Nov 30, 2009

A Day in the Old Medina

The author with her host mom in Fes

Hello, my name is Sarah Hollemans and I am currently living in Morocco serving with the Peace Corps. Since arriving to this beautiful country in September I have been very lucky to visit many ancient cities and to explore an amazing culture. The city I was living in for a few months was just outside of one of Moroccos’ oldest cities, Fes. I traveled there a few times and on one of those occations I was able to explore inside its old medina with my host mother. She grew up in Fes and the maze of streets and alleys that make up the old medina was well known to her.
The medina is very old, but as you enter you are greeted with the sounds of construction and the modern equipment to go with it. Most of Morocco is like this. Everything is deeply rooted in tradition and history, but the modern age is slowly creeping in, trying to change it.

My host mom and I spent a few hours exploring the narrow streets and the deep alleys. She is a seamstress so we spent most of our time in the fabric and textile areas of the medina. The quality of fabrics and hemming and clothing and shoes that one can find in the medina is just amazing. The colors are very bright and beautiful and stand out against the stark grays and browns of the medina walls.

Set into the walls are the little niches that are the shops. They are not large rooms but ample space for the seller to display his goods. There are many different products to be sold, some focused on the artisan and the local Moroccan resident, but as time has past, more and more of the shops focus on goods for the tourist and at exaggerated prices. One must be well prepared to bargain and haggle to receive and honest and fare prize.

Deep inside to medina there is one of Fes’ oldest mosques. It is open to tourists now, but I am told that it is still a working mosque.

The medina has seen many changes over time. The items and the people inside have changed with the years. But, as people walk by with their tour groups and their backpacks taking pictures of everything and buying over priced souvenirs one may all of sudden be reminded that this is still a developing country and have to quickly jump out of the way as a large horse parades through the already cramped streets carrying good for its owner. It is a weird thing to see. I laughed the when I first saw a horse walking through the shops and people. To me it seemed so strange, but my host mom told me it was very normal.

I had a great time exploring the insides of the old medina in Fes with my host mother. It has so much history and holds so much to be explored. I was only able to spend a short amount of time there, but hope one day to be able to go back and see more of it. 

About the author:

Sarah Hollemans is serving her first term in Morocco with the Peace Corps. She hails originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. 


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