Fes El Bali
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Wood Carvers of the Fes Medina
Many local artisans live and work in the seldom-visited Al Andalus neighborhood of Fes El Bali, the old medina. Among them are the wood carvers who daily ply their craft in rustic and simple surroundings yet produce the highly artistic and beautifully intricate cedar wood carvings that appear in mosques, homes, restaurants, and other fine old buildings in the medina and elsewhere around Morocco. While wandering the narrow passageways of this quiet neighborhood with my local guide and translator, we met two wood carvers immersed in their work but willing to take a few minutes to chat. Both seemed so young, the youngest perhaps fourteen, yet one was apprenticed to the other. The apprentice, we learned from his tutor, was deaf so could not attend regular school. Therefore, he would commit to a life as a wood carver. He proudly showed us his work which consisted of a narrow cedar plank covered with complex and graceful design. As I continued my wanderings through the medina that day, and for days afterward, my eyes frequently lit upon those elaborate and elegant carvings where ever I found them, and I thought of those two young men and many like them who work away in the shadows of their plain workshops but who are fine artists whose craft was part of a centuries-old Islamic tradition.
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