One of the highlights of our National Geographic trip to Morocco last fall was the time we spent in Fez, the country’s cultural capital. Inside the walls of the medina, the ancient and unbeliveably vibrant traditional city, 150,000 people maintain a way of life that is, in many ways, much like it was hundreds of years ago.
Jay and I asked out tour manager, Andrew, how we might find our way out of the medina’s intricate labyrinth of narrow, brimming pedestrian streets if we were to venture inside on our own, without a guide. “Leave a trail of breadcrumbs!” he answered helpfully. If we had indeed needed them, breadcrumbs would have been easy to find; the medina abounds with several hundred bakeries whose wood-fired ovens collectively produce tens of thousands of khobz — the ubiquitous, flattish Moroccan loaves — every day.
Our guide Rashid turned out to be far superior to a breadcrumb trail. He told us that the bakery — along with the fountain, the hammam (bath), the mosque, and the Koranic school — is one of the five traditional elements of each of the medina’s hundreds of neighborhoods. He also helped us negotiate the etiquette of tipping in exchange for permission to take photographs inside — not an easy feat in these small, windowless grottoes.
The cool thing about these bakeries is that, in addition to baking their own khobz, they bake the loaves of the neighborhood women who prepare the dough in their own homes. We saw many women like this one wearing a jalaba (the hooded robe that is the everyday garb of most women and many men), carrying their unbaked bread on a cloth-covered wooden tray to the bakery, where they would pick up the baked loaves later in the day.
Here are more freshly-baked khobz, waiting to be delivered…
… to food stands like this one selling harira (soup) …
… and to market stalls for people to take home for their dinners, which would not be complete without khobz.
For more Fez photos, take a look at Jay’s photography blog, here.
Hi Susan and Jay, your photos are beautiful; the light and the colors in the bakery! Can’t wait to find a recipe on Khobz. Wouldn’t it be nice to meet each other at the bakery with our unbaked bread.
Wow, Connie, I really like that idea!
Susan start a blog or a Facebook page, called “Meet at the Bakery!”
Great post Susan, were you able to get some sort of a recipe or idea of how their bread is made?
The medina is not a place I’d want to try and find my way out of, bread crumbs or no.
I do love the idea of meeting at the bakery! Interesting how many cultures have so many community traditions that center on baking.
Now a recipe for Khobz …
I love your blog – I read it often and bake bread in my home in Portland, Oregon. My father is from Fes, so I grew up with a lot of home cooked Moroccan food. It’s difficult to make Khobz as they do in the big ovens in the Ancienne Medina, but I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful recipe soon. I appreciate your commentary and the photos – reminds me of visits back to my family. Morocco is a beautiful place, I’m happy to see a little bit about on your blog!
Thank you for all of your writing and recipe sharing!
Susan, Jay is an amazing photographer! Loved all the photos in his blog, maybe the most amazing to me was the one of a woman throwing something in the river. What a fantastic place, out of this world!
loved your post, thanks for giving us a snapshot of your great time there!
Great commentary and photos. What a interesting adventure, and Jay’s photos are wonderful. They capture much of the essence of daily life in Fez. Thanks for this terrific blog.
Thanks also for all you do with your site to promote good baking.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk down the street to a communal oven! Especially when it’s hot. I’d love not to have to turn on our oven in the summer….
These are the most fabulous photos! I feel as if I’m there.
Thank you, Susan!
Love the pictures- thanks for sharing!