Friday, March 02, 2018

Can Citizens Save The Henna Souk Fountain?

The Henna Souk is one of the gems at the heart of the Fez Medina. This oasis of tranquility is the place for henna, ceramics and a variety of smaller goods such as herbs, cosmetic soaps and oils. It is also the location for the famous maristan and its fountain
The Henna Souk, with its two giant trees, is an oasis of tranquility in the busy Fez Medina

The word “maristan” is a contraction of a Persian word (bimarstan) meaning “the locus of sick people.” Maristans were medical institutions with four specialties: internal medicine, ophthalmology, traumatology, and psychiatry.

In Fez, during the Merinid dynasty a maristan, called Sidi Fredj, was built in the 13th century by the sultan Abu Yaqub (1286–1307). Leo Africanus (his original name was Hassan Al Wazzan) worked in this maristan for two years as a secretary at the end of the 15th century. Adjacent to the Sidi Fredj maristan, herb shops allowed the preparation of many kinds of medications for centuries. These small shops still exist today and add much to the charm of the Henna Souk.

Still in existence, but under threat is the beautiful fountain.

Built at the same time as the maristan, the fountain has survived the centuries but in a deteriorating condition. The proclamation of Fez as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO saw an increased appreciation of the cultural and architectural heritage of the Medina.  In 1986 the fountain was restored.

Problems began two years ago when someone began using the fountain for dumping rubbish (see photographs below). They are asked to desist by the stallholders in the Souk, but refused to do so.

Rubbish in the fountain

The stallholders recently cleaned up the fountain and the local water authority RADEEF generously undertook to assist by putting in a temporary water circulating pump and for the first time in years the sound of tinkling water was heard in the Henna Souk. RADEEF explained it was only a temporary fix and undertook to provide the plumbing to connect the fountain to a constant supply of water. It is hoped that RADEEF will quickly move to fully restore the fountain.

Cleaned and flowing with fresh water

Sadly, the abuse of the fountain has continued and the people involved have removed the water pump and returned to dumping into the fountain.

The local shopkeepers all signed a petition and delivered it to their local city official, who unfortunately dismissed it as being "in the wrong format" and declined to address the problem.

There is much discussion about what the next step should be. Please visit the Henna Souk to show your support.


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