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5. Meknes and Volubilis

On the bus today

sunny 80 °F

Today we did a lot of travelling. Some of the time that we're on the bus, there is a lot of chattering going on, and then Amani fills in the spaces with background information as we travel. Of course there is a great deal of Moroccan pride in his running commentary - but one thing I've noticed is the depiction of the various Moroccan rulers as superhuman. For instance, to hear Armani tell it, King Hassan II (who died in 1999) invented agriculture. It is against the law to speak negatively about the royals, and I am sure this guy was pretty smart, but c'mon! At least it's not as bad as Turkey where shop owners are required to display a picture of Attaturk (which would be like Washington to us).

After a couple of hours of driving through small towns and rich farmland, our first stop was Volubilis, a 2000 year old Roman city. Volubilis is not as well preserved as the ones I saw in Turkey, but walking on 2000 year old streets and walking around what's left of 2000 year old mansions and looking at intricate 2000 year old mosaic floors that still have color, completely blows me away. Armani turned us over to an excellent local guide who studies ancient history, and this guy was able to describe the life and commerce of the city. Fascinating. I guess until recently, Morocco had never worked to preserve this site - and to be honest they are not a rich country, so now other countries are chipping in to try to help. Too bad Hassan II didn't invent archeology.

Our next stop was Meknes, which is the 4th largest city in Morocco. Armani told us a lot about the town, but it was just a town, to me. We did tour the ancient royal stables which was pretty impressive as they were built to accomodate 12,000 horses and their respective riders. It's big. We also stopped to admire "the most beautiful town gate in Africa" - the Bab El Mansour. All of these cities are walled with gates. Some of the gates are pretty elaborately decorated, as is this one. Naturally we all took pictures and oohed and ahhed.

If you know me, you know that I have an unnatural attraction to graveyards. Well, I am out of my league here. The dead are always buried right outside the town gates. Therefore, as you approach any of the walled towns, you drive by acres and acres of gravestones. They are all white, and plain, and crammed in the allotted acreage. There is no way to walk between the graves. How does anyone visit their dead loved ones? Or even find them? It's kind of unnerving. Maybe Muslims don't believe in cremation. I need to look that up.

We got "home" around 5:30 and adjourned to the rooftop garden bar. This bar is very lovely but the view of the medina (that they brag about) leaves something to be desired. Imagine looking out over miles of dilapidated roofs of dilapidated old buildings. That's just what the medina is, but the beauty is on street level. And we're going to spend the whole day in the middle of it tomorrow. Exciting! But watch your wallet- it's a pickpocket's dream out there!

Posted by Follow Carol 15:28 Archived in Morocco

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