mercredi 8 juin 2011

Bab Debbagh and the tanneries

Bab Debbagh is supposedly Almoravid in design, though over the years it must have been almost totally rebuilt. Passing through the gate, you become aware of its very real defensive purpose: three internal rooms are placed in such a manner as to force any-one attempting to storm it to make several turns. The leather goods shop, on the right-hand side of Bab Debbagh, gives good views from its roof (for a small fee) over the quarter.
Looking down, you have an excellent view over the tanneries, built here at the edge of the city for access to water (the summer-dry Oued Issil runs just outside the walls) and for the obvious reason of the smell. If you want to take a closer look at the processes, come in the morning, when the co-operatives are the work; any of the kids standing around will take you in. As at Fes, a tour is an ambivalent experience. There's a beauty about the proceedings, but the traditional dyes have been in large part replaced by modern chemicals, which can cause sciatica, malignant melanoma and other internal cancers.
Bab El Khemis
Following the road from Bab Debbagh, outside the ramparts, is the simplest approach to Bab El Khemis ( Gate of the Thursday Market) another reconstructed Almoravid gat, built at an angle in the walls. The Thursday market now seems to take place more or less daily, around 400m to the north, above a cemetery and marabout's tomb. It is really a local produce market. though odd handicraft items do occasionally surface.

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