Outside the Medina

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Africa » Morocco » Fès-Boulemane » Fes
July 9th 2018
Published: July 16th 2018
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The girls of Laylat Al Qadr
Since I was staying in a guest house in the medina, I spent most of my time in Fes inside the medina walls, usually lost, but I did venture outside a couple of times.

For me, the easiest way to get out of - and back into – the medina was through the Bab Boujloud, sometimes referred to as the Blue Gate for its tilework. “Bab” means gate, and there are a number of them in the walls of the medina. My shortcut for remembering the name of this one was to remember it as Bab “Boogaloo,” which isn’t anywhere close to correct, but helped me remember the distinction between it and Bab Jdid.

Musée du Batha

Just a short distance outside the gate is Dar Batha, a museum housed in a nineteenth century palace. Of course, with my impeccable timing, the first time I tried to visit it was closed. But I persevered, and the next time I came back I was able to get in.

The museum isn’t particularly large, and most of the identifying labels are in Arabic, with a smattering in French. The collection is centered around crafts of the region, with pottery and textiles being the most extensive exhibits. But for me the main draw here are the gardens. Beautifully maintained, they are an oasis of calm and quiet after the hustle of the medina.

Across the street from the museum is a low building surrounded by an imposing wrought iron fence. There was no sign that I could see, which just made me all the more curious. Since the king has palaces scattered all around Morocco, I didn’t want to risk causing in international incident by just barging in, but the fellow by the gate who was keeping an eye on parked cars in the street waved me in.

Once past the gates, I was as mystified as ever. The style and layout of the building suggested a school or government office, but the few pieces of paper taped up in the windows were all in Arabic, which was of no help to me. There was a plaque outside which commemorated the day UNESCO declared the medina of Fes a World Heritage Site.

I continued to wander, and came across what looked to be a lecture or meeting hall – a dais at one end with rows of chairs set out, and portraits of the current king and of his father. It had enormous chandeliers, and mosaic covered walls. I was a little startled when I noticed the security guard, with his feet up on the desk, playing games on his phone. I gave him a half-hearted wave as I turned to go, and he called out “Why you leave?”

I think he was bored, because he stood up and showed me the pictures taken when UNESCO declared Fes a World Heritage site, and photos of the current king, King Mohammed VI, and his father King Hassan II. Even with my poor French and his limited English, I was able to understand that the hall was sometime used for concerts, sometimes for speeches, and sometimes dinners were held here. In Google Maps it was labeled as Fes City Hall in translated Arabic, and as a concert hall in English, both of which made sense.

Children’s Day

I was in Fes on the 27th day of Ramadan, Laylat Al Qadr, also known as the Night of the Decree. This is the night when the Angel Gabriel revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammed. Children who haven’t yet reached puberty are not required to fast during Ramadan, but on this day they fast for the first time.

I didn’t know any of this at the time, but I kept seeing little girls who were all dressed up. This wasn’t merely little girls in their best party dresses, this was little girls gone complete glam in beautiful dresses with full make-up, sequins in their hair, and henna tattoos on their arms and hands. Apparently this was a very big deal, and some photographers had constructed satin covered thrones for the children to sit on while they had their picture taken.

Possibly useful information:

Entrance fee to Dar Batha is 20 dirham, about US$ 2. The way to the museum is poorly marked, however, if you take the street that runs alongside the Post Office, the museum is a short distance away on the right.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


17th July 2018

Interesting about "Childrens' Day" but I'm not sure I really get the gist of it -- but the "little" girls are beautiful! Nice photos!
17th July 2018

Thank you for your kind words. I'm not sure I understand Children's' Day either, other than perhaps to turn something that might be seen as a burden - fasting - into a celebration by dressing up. The evening meal on this night is particularly lavish, with lots of sweets and delicacies.
19th July 2018

The friendliness of locals
You can always count on the locals to ensure you are enjoying yourself and gain the knowledge you need. Gosh, I love travel. Lovely people, lovely architecture.
19th July 2018

One of the many upsides of traveling alone is having the freedom to take time to stop and talk with people. I like being able to just sit in a pretty garden, or chat with a security guard. And I've come to appreciate that taxi drivers know just about everything.

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