Walking down the main streets of the 9th century medina of Fez, Morocco can be an intense experience. The main streets in this case are narrow alleys filled with a crushing flood of mules, hand carts, vendors, tourists, worshipers, students, beggars, and street hustlers.
Vendor stalls crowd together on both sides of the streets and sell a wide variety of hand made items such as shoes, rugs, pottery, oils, and leather, along with food items that range from the ordinary to the very extraordinary.
Rue Talaa Seghira is one of the main streets that leads down through the medina toward the river. A medina is an ancient walled Arabic city. Fez has two medinas. The medina in these photos was established toward the end of the 9th century and contains the oldest continuously operating, degree granting university on Earth founded in 859.
When you pass through the gate into the old medina you enter a network of alleys and tunnels where cars do not fit. Finding your lodging and navigating the crowds and the “unofficial guides” is challenging, and at first it is very intimidating. It is one of those “dive in and walk with purpose” situations. But with the help of an official guide arranged through the hotel you can become familiar with the general layout and cultural traditions. It is still easy to get lost in the confusing maze if you are not very careful.
The vendor stalls are supplied by either mules or by hand carts. In fact, if you have either one of these items you are in business. Each morning before dawn the streets are swept by hand and the debris is carried away in mule saddlebags.
Being in the hand cart or mule transport business is not easy. But having this equipment is a major advantage.
Fez was one of my favorite places in Morocco. It is easy to feel that you have entered a different and ancient world. People, for the most part, treated me with respect and kindness. It was a dramatic and vivid experience!