Exotic spices piled high, the clink of the metalworkers' tools, the famous dye vats of the leather tanners' quarter-the only way to experience Fez (Fès) is by walking its storied medina.
The Moroccan city's central market area is perhaps the world's largest urban car-free zone, but cities on every continent are seeking to restore human bustle and leisurely gait as the prime locomotion of their urban centers. In other words, they're banning motor vehicles.
Of course, city denizens typically walk or take mass transit on the daily jaunts that require drives for their compatriots who live in the suburbs or beyond. It's a large part of the reason that per-person energy use and carbon emissions are relatively low in urban places, and why many people now view cities as the best hope for a sustainable future for the planet.
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Enlightened planners around the world have found that closing whole areas to motor traffic has benefits beyond cutting down on pollution. It creates places to saunter, bike, exercise, and just hang out.
Or shop, for those walking through the famed Blue Gate (shown above) of Fez, Morocco's one-time capital and second-largest city. Fez has set itself apart from other older cities of the world because older buildings there have never been destroyed to make way for automobiles.
In the old walled city, there are about 10,000 winding streets, a striking contrast to other Mediterranean cities that have grown beyond their walls. But, as with many cities that ring that sea, many of the secrets of old Fez are hidden. Casual pedestrians will often see dusty, plain walls with creaky doors, behind which are fragrant, colorful gardens, and mosaic-encrusted courtyards, and atriums.
(Related: "With a Deep Dig Into Its Past, Perugia Built an Energy-Saving Future")
This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.