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Sahara

Day 7: Fez

Fez, Morocco 
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Abdelfettah in his workshop, carving designs in white plaster. 'Islamic art is an abstract,' he tells me. 'It's all about the use of the line.'
Michael Palin - SaharaToday Fettah has asked me round to his house.

The entrance gives nothing away. A discreet little doorway set into the high walls of one of the warren of passageways in the medina. This gives onto another much narrower passage, dimly lit and smelling of cool, damp plaster, another modest doorway and then, a revelation. A covered courtyard, its walls decorated with intricate arabesque patterns and glazed zellij tiles, rises 60 feet to the roof of the house. This soaring space opens onto a blue and white-tiled terrace, almost as broad as the courtyard is tall, with a garden beyond, full of flowers, shrubs and various fertile trees, which are pointed out to me in detail by Narjiss, one of Fettah's two young daughters, with occasional promptings from her mother.

'We've got lemon, we've got orange...we've got, er...'

'Pomegranate...'

'Yes...we've got pomegranate...'

'Olives...'

'Yes, we've got olives.'

'Kumquat...'

'I know! I know!'

As at the tanneries yesterday, the contrast between the close-packed streets outside and the airy spaciousness inside is more than remarkable; it's almost an optical illusion.

'Doors within doors within doors,' is how Fettah describes the phenomenon of public and private Fez. 'The more you get into it, the more you're lured into it.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 7
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Fez
  • Book page no: 38

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