The master of “Fran Al Shata” .. the death of the last of the traditional ovens in the old city of Fez

In one of the narrow alleys of the meat kernez in the old city of Fez, where the fragrance of ancient history exudes, the hot sauce oven still smells of “baladi” bread that is prepared over a silent wood fire, from the The same way that bread was cooked in traditional ovens centuries ago, which arouses the curiosity of passers-by, Moroccan tourists and foreigners.

Although this oven is more than 7 centuries old, since its construction dates back, according to its owner, Muhammad Zarkan, to the time of the Marinid state in the 13th century AD, by preserving its original identity in baking bread in the shape Inherited from the ancestors, it has become a heritage landmark that testifies to the extinction of this type. It is one of the old ovens that abounded in the different neighborhoods of the old city of Fez.

a dying legacy

As a result of the invasion of the modern lifestyle, most of the traditional ovens in the old city of Fez stopped working, and only two or three remained, including the “Shatta oven”, which still firmly resists the invasion of ovens. domestic. running on gas or electricity, and modern ovens that most families accept to consume the bread offered in various shops and bakeries.

Although the “France of Shata” no longer receives only a limited number of bread “connections”, and its customers are decreasing day by day, Muhammad Zarkan, 56, refuses to give up his oven, which began operating approximately half. a century ago when he was 7 years old, insisting on continuing his long history preparing the orders of his clients who still prefer bread that is cooked with the old technique.

Muhammad “Waslat” receives loaves of bread dough from his customers with a smile on his face, to throw them into his oven, whose nozzle ignites the faint flames of the fire, before the bread comes out ripe after being gently rotated on his face . , to acquire its color and flavor of the distinguished.

In his interview with Hespress, Muhammad Zarkan acknowledges the significant drop in demand for his traditional oven, explaining that, until recently, he worked in his shop for 5 people, and as the owner of the shop, his role was limited to monitoring the work , before being forced, under severe Income weakness, to work himself inside his oven.

Muhammad adds that most of the families that depended on the popular oven prefer to bake in the markets, or cook their bread in domestic gas or electric ovens, adding that some families still stick to cooking the bread they consume in the wood oven. .

And the owner of “Fran Al-Shatta” added that, in addition to preparing bread, he cooks in his oven the sweets and dishes that the families prepare, explaining that the cooking method inside the traditional oven, on a silent wood fire, is not comparable, in terms of deliciousness and health safety, to preparing meals inside ovens.

customs and traditions

According to the owner of “Fran Al-Shatta”, the repercussions of the death of traditional bakeries also affected their social role as a symbol of authentic customs and characterized popular life in the ancient city of Fez, pointing out that housewives in neighborhoods in “the city” could not shoulder the burden of delivering the bread “connection” to or retrieving it from the bakery, but are content to assign any child or person crossing the alley to do so.

For her part, Fatiha, one of Darb Al-Sarraj’s neighbors, who was about to cook some of the sweets she prepared with her fingers at the “Franch of Shatta”, said that, in addition to cooking her bread and sweets at the Muhammad Zarkan’s oven, she cooks what she prepares from fried chicken, pastilla, tagine and tanjia dishes and “Eid meat” inside the same oven.

The same housewife added, in her conversation with Hespress, that several families returned to consuming traditional oven bread, which she described as “home bread”, and pointed out that “the white bread that is sold in the market can represent a health risk; due to its reliance on a lot of sugar, to give it its attractive color, in addition to the lack of flour used in the preparation of a series of basic components of wheat”.

And while Fatiha Al-Nass continued with the traditional oven performing its historic role in baking bread, Mustafa Al-Darbi, one of the residents alongside “Franch Al-Shatta”, expressed deep sorrow at the death of traditional ovens, describing Mohamed Zarkan’s oven as “a masterpiece that still furnishes the landscape and the ancient fabric of the city of Fez.” “.

“On the way to school, we used to take the housewives’ bread with great joy to the oven. Social relations between people were overshadowed by trust and characterized by cooperation”, recalls Mustafa Al-Darby, in statements to the newspaper. , highlighting that many beautiful things characterized the city and the alleys of the old city of Fez, are stories of the past.

The phenomenon of extinction does not only affect ancient crafts, according to Mustafa Al-Darbi, but also affects all social relations, customs and noble traditions associated with it, which he said have contributed, throughout history, to the revaluation of the aesthetics of coexistence in the roads and neighborhoods of the old city of Fez.