The tannery pictured above operates in the same way it has done for 1,000 years. It’s located in the heart of the old town in one of our mystery country’s most visited cities. Visitors can look out over the tannery from the upper floors of surrounding leather shops. Hides are cured in cow urine, lime and pigeon poop and then dunked in vats of natural dye. A sprig of mint held at your nose will take the edge off the powerful smell.

Can you name that country? What about the site?
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Gates of Fez

Founded in the 8th century, Fez is the intellectual, cultural and spiritual center of Morocco. The Medina, or Old City, is one of the best preserved medieval cities anywhere. Today, the pungent, labyrinthine Medina pulses with daily life much as it has for over 1,000 years. The Medina consists of the larger and older Fes el Bali, parts of which date to the 9th century, and Fes Jdid, which originated in the 13th century. Fes el Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of the most interesting sites in the Medina are the many gates that pierce the ancient city walls. Here are just a few: Continue reading

Bahia Palace, Marrakech

In the Marrakech medina, near the Mellah (Jewish quarter), the Bahia Palace sprawls across 8 hectares in an incoherent series of reception halls, living quarters, courtyards and gardens. It was built in two phases by father and son Grand Viziers, first 1859-1873 and then 1894-1900. Today, the palace is home to the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs and is still used by the king to host the occasional visiting dignitary.

The sedate façade reveals nothing of the splendid interiors, with elaborately carved, painted and inlaid cedar ceilings, vivid tile and marble floors and walls, stained glass windows and serene courtyards that seem a world away from the chaotic medina just outside. Some of the palace is closed to the general public, but those areas that are open do a good job representing the various moods of the palace as a whole.

Fez Tanneries

Wandering through the Medina in Fez, you see craftsmen of all sorts at work, their workshops often open right onto the narrow alleyways. The leather tanneries are slightly less accessible; you’ll smell them long before you see them. The tannery works can only be seen from upper floors of the leather shops that surround them. Continue reading