Useful information

About urban planning and how not to get lost in medina

Moroccan settlements have much common in their structure.

Medina – a big maze for humans. Usually it is a pedestrian zone. There’s a fortified wall around medina and several gates that long time ago were being closed for the night. Narrow curvy streets, numerous dead ends and houses nestling up to each other make GPS almost useless here. A settlement may have 2 medinas (like Fez) or none of them if it is a village or a newly built Ifrane.

Mellah – a Jewish ghetto, an isolated neighborhood within the walls of medina. It appeared first in 15th century in Fez, the aim was to protect Jewish population from the aggression of Muslim inhabitants. All the gates to Mellah were being closed in the nighttime. That’s why all Mellahs have their own infrastructure (like souks etc).

– A fortress (ksar or kasbah) or several fortresses can be present in a settlement. In villages fortresses could play a role of starting point of locality.

Ville Nouvelle (new city) – a beautiful colonial heritage. Many famous architects from France took part in urban planning of such neighborhoods and erection of buildings. “New cities” are definitely worth to see.

The rest of neighborhoods are not so interesting for tourists – usually they include only simple replicated buildings. The exceptions are included (or will appear) in the list of sights.

Let’s take a look at Fez as at an example:

Map of Fez

  1. – Ville Nouvelle
  2. New medina
  3. Old medina
  4. – Mellah (within the walls of the new medina)
  5. – Kasbah Cherarda
  6. – Kasbah An-Nouar (within the walls of the old medina)

How not to get lost in a medina

When GPS becomes locked up in a narrow street the dot of location either becomes inactive (and stands still no matter how far you go) or starts to jump back and forward.

Walls of stone are not an obstacle for a compass.

If you have an ability to feel the direction, this maze won’t scare you. If you fear to get lost – choose the widest street and hold on to it. Do you see an interesting lane? Go, take a look, but don’t forget to return back to the wide street.

Do you want to dive into the maze? Then take pictures of any landmarks. If you get lost, your camera will entertain you with a free quest game (remember to charge it in advance). Finally you can ask locals about the way out. But be prepared that some people are kind-hearted and some may be greedy (in this case don’t forget to bargain).

Your aim is to go out of medina. Outside the walls your GPS will function the right way. So it doesn’t matter which way you will leave medina – the way you came or through the unknown gate.

Don’t panic and don’t be in a hurry – deeply breath in, breath out and keep calm – you’re in Morocco. And you are getting your own experience.

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