The Jardin Djnan Sbil is a public park next to the royal palace that has long been a favorite place for Fassi of all walks of life to spend some down-time and get some air – even though it is closed in the evening and has until recently been closed for work. It boasts lovely tiled fountains and green walkways where school kids hang out between class, where families sit and picnic, and strollers contemplate.
However, what I had come to see was further back. Past the parks central plaza is an enormous basin where waters collected from the river are distributed into channels heading for different parts of the medina. Some of the open-air channels are visibly old, dating back to the Sa’adian period of Fez’s 1200 year history according to one park worker. Though I’m not sure of this advice, it is interesting to not that in some cases the old channels were simply repaired and modern floodgates were added to control the flow of waters. In other cases, new channels were built, and what was once the bed of a small branch of the river lies empty and dry nearby.
From Tareq Madani’s work on the historical water system of Fez, Djnan Sbil is not only an access point to the river, but it boasts a spring (‘Ain) that also feeds into the upper medina’s water supply. From here clean water once flowed to the water distribution mechanism at Boujloud to be sent flowing downhill – turning water wheels, feeding fountains and homes, and irrigating nearby agricultural lands.
This park is important not only as a starting place in investigating the old water system, but as an example of how it has been modified over the years. Though it functions, however, doesn’t mean the water flowing through this system is as clean and mineral-rich as it once was. The park worker told me that it was not drinkable at all, but that at some point it gets treated. In the film, the drinkability of the water flowing through the old system will be analyzed alongside the switch from free access to paying access to Fez’s heritage waters.