A City founded by a saint – The picture of the city

market

In the middle of the city, around the great mosques, lie the bazaars (aswāq, plural of sūq) where the narrow alleyways are covered with bamboo sunshields and sometimes with vines, so that one moves around as if inside one single building. It is here that are located the market for all artisanal products: textiles, copper vessels and pans, as well as the markets for spices, fruits and fowls. And nearby are narrow streets, where shoemakers, tailors, saddlers, and other craftsmen apply their skill in their little open workshops, apart from those, whom for one reason or another, have settled far from town centre, such as the potters, whose dome-shaped kilns lie along the eastern city wall, and the tanners, who have their pits on the lower reaches of the river. Fez is famous for the production of beautifully coloured leather and all kinds of leather goods such as bags, saddles, shoes and book-bindings. The coppersmiths also have their own district, where they make chiselled trays, jugs and lamps, and here a hundred hammers incessantly ring out like bells.

The residential districts surround the city centre. One can hardly register their extent, for the lanes and alleys that lead from the arterial routes to the individual houses are no more than narrows passages, flanked by high walls, that twist and turn within the honeycomb of buildings; but they suffice, for the houses ‘breathe’ not via the streets, but via their inner courtyards, that open up to the skies.
As an enclosed cell, the Moorish house bears witness to the fact that the unity indwelling in the Islamic community is completely present in each of its individual parts. Every married believer is prayer-leader (imām) for his own family, and in this function he is independent of the community. Every adult Muslim, who knows the Qur’ānic prescriptions and the custom of the Prophet –the Sunna –, can be the officiant at prayer for a smaller or larger community.

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