Fez, the city of a thousand and one nights, the historical, spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco, is a must stop for culture, history and Hispano-Moorish architecture lovers.
Nestled in the hollow of a valley at the foot of the Middle Atlas Mountains, Fez, a prestigious focus of Muslim civilization and the cradle of Berber culture and Arabs of Andalusia, fascinates by its historical richness, its Hispano-Moorish architecture, its medieval Medina of Fes El-Bali, the beauty of its monuments and the splendor of its residences. Founded at the end of the 8th century by Idriss II, this millennial city is one of the oldest cities of Islam. Known in the past as the “Athens of Africa”, Fez has been described and adored since its establishment by poets, historians and chroniclers from all walks of life, such as Ibn Khaldun, Leo the African … and has welcomed many scholars of Andalusia.
The intellectual influence of its Koranic university, its famous Quaraouiyne mosque, its buildings borrowed from Arab-Andalusian art make it, over time, the religious and cultural center of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Its monuments, its walls, the medieval decor of its narrow and winding streets, its mosques, palaces, fondouks and medersas (Koranic schools) which have emerged over twelve centuries of history, try to outdo one anothers ornaments: hand-Carved woodwork, chiselled bronzes, zelliges, moucharabiehs, carved columns and plaster. They bear testimony to the creative genius and know-how of its artists – craftsmen of great talent, coming from the East and Andalusia.
Classified as “Universal Heritage of Humanity” by Unesco since 1981, this “city museum” knew how to maintain its traditions over time (university, medersas, crafts, …) while becoming a modern tourist city and very active with its palaces, hotels, riads, guesthouses, golf courses, restaurants, hot spring resorts, entertainment and shows … It is today a must stop for lovers of history and Hispano-Moorish architecture.
The dynasties succeeded one another in Fez, leaving behind sumptuous palaces, mosques, gardens and medersas … This is how Fes quickly became the spiritual and cultural center of Morocco.
At the end of the seventh century, Idriss I, a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed (May peace and salvation be upon him), fleeing the hegemony of the Abbasids in Baghdad, took refuge with the Berbers of Central Morocco. Supported by numerous tribes who proclaimed him King of Morocco, he founded his capital on the right bank of Oued Al Jawahir (later Oued Fez) in 789 AD. At his death, his son Idriss II, completed his work on the left bank of the Wadi and decided in 809 to establish there the seat of the dynasty. This city became the first Islamic city in the country. A few years later, it welcomed several hundreds of political refugees from Andalusia, from Cordoba. This population was reinforced by the arrival of Jews from Andalusia and, seven years later, 300 families of craftsmen and traders from Kairouan (City of Tunis). Fes El Bali is centered on the famous mosque of Quaraouyine and many religious, cultural and architectural patrimonies. During the reign of the Almoravids, notably that of Youssef Ben Tachfine, Fez is experiencing an artistic and intellectual development marked by the construction in 1096 of the College of patients Almoravides, it is a medersa (koranic school) equipped with a library, and by the reopening of the Sahara road of gold. In the middle of the XIIth century, the Almohad Sultan, Abd el-Moumem, seized the city, “frequented by travelers from all countries”.
Its inhabitants trade with Spain, the central Maghreb, the East and even some Christian countries. The city prospers. In 1250, Fez became the capital of the Merinid Empire for two centuries. The radiance of Fez reached its peak with the Merinid dynasty. The Merinid kings built a new city which was the seat of their power and named Al-Medina Al-Bayda (the white city). Another name “Fez Jdid” was given to it as opposed to “Fez El-Bali”. They introduced the new official institution of medersa to disseminate the Malikite doctrine and formed a body of officials for justice, administration and the state. Finally, they enriched the city with new equipment: fondouks, fountains, baths, ovens, mills, bridges, etc.
Fez will know its golden age at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In the second half of the 15th century, Fez was affected by the unrest in the kingdom at the end of the Merinid dynasty. It is marked by the appearance of the new Beni Wattas dynasty in 1471, with the arrival of Muslims and Jews driven out of Spain in 1492 and, indirectly, with the arrival of Portuguese in the Atlantic ports. In 1666, Moulay Rachid re-established order, revived trade and chose Fez again as capital. After a long period of agitation in the first half of the 18th century, the city will regain its calm and prestige. Controlled by the nascent economic activity of Casablanca in the nineteenth century, Fez maintains its spiritual, intellectual and commercial influence.
The Idrissid Kingdom
After the death of Prophet Mohammed (may peace and salvation be upon him) in 632, interminable wars of succession will rhythm the history of Islam. Actor of this fratricidal war, Idriss ben Abdallah descendant of Fatima and Ali (daughter and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed), takes up arms against the Abassids of Baghdad. In order to escape the bloody retaliation of the Caliph Haroun El Rachid, Idriss finds refuge in Morocco, in Oualili (Volubilis).
The Berber tribes of the region, recently Islamized, seduced by this pious and erudite man, designate him as their leader and Imam (788). This alliance is sealed by the marriage of Idriss with a Berber princess, Lalla Kenza. Haroun, was furious when acknowledging the creation of this independent kingdom, he poisoned Idriss I in 791. His posthumous son Idriss II is recognized as a new sheriff (title given to the descendants of Prophet Mohammed) in 809; The first Moroccan dynasty was born. Idriss II continues the work of his father. It increases his authority over new regions and endows its kingdom with an organized state. Fez is promoted capital and welcomes many immigrants from Cordoba and Kairouan who will make the city a high intellectual and spiritual place. Idriss II died in 828. He leaves ten sons who will question his work of unification.
Although weakened by incessant wars of succession, the Idrissids were proclaimed, at the beginning of the XIth century, caliphs of Cordoba. But the fragmentation of Spain led to their decadence and disappearance in 1055, the date of the capture of Sijilmassa by reformist conquerors, the Almoravids.
Wandering in the medina, even for the inhabitants of Fez, requires remembering the various successions of doors.
Fes El bali, (the medina) a city out of time
The medieval city founded in 809 by the Idrisides, “Fez El Bali” is the cradle of the Berber and Arab Andalusian culture and historical heart of the city and Morocco. Today, with its neighbourhoods, souks, mosques, medersas and buildings, it has a unique heritage of its kind. To discover Fez El Bali, there are several itineraries. We recommend you to cross the history of this city by three great gates Bab Boujloud, Bab Ftouh or Bab El Guissa
Built in the XIIth century by the Almohads, Bab Boujloud is one of the most beautiful gates of the medina of Fez with its blue and green faiences and cedar wood and carved stucco … Restored in 1912, the door overlooks the neighbourhood of same name and from there you can reach Bou Inania medersa and Sidi Lazaz mosque.
This gate of the city was built by the second son of the emire Zenete, Dounas, on the site of an older gate. It was rebuilt during the reign of Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdallah, in the middle of the 18th century.
Karaouine Mosque: It is the largest Merdersa. Founded in the 9th century, it is the oldest university in the history of Morocco where nearly 300 students attended courses taught by renowned teachers at the time, in different disciplines such as notaries, Justice, grammar, theology, Koranic law, etc. From the 10th century onwards, the university had a library containing more than 30,000 volumes (including 10,000 manuscripts). It also houses a Manuscript Quran of the ninth century, a manuscript of Ibnu Rochd (Averroes) dating from 1320 and another one from the Muqqadima offered by Ibn Khaldoun himself.
La medersa Bouanania: This is the theological school most visited by tourists in Fez. Built in the 14th century by the Sultan Abu El Hassan of the Merinid dynasty, it is characterized by its minaret, mosaics of enamelled faience and the beauty of the ceiling in carved cedar wood. In front of the medersa, you can discover the clock of the Bouanania dating from 1357. The medersa is opened every day from 8:30 to 12:00 (Fridays at 11:00 am) and from 2.30 to 6:30 pm.
The medersa Charratine: This monument was built in 1670 during the reign of the first Alawite Sultan, Moulay Rachid. Intended for the accommodation of students and teachers who are not from Fez, this Medersa is characterized by its simplicity and sobriety. It is also different from the other medersas of the Merinid dynasty of the 14th century. With its 125 cells spread over three levels along the galleries protected from glances by moucharabiehs, it could accommodate 300 students from Quaraouine University.
La medersa Attarine: Located in front of the Al Quaraouine mosque and near the Souk Attarine (the one of the spice merchants), it was built in the 14th century by the Merinids during the reign of Sultan Abu Said (between 1323 and 1325). Designed to accommodate some sixty students, this Medersa is considered by historians as the most refined of the Koranic schools of the Muslim world because of its beautiful architecture, its mosaics, its cedar ceiling, its doors and its calligraphy. The medersa has been restored several times and is opened every day from 8.30am to 12pm and from 2.30pm to 6.30pm. The entrance is charged.
The medersa Seffarine was built in a traditional style in 1280 at the edge of Oued Fes, on the Seffarine square by Sultan Merinide Abou Youssef in 1280.
The madrasa Misbahiya, built by order of the Merinid Sultan Abou El Hassan in 1346. Nearby is the fondouk Tsetouwi, “of the Tetouanese”, dating back to the 14th century and used to house the students of Tetouan of Quaraouiyine University.
The Place Seffarine (dinandiers) also gives access to the very rich library of Quaraouiyine University. From the Place Seffarine, you can go to the sebaghine (street of dyers) where you can discover shops where you can still dye the skeins of wool and cotton in large cauldrons, an alley that leads to the Sidi el Aouad bridge and from there, In the Andalus neighborhood.
The medersa Sahrij: This Koranic school was built in the Andalusian neighborhood of the medina, between 1321 and 1323, by Prince Abu el Hassan Ali during the reign of the Merinids. It also served as accommodation for students at Quaraouiyine University. Brilliant and colorful, this residence contains a basin dedicated to the ablutions. The building exudes an atmosphere of calm and serenity; feelings that do not fail to gain the visitors during the discovery of the different rooms.
The Mosques and zaouias
The Zaouia of Moulay Idriss: It is the oldest holy place of Fez. It houses the tomb of Moulay Idriss II, founder of the city of Fez and the Idrissid dynasty. It is opened all year to visitors and Muslims and there is annually organized in September a moussem to honor the patron saint of the city. The zaouia is located, together with the mosque of Moulay Idriss II, between the Nejjarine square and the Attarine souk.
The Karaouyine Mosque: Built in 857 in the Qaraouiyine neighborhood inhabited at the time by Kairouan refugees who emigrated from Tunis and settled on this bank of Oued Fes in the 9th century. Built under the Idrissids by Fatima Al Fihri, the daughter of a rich Kairouan merchant, it became the city’s main mosque in 933.
The Andalusian Mosque: Built in 245 (859-860) in the Andalusian neighborhood in the “Adouat Al Andalous” part by Meryem el Fihriya, sister of Fatima el Fihriya and daughter of a Kairouan notable, this mosque, which was only a modest oratory, has undergone several transformations over the centuries. In 956, a minaret was added to it, copied from its rival the Quaraouiyine. Between 1203 and 1207, it was almost completely rebuilt during the Almohad era, then enriched with a fountain (1306) and a library. It can be reached through Chouaara tanneries or Bab Fetouh. From the Andalusian mosque you can access the mausoleum of Sidi Bou-Ghaleb.
The Mosque of Sidi Ali Boughaleb: This great saint is native of An. Many families go there on the occasion of the circumcision of their children. It also annually celebrates a moussem where its followers meet.
The zaouia of the mosque of Sidi Ahmed Tijani: Founded by the Sheikh soufidid Ahmed Tijani (in the 1150 of the Hegira, corresponding to 1737-1738) in Blida neighborhood of the medina of Fez twenty years after the foundation of the Tariqa Tijaniya, it is one of the most famous and eclectic zaouias in the history of Africa and the Maghreb. The followers of this Tarika from some forty countries meet yearly in Fez. The zaouiya and the mosque are close to the Al Qaraouiyine Mosque. It has been restored several times in 1302, 1307 and 1316 as well as in 1999 and 2006. Going down Talâa Kebira Street, you can discover the house of Ibn Khaldoun, historian, sociologist and renowned Arab philosopher.
The Mzara of Moulay Idriss flanked by a small minaret and located near the Cherabliyine mosque, this place is sacred for the followers of the zaouia of Moulay Idriss. According to the legend, Moulay Idriss granted himself a moment of rest and decided the foundation of the city in this area. It was restored under the Saâdians in the 16th century.
The Chrabliyene mosque Founded in the 19th century by Sultan Marinid Abu El Hassan and restored by the Sultan Moulay Sliman between 1793 and 1823, it is now closed in anticipation of its restoration.
Situated along the main axes of the medina (talaa el kibira, talaa sghira, ras cherratine, nejjarine, sefah) near the main gates (bab boujloud, bab elguissa, bab ftouh). The most famous of these are:
Fondouk des peaussiers (leather dealers): you can find sheep skins drying before undergoing tanning processes. It is a square building, of which the open-air courtyard is surrounded by a gallery supported by brick pillars, on which multiples rooms are opened for goods warehousing or for the practice of handicrafts.
Fondouk Nejjarine: This foudouk once hosted foreigners passing through the city. On the ground floor, adorned with moucharabiehs, the galleries divided into cells sheltered the animals. Upstairs, guests were accommodated in rooms. The building, dating according to historians from the 18th century, has been completely restored by Karim Lamrani Foundation. The fondouk houses the Museum of Arts and Crafts. It is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm. The entrance is charged.
Fondouk Staounienne: Built in the 17th century near the Quaraouiyine mosque, it now houses warehouses and small craft workshops.
The Museum of the Batha Palace: This museum displays a lot of the wealthness of Fez, including a collection of ceramics made in the purest tradition of Fassi art, currencies of the dynasties, carpets and jewels of the Middle Atlas, as well as numerous Hispano-Moorish archeological works dating from the 9th century. In the 18th century, this former palace built by Alawite Sovereign, Moulay el Hassan I (1874-1894), was transformed into a museum by royal decree in 1915. The museum is 5 minutes walk from Bab Boujloud. It is open every day, except Tuesdays, from 9:30 to 12:00am and from 2:30 to 6:00pm. The entrance is charged.
The universe of the souks, groups different types of trade and handicraft by sector of activity. From the talaa Kebira start the alleys leading to ancient fondouks where craftsmen work. From here you can discover the “souk Attarine”, spices market, “The henna souk” where plants used for the tint and hair and hands care products as well as kohl, makeup applied around the eyes and the ghassoul used to wash hair are sold.
It is here that the precious products shops, silks, caftans, jewels are gathered … Fez is, besides, known for the quality of its articles in silk and its embroideries in gold wire …
Other monuments to visit
Borj Sud: This bastion was built by christian slaves during the reign of the Sultan Ahmed el Mansour Eddahbi (1578-1603).
The Merinides Tombs: The majority of Merinides tombs date from the 14th century. For most dilapidated; they form a romantic first plan of one of the most beautiful panoramas of Fez.
Dar Batha Palace is located on the edge of Fès El Bali and Fès Jdid. It is home to the Museum of Arts and Traditions of Fez. The palace was erected by Moulay Al Hassan and Moulay Abdelaziz. Installed in eleven rooms, the collections are classified by theme: book, faience, copper, wood, weaving and embroidery art, rural arts, collection of doors, genealogical trees of Morocco’s dynasties, zellige art And religious and sepulchral arts.
Tanners district: Called Chouara, this district is one of the most spectacular places. These tanneries have been established since the Middle Age close to Oued Fès, which supplies the water necessary for the treatment of hides.
Borj Nord: This contemporary bastion of Borj Sud houses the Museum of Arms. These are presented chronologically, from stone cut to the canon, in eleven rooms. It is open every day except tuesdays from 9am to 1pm. Admission is charged.
Fès Jdid … In the footsteps of the Merinides
Built in 1276 by the Merinides, “Fez la Nouvelle” or “Fez Jdid” was the capital of Morocco for centuries, until the French installed the government in Rabat. The district counts several monuments of which:
The Royal Palace: Built in the 13th century. It opens onto Place des Alaouites, a large square built in 1968, the Palace has been enlarged and restored, several times under the Alawite dynasty, in the best of cutting-edge moresque style. The monumental doors are a must visit.
Bab Dekakene: Dating from the 14th century, the “Courthouse door “, impressive fortified entrance to Fez jdid, is named so because it is there that the criminals were judged, hanged and sometimes impaled in warning to future unbelievers.
Bab Semarine: It is a high door with multiple arches rebuilt in 1924, which is the real entrance of Fez Jdid district. Inside, you can discover a different style of houses which is a common occurrence in Fez, as well as a succession of shops offering a wide variety of upholstery fabrics, fabrics for djellabas and caftans, …
The Mellah: The Mellah is the oldest neighborhood of Jews who fled the Spanish Inquisition. It was established, according to historians in 1438, in the ancient kasbah of the Syrian archers of the Sultan, at the beginning of the XIIIth century. Deserted by Jewish families of Fez who emigrated, the Mellah is inhabited today by Muslim families. But it still keeps the architecture and Jewish families footprint who inhabited it and animated it for centuries.
Danan Synagogue: This house of worship was built at the end of the 17th century. It was owned by a rabbis family, the Danan, whose lineage fassi dates back to the end of the fourteenth century. It is one of the jewels of Jewish culture in Morocco.
Le Petit Mechouar: Bordered by high walls, it is partly located above Oued Fès. It precedes the former monumental entrance of Dar El Makhzen, Bab Dekkakene. On the right, by a passage in the wall, we can reach at about 150 meters a big noria, built in 1287 by the Andalusians.
Moulay Abdellah Mosque: This mosque bears the name of its founder (18th century). It includes a sanctuary, a medersa and a necropolis. Its minaret, 25meters high, is adorned with vertical bands of green ceramic and girded by four balls. The necropolis was built by Sidi Mohamed Ben Abderrahman in the 19th century. It is here that several kings of the present dynasty of the Alawites lie: Moulay Abdellah (1732-1757), Moulay Youssef (1912-1927), and where were transported the mortal remainns of Moulay Hafid in 1936 and Moulay Abdelaziz in 1942.
The Old Mechouar: It is the door of the seven: the seven brothers of Moulay Abdallah who successively occupied the throne in the eighteenth century. This ancient square is dominated by the high walls of Bab Al Makina where an arms factory was established in 1886 by an Italian mission on the initiative of Sultan Moulay Hassan. Now restored, it serves as a conference and concert hall, notably at the Sacred Music Festival of the World. At the end of the Old Mechouar, Bab Segma only keeps the tower of the old merinid door dating from 1315.
Fez … The new city
The new city of Fez is distinguished by several districts reminiscent of the Art Deco style and its harmony.
The modern city of Fez: With its wide avenues and boulevards, its buildings and its animation, the modern city of Fez resembles the other Moroccan cities, even European.
It has several districts built under the French protectorate and which are distinguished by their Art Deco style. Most administrations, banks and tourist offices are located around Florence square, Mohammed V, Hassan II and Mohammed Esslaoui Avenues.
The modern city also has several new neighborhoods that attract residents, shops, services and other economic activities. In recent years a management plan has been elaborated to ensure its harmony.
Fez, city of knowledge, art and culture
When Idriss II gave the first pickaxe in 808 for the construction of Fez, he said, raising his arms to heaven: “God, make of this city the abode of sciences and home to religious knowledge.” And so it was through many centuries up to the present day.
They have been to Fez: The city was the obligatory passage of historical personalities and men of science and letters who received and gave knowledge and who made the city one of the most important intellectual centers of the Muslim Western world.
Ibn Rochd Avéroés (Philosopher 1126-1198): Averroes is the name under which is known in the western world the famous medieval Arab Spanish philosopher and scientist Ibn Rochd of Arabic expression. Author of the famous comments on Aristotle, he developed a method of critical exegesis of the koran, allowing it to relativize its literal reading in order to further deepen the understanding of the texts of revelation. His enlightened reading to prevent what is called today the fundamentalism that only strikes blinded minds.
Abu Arabi (Philosopher 1165-1240)
Abu Bakr Mohammed Muhyi-al-din is a philosopher, theologian and mystical poet born in Murcia in Spain in 1165 and died in 1240 in Damascus (Syria). He received a traditional Koranic education and soon manifested a mystical vocation which led him to devote himself entirely to God through the sufism, of which he will become a predominant figure. The influence of sufism on Muslim theology will become even more important thanks to the works of Ibn Arabi. He wrote more than a hundred and fifty books. Only a dozen of them are accessible today. At the age of sixty he moved to Damascus where he wrote the essential part of his work preserved to the present day. His theories, his vision of God and the world marked Islam and oriented not only the mystique sufi but all the muslim philosophy.
Ibn Khaldoun (sociologist 1331-1406)
One of the greatest historians of the Arab muslim world, he was one of the first theorists of the history of civilizations. He is often recognized as the father of modern sociology.
Maimonid (philosopher1135-1204): His real Hebrew name is Moshe Ben Maimonides and is considered one of the greatest models of Judeo Muslim thought, reconciling tradition, revelation, philosophy and science. Spanish, writing in Arabic, Maimonides symbolizes the medieval Muslim Andalusia with a great intellectual effervescence and a certain harmony between representatives of the three religions of the Book, who lived there for several centuries. His works are still studied not only by students and intellectuals from the Jewish world, for whom they were primarily intended, but also by Muslim and Christian thinkers.
Colette: (French journalist 1873-1954) Gabrielle Sidonie Colette was born in Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye (Burgundy) in January 1873. She came from a modest family, her father having passed on his passion for literature. Colette did not hesitate to travel to Morocco, sent by Paris-Soir to relate, in 1938, the jury trial of Oum El Hassan, owner of a whorehouse accused of having murdered prostitutes. In 1945, Colette was elected a member of the Académie Goncourt. She died in August 1954 in Paris.
Pierre Loti (French Writer 1850-1923)
Julien Viaud By his stage name, was a naval officer, a great traveller, and above all a novelist. In the personal story of his trip to the Embassy in Fez in the spring 1889, Pierre Loti staged the African Athens with the genius of an Oriental painter. From the extraordinary reception hosted by the Sultan Moulay-Hassan, to the forbidden spectacle of the terraces reserved for women, the light must shine on ruins to seduce the famous traveler who said he had a half Arab soul. Pierre Loti, the eternal nostalgic and unrepentant traveler, tells us his journey to Morocco between April and May 1889. The purpose of his journey was to accompany Minister Patenôtre on a diplomatic mission to the Sovereign of Morocco, in its capital Fez (Fès), a true holy city at the time. Loti tells us in detail his adventures that will lead him from Tangier to Fez and then Meknes. He is particularly attached to the nature of this country and to the culture of the Moroccans, giving us magnificent descriptions of the landscapes he passes through, a very heterogeneous people (Berbers, Arabs, Jews, etc.) And voluntarily neglects the political affairs which have led him to this journey.
Fez City of art
Andalusian music is the result of a mingling between Arabic music, Afro Berber music and music practiced in the Iberian Peninsula when, in 711, during the reign of the Umayyads (661-750), Tarik Ibnu Ziad conquered the Iberian peninsula to celebrate the glory of Islam. This art later enriched the Spanish folklores and gave birth especially to flamenco. It is a lyrical and instrumental repertoire transmitted for centuries confirming the oral tradition in combination with the modal theory of tubu and a particular system of rhythmic refrains. It represents secular classical music. It is under the name of tarab al-Ala, or simply al-Ala, that the classical repertory of the Moroccan Nuba will be known until the diffusion of Orientalists works who adopt, terms such as “Andalusian-Moroccan music” “Arabic-Andalusian-Moroccan music”, “Andalusian-Maghreb music” or “Hispano-Muslim music”. Professor Mohammed El Fassi will take a decision on this issue by pointing out that the term “Andalusian music” is inadequate because it denies to the Moroccans their contribution to the the Nuba outbreak and development, whereas the present repertoire owes them much. It was therefore necessary to consecrate the ancient name al-Ala which the people used in opposition to the Sama. Thus the terms al-Ala, Tarab al-Ala, and Andalusi to emphasize the historical character of the genesis and development of the Andalusian style, fassiya (originally from Fez) or tetouanniyya (originating in Tetuan) are used only in familiar language, While scholarly writings and manuscripts refer to “Andalusian-Moroccan music”, “Arab-Andalusian-Moroccan music”, Tubu or Nuba.
The Moroccan Nuba: Nuba is a form of Arab-Andalusian music. It consists of a suite sung and instrumented with different poems interspersed with instrumental musical selections, free or measured. The ensemble is preceded by one or two instrumental introductions. The Nuba is sung in unison by the instrumentalists in heterophony that is to say by voices entanglement of. It juxtaposes a series of movements (five in Morocco) which are not necessarily interpreted in the same execution. Each of them adopts a particular rhythmic refrain and the general tendency is to go towards acceleration. The Nuba is based on the notion of fashion, which is called tab (character). It is the tab which ensures to the nuba his coherence and his identity. A single mode directs it, but secondary modes are grafted, discrete and in small numbers. There are never any sudden modulations. But, in reality, there are no standard interpretations of each Nuba. They vary according to schools and practitioners.
Berber songs and popular music: The Berbers are the first inhabitants of Morocco. They mainly inhabit the mountainous part of Morocco, Le Rif and the Atlas.
The Aïssawas: It is a brotherhood that is mainly found in the region of Fez and Meknes.
The brotherhood of Aïssawas was founded in the sixteenth century by Sidi Mohammed Ben Aïssa also called Sheikh El Kamel. It is said that when he died in 1526, upset, one of his disciples went into a trance and lacerated his clothes and his body. In this state he went so far as to devour alive a sheep and a goat.
This legend is at the origin of two fundamental practices of the brotherhood: the hadra (collective practice of trance) and the frissa peculiar to the Aïssawas.
The most important moussem of the Aïssawas is held annually in Meknes near the sanctuary of Sheikh Al Kamel, on the occasion of the celebration of Prophet Mohammed birthday (may prayer and peace be upon him). The Aïssawas also go to the houses upon families requests: the lila (night) is a festival animated by songs and the hadra, on the occasion of the celebration of a happy event, or to invoke the baraka of Sheik Al Kamel, or to solve thorny problems . In the “Hadra” the name of God (Allah) is invoked tirelessly in prayer until taking the body then the spirit, from this state flows the trance.
The sufis developed two ceremonies combining music with their spiritual quest:
“The Samaa”: (Hearing) is a ceremony made of prayer, music and dances that gives access to the state of grace and ecstasy. its music is mainly sung, the instrumental part being much less important. The concert takes place under the guidance of a spiritual master, the sheikh, and the solo singing is performed by the “quawal” being chosen for the beauty of his voice. The followers listen to this concert, sit down, and get progressively gained by trance. The instruments used are the drum and the flute. Over time, other instruments have been used. Essentially vocal, it is above all to sing the suras of the Koran and verses of poetry. The rhythm and the measure of these verses trigger trance.
“The dikr” (in plural ladkar) is a prayer that can be compared to a litany, the name of God is repeated unceasingly until it takes the body and then the spirit, thus leading to a state of trance and annihilation of consciousness. The practice of dikr has two main aspects: the solitary one and the collective one, the latter being linked to music and dance. Its practice is different from that of samaa in so far as the whole assembly is taken by a state of trance. The dikr is also run by a spiritual master, the sheikh to whom the singers are added. The prayers are sung and repeated in chorus by the assembly. They are accompanied very quickly by a movement of the bust from front to back, this movement introduces an ascent in the song until bringing the state of trance. The trance here is more communicative. The dikr also plays an important role in all stages of agricultural life: plowing, harvesting, peeling, but also wool work. The repetitive invocation of the name of God aims to prevent harmful effects on crops such as hail, frost, too strong wind. The songs, as well sung by men as by women, are a mixture of Arabic and Berber. They meet in sittings in which the verses are rehearsed, the number of which is fixed by tradition.
The fassi craft sector:
Crafts have always been the city’s main economic activity. It is intimately linked to the history of the city. Crafts are governed by corporations made up of workers in the same trade. It operates according to a well-defined hierarchy which regulates the craftsman training and ensures the products quality. Artisans practicing the same activity, are grouped in Fez by neighborhoods, designated by the name of the specialty: dabbaghines (tanners), nejjarrines (carpenters) … The artisanal activities that still make Fez famous are jewelry, treen, Pottery and ceramics, leather goods, binding, brassware and embroidery. Fez is also famous for carpet weaving and zellige making. Moreover, traditional crafts have helped make of Fez a center of artistic influence, confirmed by the inscription of the Idrissid site as a universal heritage recognized by UNESCO.
Fez ceramics: It evokes the cultural history of Fez. Shaped by skilled hands of master craftsmen, ceramics in Fez is endowed with several functionalities: Jar, pot and jug for storing solid or liquid food products, plate and bowl for displaying dishes, oil lamp for lighting and perfume burners for fragrances. Whether blue or polychromatic, the ceramic of Fez with its decorative motifs is a real pleasure for the eyes. In addition to the exhibits in museums and handicraft centers, the private collection containing 120 enamelled ceramic pieces from the XVIIIth century to the 20th century, belonging to Omar Benjelloun foundation, is worth the trip.