The One With Europe ’11 Day 4 – The Missable Meknes & Volubilis

The Ancient Roman Ruin Of Volubilis

After the hustle and bustle that was Fez medina yesterday, we decided to take a break from all things Moroccan and made our way to Meknes, a town located some 60 km from the city. From Meknes, it is another 30 km to travel to Volubilis, the ancient outpost city of Rome.

If you think we are going to experience two cultures within one day, you are probably right. We did, but not in an entirely satisfactory way.

– Headed bright and early to the Fes train station. Definitely more efficient than the airport, though not by much, but I am grateful nonetheless
– Journey was ultra short. We arrived in Meknes in 30 minutes flat. I almost thought we didn’t understand what our fellow cabin dweller was telling us
– Immediately got approached by touts right outside Meknes train station. Told us that Meknes medina isn’t open, and why not we go to Volubilis? Utter crap. We hailed a (blue) petit taxi and 8 Dirhams later, we arrived…
-…. to see a gigantic courtyard with canopied stalls to the left and ancient gates along an equally ancient wall to our right. The entrance to the medina was right in front of us, next to the museum, just like how Lonely Planet described
– And so we hurried into the medina
– We turned left and right, walked into blinding alleyways, utterly grabbed… by the nondescript stalls. This was like a glorified Chatuchak. Were we too pampered by the cultural assault that was Fez medina?
– Walked past the two biggest attractions of the place (a madrasah and a grand mosque) without even realising it until some helpful locals pointed them out to us
– In less than thirty minutes, we were out from the medina, somewhat deflated. And so we walked across the street into another promising looking sets of walls…
– …. only to be confronted with yet another Moroccan “place” (which means palace). Okay, it was rather grand, but once you have seen a palace, you have seen it all. Unlike its European counterparts, palaces are rather common here, even if you are only moderately wealthy
– And so we walked to the local market besides the medina, which was definitely more colourful and vibrant than the medina itself. Had a local sandwich by the roadside; no idea what I ate
– Arranged for a grand taxi to take us to the Volubilis and the neighbouring Moulay Idris. Time was about 11 a.m.
– The journey out had us gaping in wonder. I thought we were in Africa. So what do all these trees, sheeps, lush greeneries, quaint stone houses doing here? It is more… European than I thought
– Arrived at Volubilis. Time was about 11.45 a.m.
– Used the toilet. Was told to “tip” “as I wish”. So I gave twenty cents Euro. Had another fifty cents forcefully taken out of my hands. You think your toilet was a spa? Bastard conman.
– Wondered around the ancient Roman ruin. There was a group of (primary?) school students on a school trip here. One of the teachers told us they were from Tangier, and asked if he can introduce an English student to us? Utterly charmed
– Back to the ruin. I love Roman architecture. All those linear lines and right angles made for great photography.
– And so I snapped, and snapped the stones against the giant, green backdrop.
– The girls were done in a flash. I guess after Rome and Italy, this wasn’t that impressive to them. But for me, I felt one with history. I blame that to the absence of milling tourists and aggresive touts
– Made our way back to the grand taxi. Time was about 1 p.m. Half signaled, half asked that we wanted to have lunch at Moulay Idris
– Was brought up to this vantage point overlooking the pious, Islamic city nestled between two hills. Was rather charmed by its Santorini-like appearance.
– Asked again about lunch. Was told not possible, we can only drive through the town centre.
– Drove through the town centre. I do think the day-to-day Moroccan life can be rather… normal
– Back to Meknes medina in a jiffy. Time was about 2 p.m. So we paid 300 dirham for a 3-hour service. Bastard conman.
– The girls got distracted by some roast chicken and so we walked into a decidedly local eatery, much to the amusement and giggles of pack of girls
– Had the biggest chicken. Cannot finish it
– Back to the train station, and the famous Moroccan efficiency hit again. Train was late for an hour. Took the non-express train. Smelly toilet.
– Reached riad at 6 p.m., our hammams and massage were ready, so we hurried to dump our things for a spot of pamperment…
-…. only to realise I didn’t shower before my massage. I didn’t even have time to wash my feet. Utterly grossed out by myself. Otherwise, the session was delightful (though I would like to point out my blissfulness was punctuated by the gaily laughter from the wet girls next door at the hammam
– Ventured into Bartha town for dinner. Immediately got hustled by endless touts. Studiously ignored them until we turned around the corner leading to the medina
– To be greeted by a sight so delightful, we immediately settled down at a roadside cafe callled Thami’s. Great food at 1/3 of the price we usually paid. Immediately vowed not to eat at “palace” restaurant again

And with that my third day in Morocco drew to a sluggish end. The next day will be spent almost entirely on a seven hour train ride into Marrakech, and then a two hour taxi ride to the coastal town of Essaouria.

Hmmmm white Sudanese racing camels

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