Dye and Lye

Khalid was our tour guide of the medina today. He started off by telling us a few new facts about our neighborhood before we hit the Bou Inania Madrasa, which was built from 1350 to 1357. The marble came from Italy, the cedar from the Atlas Mountains, and the tile patterns from Spain. In fact, many of the patterns look familiar, as we have a card game from Alhambra, Spain.

It was raining hard, and Ethan and I discovered that our rain jackets aren’t as waterproof as we thought. Because of this, our down jackets underneath were getting wet—not a good thing. Dad bought a pink umbrella for me, which was a relief. Khalid held his blue plaid umbrella high and led the way.

Eventually we came to the university. The university was built by a woman named Fatima using her inheritance. One of its most famous students was the man who introduced zero to Europe. The university is connected to a mosque (also built by Fatima) which is the second-largest mosque in Morocco after the one in Casablanca that we visited at 1,700 square meters.

On we went to the funduq. (“Funduq” is the Arabic word for “caravanserie.” “Serie” means “hotel” in Persian.) This funduq is being used as a place for making rugs, scarves, tablecloths, and such out of cactus silk, cotton, and/or wool.

Our next stop was the tannery, where we looked out the back window onto the pools of dye and lye. The man helping us spoke Arabic, Berber, French, and English. Eventually he moved on from telling us about himself to advertising his goods.

“This is a poof,” he explained, holding up a round piece of leather. “You can fill it to make it a chair. You can fill it with paper, cotton, or money. Yes, this is a Berber bank!”

Mom later described the man as “cute.”