Thursday, 31 July 2014

Meknes to Fes via Volubilis - travel diary

Day 3: Drive from Meknes to Fes via Volubilis

The morning was a bit of a disappointment. We pulled alongside a road and took a picture of the arch gateway which were told is built from plaster, mud, straw and human bones. The reason why this ancient (300 yr old) gate is still intact is because it is decorated with an inscription from the Qur'an. 
The ancient Gate

In spite of Ismail’s seemingly unquenchable blood lust and far from benevolent treatment of his subjects (including English, Irish, French and Spanish slaves), the sultan still seems to be held in high regard and his tomb is something of a place of reverence even today amongst a people who still see his rule as Morocco’s ‘Golden Age’. 

Ismail's palace complex built by white slaves
headed over to the granaries which are 300 yrs old. They were big, empty and cold. Full stop. Next I visited the mausoleum which was very beautifully decorated with tiles on the floor and Walls and painted cedar ceilings. The tiles were saffron yellow, green, black and white. The whole place was freezing due to most of it being outside and of course the tiles also contributed to the coldness. I also visited where Ismail used to keep his horses which were back then botanical gardens. It is now a 15 hole golf course.

Sculpture of A traditional water carrier

Have only been exposed to snippets of sun so far on the trip, but then again it is January. Starting to wonder if I will benefit from forking out a small mortgage for my factor 30 sunscreen and 50% Deet insect repellent.

Moroccan Market

I walked through the Bab el Khamis Gate to the city’s spectacular centrepiece, the Bab Mansour, en route to the Place el Hedim and the city’s Medina. I watched chickens bought from one store and butchered at a store a couple of stores away. There were bunnies (alive) sitting in a green tray, a hedghog in a crate and an iguana. Plenty of goats and cows heads were available as was a large quantity of tripe slowly making it's way off the shelf and into the floor. The displays of olives seemed unreal - so perfectly stacked. Only men worked in the shops. I treated myself to a mint tea and an vanilla slice looking cake which was overly sweet. Sugar rush!!I loved the Market. Leather slippers were in abundance in the market. I wish I  had had more time to experience the Morocco of today rather than a 300 yr old empty granary.

I then visited a workshop where they made beautiful black metal vases, animals etc which were decorated with silver wire hammered into the metal, fired, washed with lemon and then olive oil. It's such a shame that they haven't figured that we can't carry those sized objects with us and could have focused on obviously their key works with more manageable pieces for sale as I would have happily bought a small box for my jewellery if one had been small enough. 

Leather Moroccan Slippers

Volubilis - a Roman city
Next stop: the nearby ancient site of Volubilis – the capital of the Roman province of Mauritania Tingitana. The detailed mosaics here are still intact and the site gives a good idea of the layout of provincial settlements. Our tour guides knowledge of Greek and Roman mythology was enough and presented in an entertaining fashion. He kept us engaged. The site was larger than I had initially expected. When you have been to Pompeii and Herculaneum this site really didn't compare but was still interesting and within beautiful surroundings. I had THE best time in Volubilis. It's not looked after as well as Pompeii or Herculaneum but there was plenty to see (if you know what you're looking at).

Volubilis, ancient Roman city

Fes - Morocco's cultural capital
I then travelled north east via Nzala des Beni Ammar to the country’s cultural capital. Fes is most probably the oldest of the imperial cities, its fascinating history is rich with wars, murders and political intrigue. It has played an important part in Moroccan trade, culture, religion and politics as well as being the seat of learning for science. The old and new towns are adjacent but are totally separate entities and the panoramic views of Fes El Bali (the old city), seen from the North Borj (tower), are very useful to help you orientate yourself for when you are in the narrow alleyways.The view from the bus was yet more goats and shacks. The landscape is very fertile and vast. The roads were flat and most were in decent condition. 

An evening spectacle in fes
After another cold shower I joined a group for "an evening spectacle". Sigh. The 300 durnham meal consisted of bread and a mezze of a yummy cauliflower mush, aubergines, green beans, chopped onions and tomatoes, boiled potatoes. Skewer kebabs followed which was preceeded by a huge tagine dish. Pugeon pie in super fine filo pastry and icing sugar was dessert and was very tasty. Oranges, macaroons and mint tea finished it off. Whilst we were stuffing our faces we were subjected to belly dancing, a magician, local dancers and drummers. 

After the spectacle I joined others and went to the nightclub which is part of the hotel. The customers were in their twenties wearing heavy winter coats and sunglasses, holding alight cigarettes and jutting their heads like angry chickens in time to the music "I wanna be your sex save". Yeah baby yeah. "2 diet cokes please". "oh, no diet cokes? 2 sprite? No sprite? Oh, 2 full fat cokes please" Sugar Rush part II! We sat dawn amidst the tables of headbanging chickens. One of our party pulled out her well travelled travel scrabble and we were away much to the amusement to the locals. Brows furrowed and tiles selected we ended up having a really good game. Just past midnight we called it a night and returned to our warm rooms with 2 blankets - heaven. Let's hope I have hot water in the morning.

Beautiful tile work within a Mosque

Morocco Holiday Posts

Casablanca, Morocco
Fes, Morocco
Henna hand painting in Morocco

You should follow me on twitter here

Make the most of London with a Guided Tour - scheduled & private tours available

No comments:

Post a Comment