Accepted paper:

"Authentic ambiances" in the Fez medina? An ethnographic approach


Manon Istasse (FNRS and LAMC (ULB))

Paper short abstract:

Taking as case study the medina of Fez, I explore the built, the sensitive and the social dimensions of the ambiance in this World Heritage site and tourist destination. This insight questions the "inventiveness of traditions" and the creation of a specific a-historic ambiance.

Paper long abstract:

In this presentation, I give interest to three main dimensions of an urban ambiance, that is to say its built, sensitive/affective, and social dimensions. From an ethnographic stance, I take as case study the Fez medina, a World Heritage site since 1981 and a city open to tourism development since the early 2000s. I more particularly elaborate on two specific urban places involving heritage and tourism: public squares and guest-houses. I describe their main built features and their changes through time, I investigate the sensitive and affective relations that actors - mainly tourists, foreign residents and Moroccan inhabitants - develop with these urban environments, and I present the social features of these actors. It comes out that Moroccan inhabitants fully take part to the medina ambiance while they sometimes feel disposed in benefit of tourists, and that foreigners appreciate the medieval ambiance of the medina. This ethnographic insight allows me to investigate, on the one hand the impact of urban policies and international development projects on the ambiance of urban squares, and on the other the impression of a traditional settings in guest-houses. Rather than to a feeling of loosing authenticity and the development of "invented traditions", it appears that these two places are subjected to the "inventiveness of traditions" and to the creation of a specific a-historic ambiance in which heritage and tourism play an important role.

panel Econ04
"Bring back my neighbourhood!": heritage, expressive cultures and the production of urban ambiances for tourist consumption in the contemporary city