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FEZ (Morocco)

Fez The Holy City of Fez is a jewel of Spanish-Arabic civilisation. Fez does not reveal its secrets easily. Secretive, shadowy, they need to be discovered little by little, with reverence. Only in this way can the splendours of Medrsa architecture be fully appreciated. Only in this way will the call of the medina temt you. Bustling with artisans and merchants, its captivating sounds, fragrances and colours mesmerise the visitor with a constant swirl of activity.

The city of Moulay Idriss lst, sanctuary of human and moral sciences. The great À Karaouiyne University bas for eleven centuries been a religions and intellectuel centre whose influence base spread far beyond the Kingdom's boundaries. In 789, a pick-axe of silver and gold -"fas" in Arabic - was presented to Idriss lst to use in tracing the outlines of the city. Hence the name of the city, which lies at the far eastern end of the plain of Saïss, bordered to the south by the hills outlying the Atlas Mountains. Cradle of religions, cultural and artistic traditions, Fes, the double city, is the kingdom's spiritual capital. The Andalousian mosque, dating from the 9th century, and further embellished by successive rulers, is accessed through a mighty door of sculpted cedar. An imposing minaret decorated with green faiences crowns the Rsif Mosque. The medersas around the Karaouiyne Mosque, former lodging houses for students coming from outside the city, attest the importance of its thousand years of history.

In the Medina, a labyrinth of sloping, winding alleyways are crammed full of stalls and workshops. This is the famed Kissaria -the commercial centre. A multitude of locally produced goods are on sale in this incredible maze-cotton fabric, silk, brocadework, slippers, and many more. The craftsmen of the El Atterine souk offer the visitor a non-stop spectacle. For hundreds of years such work bas been regulated by traditional guilds, ensuring that its quality is worthy of the city. Each district has its own speciality : cobalt blue enamelled pottery, carpets, wrought iron ... one looks on as the dyer stirs his yarns, steeped in their multitude of colours, as the tanner tramples his skins under an open sky -skins that the leather-worker will eventually adorn with fine gilt for book-binding.

Leaving the souks through the Boujeloud gate with its décoration of green and blue faiences, the riches contained in the wonderful Museum of Moroccan Art await one. And the last marvel of all -the Jamaî Palace, transformed in 1930 into a luxury hotel, an incomparably elegant structure renowned for the quality of its cuisine.