Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A tale of two medieval cities: Fes and Florence

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Earlier this year, in May, I visited Fes, Morocco. Specifically, Fes el Bali, the oldest of the three cities of Fes. The old medina in Fes el Bali dates back to 859, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and, some say, one of the largest car-free urban areas in the world. The old medina was simply amazing and, when walking the streets, one can see why there are no cars, some streets being just a loaded donkey wide! While in Fes I was also able to briefly visit the "new" city, Fes Jdid (dating from only 1276), and the "Ville Nouvelle" built by the French in the 20th century (our group went there for pizza one night when everyone but me it seems was tired of tangines!).


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2013.10.31-IMG_7005And then, just back in November, was my next medieval city, Florence. Though dating back historically to pre-Christian Roman times, Florence really hit its urban stride just about 150 years after the founding of Fes, in around 1000. From there, it was all art and architecture (and banking and warring) for the next 600 years or so. 

Like Fes, Florence was full of narrow streets (not as narrow as Fes el Bali, but generally more suited to Vespas than autos); also like Fes, Florence is surrounded by the more modern Florence of wide highways and McDonald's. Also, filled with churches (instead of mosques), religion (in Florence perhaps more historically) has an inescapable religious tint.

And speaking of tints, rich browns were a shared color of both. Roof tiles, brick walls, all contributing to the colors of the cities.

Florence Panorama


And just as an aside, let's not forget Taos Pueblo!

Now last plus one summer (2011) I was able to visit the Taos Pueblo (another UNESCO World Heritage site and the oldest continuously inhabited area of North America (dating from 1000, just a little younger, relatively speaking) than Fes.

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