Facelift helps Morocco’s Previous Metropolis of Fez lure vacationers

Vacationers and locals stroll within the Ninth-century walled medina within the historic Moroccan metropolis of Fez on April 11, 2019. AFP / FADEL SENNA

Fez, Morocco: In latest occasions the imperial metropolis of Fez has been neglected by vacationers in favour of Marrakesh, however now Morocco’s “religious” capital is bustling with guests attributable to main renovations and low-cost flights.

“It’s an open air museum, with the most important pedestrian zone on the planet and its 10,000 alleyways,” stated Yassir Jawra, vp of the Fez tourism fee.

Fez “is the religious capital of Morocco, famed for its tradition and its (age-old) handicraft work,” he added.

Since 2013, multiple billion dirhams (92 million euros, $103 million) of funding have been poured into Fez to revive the Ninth-century walled medina and develop tourism.

The medina, dwelling to the world’s oldest working library, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Web site in 1981 for its “excellent common worth”.

Guardian of priceless treatises in Islamic research, astronomy and drugs, the library is nestled within the maze of slender and darkish alleyways which vacationers and donkey-drawn carts can battle to navigate.

Like many monuments it has been renovated after the authorities within the late Nineteen Eighties sounded the alarm in a report saying that greater than half of the buildings within the medina have been crumbling and 10 p.c have been threatened with break following years of neglect and an absence of public funds.

Behind the excessive crenellated partitions that encompass the medina lie 9,000 historic homes, 11 madrassas, 83 mausoleums, 176 mosques and 1,200 handicraft workshops.

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Patrician palaces with their secret gardens and terraces, elegant fountains and historic caravansary, or inns, are among the many jewels mendacity there to be found. 

Respect ‘authenticity’

In keeping with Fouad Serrhini, head of the Company of Growth and Restoration tasked with rehabilitating the medina, “hundreds” of buildings and monuments have been saved from break since 2013.

“They have been chosen in line with their state of degradation and the way urgently the work was wanted,” he stated.

In all, 4,000 buildings have been saved between 2013 and 2018, whereas 27 monuments have been restored.

In mid-April, King Mohammed VI visited Fez to inaugurate some buildings that had been renovated and launch the second part of the rehabilitation programme.

Following his go to, authorities issued a report insisting that the rehabilitation work respect the medina’s “authenticity” and “authentic structure”.

“The traditional medina is a reside treasure, hidden and secret, which can’t be taken frivolously,” stated Salim Belghazi, a 33-year-old who has reworked his 14th-century riad, or conventional household dwelling, into a personal museum.

Belghazi, who hails from a rich background, stated he hopes that regardless of the transformation, Fez will preserve its soul.

Historic tanneries

In the meantime, vacationers are flocking to Fez, the place the regional Fes-Saiss airport has undergone an enlargement to accommodate the rising variety of guests and low-cost flights primarily from throughout Europe.

The variety of passengers has jumped from 108,000 in 2004 to greater than 1,000,000 in 2018, in line with official figures.

However Marrakesh stays the nation’s prime vacationer vacation spot, with greater than two million arrivals in 2017.

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Tourism is a significant income for Morocco, which acquired greater than 12 million guests in 2018, in line with official figures, 

Abderahim Belkhayat, head of a regional physique of artisans, stated the inflow of tourists to Fez “advantages” craftsmen, noting that three quarters of the medina’s residents earn a dwelling instantly or not directly from the sector.

Native authorities have mapped out a “imaginative and prescient” to revamp the sector by giving it a “new look” to be able to produce “prime quality” crafts, he stated.

A 2005 official report indicated that in the long run, authorities hope to rework the medina right into a “showcase” of handicrafts whereas the workshops themselves can be relocated exterior the partitions.

Up to now, 6,000 potters and brass and copper staff have been moved into zones with fashionable infrastructure and tanners are anticipated to comply with swimsuit in a separate location.

The concept is to rid the medina of the cacophony of noise emanating from brassware and potter workshops in addition to the pungent odours that rise from the traditional tanneries — the latter a “should” cease on the vacationer circuit.

Vacationers, their noses coated with mint leaves to beat back the stench, congregate on terraces overlooking the tanneries to snap footage of the lads working beneath, utilizing the identical strategies as their ancestors did.

The tanners stand nearly knee-deep in giant vats containing quicklime, cow urine, salt and water to scrub the hides, which they are going to later soak in pigeon poop and water earlier than the dying course of can start.

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The scent is all the time nauseating.

However the sight appears to please the guests and the tip consequence, reminiscent of leather-based belts and luggage offered within the boutiques, proves common with patrons.