysterious city raised many stories. Traditions and legends intertwine in different versions. Despite the fact that the creation of the city was attributed to the glorious conquest of the first sovereign Idrissid, historians are unsure of the exact date of its foundation. Indeed, the recognized history of the city of Fez begins in the year 789 when the first nucleus of the town on the right bank of the Oued (river) seems to have been founded by Moulay Idriss Ben Abdellah (Idriss 1st) who arrived in Morocco in 786 after fleeing the massacre of Fakh, not far from Mecca. Twenty years later (808), his son Moulay Idriss II consolidated this first attempt by the establishment of a second core on the left bank of the Oued (El Alia), giving the city its final form. This is why the son is regarded as the true founder of the city of Fez. He encouraged many immigrants to settle in a city still under construction. The Andalusians were the first comers followed by the Kairouanese who came to consolidate the local Berber background. Two neighborhoods were constructed: The first was the Andalusian district which was home to families from Andalusia; one year later, the second Kairouan district took shape and brings together people from Tunisia.
[sep height=”30″]At the end of the Idrissid period, Fez became an Islamic city analogous to major Muslim cities of the time. With its mosques , including AL Karaouin, Al -Andalus , its neighborhoods and its walls flanked by towers. The decline of the Idrissid dynasty was slow and painful. Historians consider the year 986 as the date when Fez fell under the authority of the great zénète confederation after a long period of war and diplomatic negotiations between the Umayyad and the Fatimid dynasty of Andalusia.
[sep height=”30″]The most famous event of the Zenetes reign of Fez was the dispute between the two brothers: Al- Futuh and Ajissa; the dispute which was marked on the toponymy of the city by the beautiful gates of Bab Al Guissa and Bab Ftouh. This difficult period lasted almost a century until 1070 when the Almoravids came to Fez. Under this great dynasty, which originated from the coastal Moroccan Sahara, the city experienced an era of stability and prosperity. New neighborhoods were built; bridges were constructed as a strategic decision of the Almoravids to bring the two sides together; This is in addition to destroying the walls which separate running and drinkable water that flow into the houses. Military buildings were reinforced to make the city a strong military base that supports the efforts of war of the dynasty in Andalusia.
[sep height=”30″]The city never ceased to grow as it welcomed other waves of Andalusian emigration and became the focus of several generations of scholars and scientists. Towards the middle of the twelfth century, a new dynasty took over: the Almohad dynasty. The Almohads contributed in turn to expand the city of Fez; new districts emerged, new mosques were built and a long wall was established, which encloses the beautiful Kasbah AL Anwar, still standing today. However, the golden age of Fez was undoubtedly the period of the Merinids. Under the Merinids, Fez was a prominent universal spiritual center which reached the peak of its splendor and became the political capital of the Merinids.
[sep height=”30″]Besides the Idrissid city, “Fez el Bali” (the old Fez), a royal city was built, “Fez Jdid” (the new Fez ) in 1276 to testify to the prestige of the dynasty. Eleven madrasas open their doors to those who thirst for culture. A beautiful palace, with all its outbuildings, was built on the heights overlooking the city to the north. The remnants of the palace and its outbuildings are known today as the Merinids tombs. The prosperity of the city lasted for over a century, which was reflected on all domains: Political, economic and cultural.
[sep height=”30″]At Abu Inan’s death (1385), one of the greatest rulers of this dynasty, and because of many other factors, the Merinids experienced a long period of decline. As the prosperity of the city was linked to that of the dynasty, Fez suffered the same fate.
[sep height=”30″]The Wattassides, who succeeded the Marinids, attempted to rectify the situation by taking the power but in vain. the internal problems, the repeated Portuguese and Spanish attacks against the coastal towns and the Ottoman attacks in the east of the country aggravated the situation.
[sep height=”30″]When the Saâdiens succeeded the Wattassides in Fez (1549-1554), the city lived a new period. They made a new city through restoring the walls, gates and towers. New towers, the Northern and Southern Bordj, were built to ensure the safety of the city in addition to enlarging the two oldest mosques: Al Karaouine and Al Andalous.
[sep height=”30″]After the death of the great Saâdite sovereign El Mansour Ed Dahbi -( The Golden) in 1603, the city experienced serious difficulties again. It was only with the arrival of the Alawites that Fez, once again, regained its prosperity and prestige. Moulay Rachid was the first sultan of the Alawite dynasty who helped the city to build a strong brand image. He built several monuments such as the Charratine madrasa and Cherrardas Kasbah. His successor, Moulay Ismail who chose Meknes as the capital city, did not forsake Fez. He enlarged and decorated the tomb of Moulay Idriss and restored the walls that protect the city during the political crisis in which the country was caught at the death of this great ruler. The first concern of his son Moulay Abdellah was to bring peace to the city of Fez; the work which has been followed by his successors, Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah and Moulay Slimane who established several historical monuments that date to their reign.
[sep height=”30″]The structural design of Fez began to change in the nineteenth century, especially during the time of Moulay Hassan 1st ( 1873/1894 ) who restored the walls, finished the construction of the Palace and built the Moqri Makina (the arms factory). After signing in the Protectorate Act in Fez in 1912, the French authorities tried to restore some monuments, open new gates, such as Bab Boujloud in 1913, and expand the city by creating new neighborhoods such as Dar Dbibegh. When Morocco got its independence in 1956, his Majesty Mohammed V launched numerous restorations and perfections; these efforts were continued by his successor, his Majesty King Hassan II. In 1980 and as a continuance of the efforts undertaken by the King and the Moroccan people, UNESCO launched an appeal to the world in which the world organization recognizes Fez as a universal heritage to be preserved.
3. The Geography of Fez
Fez is located in the west-central part of Morocco. It has a population of over 1,700,000 (according to the 2004 population survey). Fez has a tropical climate: Hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Its temperature exceeds, for a few days, 35 °C in July and August. It can go down to 3 °C during the months of December and January. Apart from these periods, the climate of this city remains very nice.
[sep height=”30″]Fez is located 190 km away from the administrative capital, Rabat, and 280 km from the economic capital, Casablanca. Fez is surrounded by very pleasant touristic sites within a radius of 15-70 km, which makes it a preferred choice of national and international tourists alike. These locations include but not limited to Sidi Hrazem (drinkable water spa, 15 km) Moulay Yacoub (bathing Spa in sulfur water above 50 ° C, 23 Km), Imouzzer (a mountain spring, 36 Km) , Ifrane ( a ski resort, 70 Km), to name a few. Fez has an International Fez Sais Airport located 12 km from the city center.