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Sahara

Day 6: Fez

Fez, Morocco 
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Paintbox effect at the mediaeval tanneries in Fez. Skins are treated and dyed in stone vats, as they have been for hundreds of years, by individual human effort, most of it gruelling leg work. There were once 200 tanneries like this.
Michael Palin - SaharaApart from the slow, rumbling creak of the water wheel, there is no sound other than voices, splashes and the sound of wet hides slapping on the side of the kilns. If I close my eyes I could be in a great open-air bathhouse.

Fettah reminds me that the Fez of 600 years ago would have had 200 such tanneries, as well as 467 funduqs, 93 public baths and 785 mosques.

There is a minor jam along one of the passageways on our way out of the medina, caused by a donkey shedding a load of mattresses. No-one seems impatient to pass, nor to pass comment on the Laurel and Hardy-like attempts at reloading. It's the way life is in this extraordinary city. The walls of Fez have kept the modern world at bay. What I have sensed today is little different from the impressions of two French travellers, the Tharaud brothers, who came through here in the 1930s.

'In Fez there is only one age and one style, that of yesterday. It is the site of a miracle. The suppression of the passage of time.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 6
  • Country/sea: Morocco
  • Place: Fez
  • Book page no: 35

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