Fes el Bali, the Medina of Fez is the oldest constantly inhabited city in the world, founded at the end of the 9th century. The Medina is famous for housing the oldest known university, al-Qarawiyyin and is believed to be the largest car-free area on the planet earning it a deserving UNESCO world heritage listing. Fez’s Medina has a profound sense of connectedness, an understanding of age and tradition that can only come from a deep, long standing history. Like sap from weathered willow the Medina bleeds ancient, it’s in voices heard around corners, sands of time worn on walls, and a measured chaos that only comes with the old world. Leisurely sauntering through the relic city, time faded to irrelevance as we misplaced ourselves in the twists and turns shadowed by the traditional sandstone Dars and Riads protecting us, ancient guardians.
Later that night we sat in the beautifully tessellated courtyard of our hostel, the roof secured with fibreglass due to Novembers temperamental weather. I sat with Yousef and his cousin Omar, relatives of the owner talking about the Medina’s wonders and sipping Moroccan mint tea. As I showed them my images from the day, exclamations of recognition would ring from both. A familiar street, a shopfront, a friend of Omar’s, a school where Yousef learnt the Quran as a child. The Medina is intrinsically entrenched into these people’s psychology, their lifestyle and their heritage. It lives and breathes with them, both as old as the other.