In addition to its status as the cultural and historical heart of Arab Morocco, Fes is considered the kingdom’s sacred capital as well. There is something about the old medina, to be sure, but its enchantments lie in the small things: the quarter of tailors’ shops with colorful threads and ribbons lined up neatly, bookended by spools of broken threads nailed into the walls; the sweet shops that double as herbal cosmetics stores; the obligatory views of the tannery from above that make messy, smelly huge vats of dye look like neatly ordered potion jars.
Old men peddle paperbacks on interpreting dreams and collector edition cartoons depicting the fall of Adam and Eve. Booksellers are tucked away in corners behind rows of herbs and spices enough for any beauty treatment you can think of. And the food is as beautifully arranged as it is fragrant and delicious. [More Fes photos here]
Every now and then an arch startles you with a not-so-surreptitiously installed security camera, an oddly anonymous eye in the sky. But then a donkey’s bray interrupts your reverie and you scoot out of the way of its cart and into the shadow of the high medina walls – out of sight, enveloped by the city’s magic once again.