Sunday, January 11, 2015

Another day trip from Fes

After enjoying the first day trip out of Fes so much, it was decided that we should take another day trip to see some more of the surrounding towns. After organising another guide with the staff at our riad, we were all set to see some more of Morocco. What I loved so much about having a guide is that I didn't have to really think about all the places I wanted to go. Our second guide knew where we had gone on the first day trip, so already had a full day of new sights planned for us to see! All we knew at the start of the day was that we were going to visit the city of Meknes, but throughout the day we stopped off at so many interesting places.

Barrage Sidi Chahed

Our first stop was a big dam which I believe is called Barrage Sidi Chahed. Our guide explained to us the history which was very interesting at the time, but I have since forgotten! It was something to do with a king who built it because Morocco didn't have enough water. Aren't I awful, not even knowing the history of a place! Well, it was a very pretty sight anyway, and there were also a few little roadside stalls selling fruit, nuts, and lots of big butternut squashes.


Ah those pesky Romans were everywhere! It was a surprise seeing Volubilis, as I wasn't expecting to see any Roman Ruins on our trip. We only had an hour to see it before we had to move onto the next place. If I went back again, I would definitely want 2 hours, because it took about 10 minutes just to walk to the site from the car park and the entire site is 42 hectares! 

Entry is free to the site, and if you want a "guide" there are loads of them waiting at the entrance. However, I don't know how much they actually would know about the site and how much they would make up for a good story! I said no to a guide, because I just wanted to wander around and see what I saw, not be pulled along by someone else. In a nice turn of events though, the security guard keeping an eye on everyone walking around showed me a few of the key things I would have ended up missing. Volubilis is actually one of the most interesting Roman ruins I have visited, and I have managed to see my fair share when travelling around Europe. Even just the UK has hundreds of Roman sites and ruins. There was so much to see at Volubilis, including many beautiful well preserved mosaics. I will go into more detail about Volubilis in another post because it was so interesting and everything I want to write about won't fit into this post!

Moulay Idriss

Moulay Idriss is one of the holiest towns in Morocco, and until 2005 non-muslims were not allowed to stay overnight in it. As were driving to Moulay Idriss, I saw it slowly emerge and the guide pointed out how because it is set over two hills, it looks very much like a camel. We stopped here for a morning tea break, and sat down to watch the comings and goings of the town. After finishing, we walked around the town for a bit to explore. Along the way I bought a fossil necklace from one of the slightly pushy sellers, but I didn't find I was pestered to buy goods from too many people. Or maybe I had just got used to the busyness of Fes... We walked past the mosque, which of course as non-muslims we weren't allowed in, and continued down one of the streets. We weren't actually trying to find anything in particular, and just wanted to wander down the streets, but there was no shortage of guides latching on to us to try and lead us to some place which was apparently only "10 minutes away". After getting sick of trying to get rid of "guides" and failing to find anything of interest, we headed back to the car. We had to get back anyway to move on to the next place. I feel like maybe I could have completely missed what there is to see in Moulay Idriss, but for me it didn't stand out as one of my favourite places I saw


Before getting to Meknes, we stopped at a viewing point to see Meknes from a distance and then moved on to see the Royal Stables just outside Meknes. The entry fee was fairly cheap and because we didn't know where we were - our guide hadn't really told us, just dropped us off at a door and told us to go in - we said yes to the guy inside who offered to show us around. He took us through and into the stables. He explained that there used to be 16 000 of the kings horses kept here and took us through various dark rooms with high arched ceilings, explaining them briefly. Once he showed us around inside, he took us outside to the partly ruined section of the stables. 

It was pretty amazing. There were rows and rows of perfectly aligned arches which led off in all directions. The guide told me to stand under a specific arch, where I could see through the arches not only backwards and forwards, but also through the arches in four other directions. Once we finished we paid him for being our guide, and I was actually glad to have a guide this time because without him I wouldn't have even known what the place was!

After leaving, we moved onto our last stop of the day which was the center of Meknes. Our guide dropped us at a restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner. The restaurant had a high terrace and overlooked the old Meknes prison. There are holes in the top, which were apparently where family members of the prisoners would lower down food for them. Prisons weren't as accommodating in the bad old days! Lunch was good, and afterwards we moved on to look at the rest of Meknes. We had a look at the mosque and the beautiful mosaics which are just near it outside. That's a picture of them at the top of this post. Then we had a quick look at the shops across the road. One of the shops sells iron and silver items such as little animal figures and bowls. The man showed us how he makes it which was interesting, but we felt very obliged to buy something once he had spent time showing and explaining to us. It was a bit annoying because I couldn't just look around freely and even when we left after one of us purchased something, he wanted us to put money into the pocket of a big kangaroo statue out the front!

We moved on to the town square next, called El Hedim Square. There were vendors in the square selling all sorts, from almonds to balloons and pictures of monkeys dressed in football jerseys. Unfortunately, the animals on "show" didn't look very happy. The monkeys were outside a cage, but chained to it so I could only imagine how they are kept at home. The snake the man was "charming" wasn't moving at all, so I don't know if it was actually alive, or he was really smart and bought a very good imitation fake snake! I didn't support any of the people with animals, so hopefully if every other tourist follows suit they will realise that putting animals on show cruelly will not make them money. Aside from the animals though, the square was very interesting. We sat back in one of the cafes on the edge of the square with a mint tea and watched the sun set over the old walls. Meknes was so much better than I expected, and watching the sunset in the town square with live music was a great end to the day, and one which made me really feel like I was in Morocco.

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