I can barely fit. Still, I move forward and follow our guide; we are roaming through medieval alleyways and corridors. At times the maze of winding ways becomes dense, dark and narrow, almost crushing, so tight that only one person can walk at one time. It’s hard to imagine and describe, but to this day over 70,000 people inhabit and call home a vast area that remains the world’s largest car-free urban zone, where carts, donkeys, and horses are the primary way of moving goods. This is the medina of Fez, an intriguing quarter in which the turn of a blind pathway can lead to a charming square with exquisite fountains full of workshops with traditional artisans and bursting food stands.
Its charms are many: golden doors, palaces, carved doorways, markets, a sea of minarets and, of course, the tanneries; those are the first things that come to mind when I try to recall some of the best Fez has to offer and photograph. Better than me trying to remember, perhaps it is best to share some of the images.
A typical walk through the old medina brings lots of opportunities to learn and make photos of daily life, locals doing their chores and, of course, the routine includes shopping. The market is an ideal place to explore; people barter here like in ancient times and traditions are kept intact. Anything is game, from veggies to fish sellers, spices, and even camel butchers that often hang the camel heads to leave no doubt of the provenance of the meat they are selling.
Nestled among the myriad ancient buildings and passages lays a place filled with stone wells. Frenzied workers are getting in and out of the circular pools filled with colored fluids, and there is an unusual, heavy smell permeating the air. This is the famous Chouara Tannery, a place that operates just as it did thousands of years ago. Surrounding the tannery are abundant shops offering handbags, wallets, jackets, and all kinds of leather products. Cow, sheep, goat and camel hides are dyed in different colors. The process involves the use of a mixture of cow urine, pigeon feces, salt and water to make the leather softer. The dyes come from natural products like indigo, henna, pomegranates, and saffron. The workers can be observed from the surrounding terraces plunging into the wells and moving the skins around with either their feet or hands. Getting close to the pools is also possible with permission or the help of a fixer. I photographed from above and then went down to get some pictures at eye level.
Fez is a fantastic place; I was there as co-leader of the 2017 Digital Photo Mentor photo tour. I’ll be leading a new photo tour of Morocco in 2018, and I am honestly counting the days to go back. At the time of this post, all the spaces are sold out, but there is a waiting list that you can join by clicking here. If you want to join one my photo tours, there are spots open on the 2018 India Photo Tour that you can join here, and we’ll soon announce the 2019 Myanmar Tour.
All the photographs from the post were made with a combination of the Fuji GFX50s, the X-100F and the X-T2. All the photos are available for prints and licensing; just click on them to get more information and pricing.