Skip to main content


Fes. Interior City

Fez is a complex, mixed city, full of conflicts and quite different to the clichés of the tourist business; a city which requires us to look beyond the surface, because it is made up of various layers, each more difficult to penetrate than the last.

Architect and historian Albert Garcia Espuche and video-artist Toni Serra propose an initiatory journey to the heart of this city, specifically Fes el Bali, the old town. By means of video and audio recordings, the exhibition leads visitors into public and private space, allowing them glimpses of the rich, complex relations in ways of understanding space and time both inside the Medina and beyond.

In this way, the exhibition reveals the contrast between the city of Fez and any Western city, and invites us to question how we do things, the way we produce, consume - the way we live.


An initiatory journey

The series of screenings that make up this exhibition sets out to create a journey into the interior of the city of Fez, in the complex sense of the word: using audiovisual segments that illustrate different aspects of the city's anthropological, sociological, urbanistic and religious fabric. It is a journey that calls for both objectivity (in the working method) and subjectivity (of the experience of the journey and this close look at another culture).

The structure and itinerary of the screenings seek to manifest the initiatory nature of any itinerary which involves an inward journey that reveals as it advances a content that is concealed or unknown at the start, each level representing a change of perspective on what has gone before and a doorway to the next level.

However, the screenings respond not to the filmic criterion of a beginning and an end, but to the creation of a landscape, with the viewer selecting the excerpt and the duration. This allows visitors to experience a more in-depth consultation of specific excerpts (artisans, rituals, interviews, etc.). Consequently, the result of an average visit to the exhibition is a unique combination of fragments, with the total duration of all the screenings being about four hours.

by Toni Serra

1. The gates of the city

Duration: 10 minutes
Anonymous guide

Fes el Bali, the old medina of Fez founded in 809 by Idris II, is still completely contained within city walls. The gates (Bab Bou Jeloud, Bab Fteuh, Bab Er Rsif, Bab Guissa...) therefore retain all their social and symbolic value, associated with the different activities of the city and its inhabitants.

2. Markets and main streets

Duration: 22 minutes

The markets of Fez, accessible from the main streets of the medina, are mostly situated very near the entrances to the city and reflect the vitality of an economic microsystem associated with the basic needs of the medina and its immediate rural surroundings.

3. The artisans

Duration: 23 minutes

Fez is the Moroccan city with the liveliest tradition of artisans. Far from being "just a job", the activity of the artisan reflects a whole conception of the world and a way of experiencing time and giving it meaning. This native wisdom is passed down from parents to children, from the maalem, the master, to the apprentice.

4. Dar Debagh. Tanners

Duration: 23 minutes

Dar Debagh is the largest and oldest tanning establishment in North Africa, and one of the most emblematic places in the city of Fez.

5. The neighbourhood

Duration: 59 minutes

The urban and social structure of neighbourhoods in the medina is one of vast intricacy and complexity, being organized around a series of vital establishments for the everyday life of their inhabitants, such as the hammam or public baths, the bakery, schools and the foundouk, or caravanserai.

Communal bakeries provide the heating for the public baths or hammam, fully active establishments that are very important for the cohesion of the city's social fabric.

Foundouks are establishments where visiting merchants traditionally stayed and stored their products overnight. Most have now lost their original function and are adapted for other uses, such as dwellings or workshops.

6. The madrassa

Duration: 14 minutes

Fez is one of the North African cities to have had most madrassas, of great architectural beauty. Madrassas, former Koran schools and now open for visits as public monuments, formerly provided one of the functions that raised Fez to the height of its splendour: the study of Islamic tradition and the body of laws and regulations governing social life. They were also the home of the students.

Madrassas: Bu Inaniyya (1350), al-Attarin (1323), Seffarin (1280), al-Sahri (1321).

7. The house and the derb

Duration: 60 minutes

The derb, or blind alley, is both a physical place and the setting for social relations that constitutes a semi-public space in the medina, between the house and the street.

8. Aid el Kbir

Duration: 20 minutes
The Feast of the Sacrifice

Aid el Kbir, the big festival, is the main celebration in the Muslim calendar. It is primarily a family and religious feast (its roots go back to the scriptures with Abraham and Isaac) with a symbolic component: life and death in the form of the ritual sacrifice of a sheep.

This festivity transforms all usual activities and even the appearance of the city: the big sheep market is set up, daybreak is marked by communal prayer, the knife-grinders come out and spontaneous fires are lit in side streets.

9. Lila Gnawa

Duration: 20 minutes

Gnawa music has its roots in black Africa, where it is still alive today. Gnawa musicians are the distant descendents of slaves from Guinea and Senegal who brought with them the great wealth of the magical and animistic world of their cultures, which melded with Islamic mysticism to create brotherhoods that are still alive today. Gnawa music is played at lilas, all-night celebrations that tend to induce states of trance by means of songs based on hypnotic and repetitive elements. Each song is associated with a character, force or colour, and so on, and calls up the spirits that inhabit people. In this way, these rituals keep alive one of the most ancestral relations that links music and healing.

10. Religious spaces

Duration: 13 minutes

The mausoleum of Mulay Idris, which holds the tomb of the city's founder, Idris II, and was totally rebuilt in 1437, is the heart of Fez. It stands at the centre of the city and, unusually, brings together the communal and the private. Families with children, men and women flock there in search of a moment of rest, peace or prayer. There, the extraordinary beauty of the mosaics and the elegance of the elderly people who meet to meditate or comment on the ways of the world are overlain with the strikingly lovely superposition of praise, litanies and prayers against a background of the murmuring water.

Quaraouyine Mosque (862-933) is the principal mosque in Fez as well as being the largest, the headquarters of one of the world's first universities. Its premises include the "Hall of Time", a collection of ancient timepieces, and a library with manuscripts relating to the origins of the city in 809.

11. Dikr

Duration: 12 minutes

Dikr, the Remembrance of Allah, is one of the loveliest and most effective religious rituals in Islamic tradition. Like most Sufi rituals, it takes place on Thursday evenings in many zawiyas, refuges or places of prayer in the city. It usually begins with canticles and praise of the Prophet Mohamed; followed by the repeated profession of faith, "la illaha ila Allah", the true name of Allah, or one of his attributes, in a continuum that culminates in the sound of respiration, inhaling and exhaling, often leading to a state of trance. It is in this way that dikr, the remembrance of Allah, reveals to us the haddra, the presence.

The dikr ritual included here is particularly emotive: it was filmed in the home of the Charaibi family to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of the father of Dris, Iones, Amina and Si Mohamed.


The final part of the exhibition comprises a "tea lounge", which aims to provide a meeting point, a place with a different rhythm where visitors can comment on the experiences they have lived in the course of the exhibition over a glass of tea. Here there are monitors where visitors can watch interviews with five people who give important and contrasting information about Fez (a journalist, an architect, a craftsman, an unofficial guide and a seer). They can also enjoy two projections of panoramic views of the city: everyday life on the roof terraces and in the gardens, open skies and migrating birds...

At the same time, the Tea Lounge is also the venue for a series of activities, programmed under the overall title of VOICES OF THE MAGHREB. These activities offer an overview of creation both in Morocco and that which is emerging in Barcelona. Most of the artists are Moroccan citizens who currently live and work in Barcelona, and the purpose of the activities is to illustrate the wealth of new forms of artistic expression to emerge from the meeting of different cultures and voices in our city.

Voices of the Maghreb will host all kind of spectacles: music, dance, theatre and storytelling; debates, talks, workshops, gastronomy and documentation related to contemporary Maghreb culture. The events will take place on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays while the exhibition lasts, during regular opening times.

On 10, 11 and 12 May, Voices of the Maghreb will occupy the outdoor spaces of the CCCB (Pati de les Dones courtyard and Plaça Joan Corominas) in an attempt to reproduce the spirit of Moroccan cities. With a market of products from the Maghreb at their centre, the events organised will include concerts, fashion shows, percussion and henna workshops, spaces for debate, film and video projections...

Organised by