This is the oldest of the royal cities and settlement goes as far back as the 900s. The city reached imperial status already in 1250. The historic medina, enclosed in high walls, consists of two quarters the andalusian quarter and the arab quarter. Both areas can only be seen by foot and, preferably with a local guide! The medina is a labyrinth of dark alleys and covered walkways lined with stalls of diverse ware and one can very easily get lost in them with one wrong turn. 

Luckily we had a local guide in front of us and our tour guide watched from behind that no one got lost. It is vital to pay attention to the call ”barrak, barrak!” which is shouted out by rushing cart pushers who with their heavy loads speed through the crowded lanes and make everyone jump and cling to the sides. A young American in our group got a shock when realising she was squashing against half a cow on a butcher’s table while staying out off the “traffic”. 

It was somehow easier to dodge the poor donkeys who, loaded up to the hilts, were much slower than the cart pushing Moroccans. By the way, not only wares are being transported this way, but also water, as most houses have none, gas for cooking and garbage collections.

Beckoned up a set of stairs in one of the alleys we were shown through to a tannery. It consisted of a large courtyard full of vats, some filled with water others with dyes. We were handed bunches of mint to overcome the intense stench emanating from the hides and dyes. But it was interesting to watch even though I pittied the young men crouching over the vats and continuing to dunk the heavy hides while inhaling all the unpleasant odours.

Unfortunately the access to most mosques is prohibited to non muslims, like the one on the left, where a quick glimpse felt already invasive. I took a snapshot anyway, because I loved the entrance!

But the mosque on the left we were able to explore as a long time ago it had been turned into a university. Like in all mosques there is an ablution basin in the
courtyard where feet can be washed prior to prayers.

© Austin Robinson 2019