Visit the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis. Visit Moulay Idris, one of the holiest cities in Morocco. Lunch at the imperial city Meknes.
26.07.2016 - 26.07.2016 44 °C
Hotel - The Riad Fes - upgrade to The Ambassador's Suite
We both had a great night's sleep in the peaceful, perfumed environment that is La Villa Mandarine. In fact, we love it so much, we are thinking of telling Abdou to leave us here and come back in 10 days to collect us! Only joking. There is so much more of this amazing country to experience.
We are off to Fes today, with a few stops on the way. It is supposed to be 41 degrees in Fes today, but that is to be expected as we are heading inland. At least it's dry heat and not humid.
We had a few places to visit in Rabat before we left. The first stop was Chellah or Sala Colonia, a medieval fortified necropolis. It has existed since pre-Christian times and is the most ancient settlement on the mouth of the Bou Regreg River. Chellah was a centre of Christianity since the second century. Sala remained linked to the Roman Empire even after the withdrawal of Roman Legions in the fourth century. The site was eventually abandoned in 1154 AD and the Almohad dynasty used the ghost town as a cemetery.
In the mid 14th century, Sultan Abu I-Hasan built monuments and a main gate. Additions later included a mosque and royal tombs. The 1755 Lisbon earthquake destroyed many of the structures and today, the site has been converted to a garden and tourist venue.
Then we visited the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. It contains the tombs of the Moroccan king and his two sons, late King Hassan Ii and Prince Abdullah. The building is considered a masterpiece of modern Alaouite dynasty architecture, with its white silhoutte, topped by a typical green tiled roof, green being the colour of Islam. Hassan II was buried there in 1999.
All the ladies visiting the Mausoleum were quite taken with this cute guard, especially his eyes. He saw me zooming in on his face and gave me a huge wink!
As we were leaving Rabat, we passed the area again where the Royal Family live. I counted 36 policemen and Army guards along the road, and that was just the front. There would be dozens more down the side roads and the back. Keeps them gainfully employed I guess. Also, everywhere we look we see police with radar guns and they are always pulling someone over for speeding.
The countryside is now becoming very dry and barren looking and it is getting very hot - I mean very hot. It's about 44 but feels like 64!
We arrived in Meknes and drove inside the Imperial City. Moulay Ismail ruled Morocco for 55 years until his death in 1727. Tens of thousands, mainly Christian slaves kidnapped from European villages as far north as Iceland by Moroccan pirates, worked and died to complete more than 50 palaces, the 20 gates and a city wall 45 km long.
Among the most impressive elements of the imperial city is the grand gate named after its architect, El Mansour, a Christian renegade who converted to Islam. The gate was completed five years after Moulay Ismal's death in 1732. However, the story goes that Moulay Ismail inspected the gate, asking El-Mansur if he could do better. El-Mansur answered yes which made the sultan so furious, he had him executed. But, according to historical records, the gate was finished AFTER Moulay Ismail's death.
Imagine parking a Winnebago right in front of the gate! We had to ask them to move it so we could take a shot.
We drove around the corner and visited the old royal stables. In their hey day, the stables housed 12,000 horses! Hard to imagine, but the area was huge and I took some great shots.
We went to lunch in quite a nice restaurant but we were the only ones in there. Very funny. We shared a lamb tagine and cous cous and it was nice. At the end of our meal, we had some lovely sweet ginger and mint tea. It was gorgeous. Then eight Chinese girls arrived just as we were finishing our lunch.
We then drove to Moulay Idris, one of the holiest cities in Morocco. It sits astride two green hills in a cradle of mountains about five kilometres from Volubilis. Pilgrims used to flock there because it is named for Moulay Idress, a great grandson on the Prophet Mohammed. His tomb is in the centre of the town. Until the mid 20th century, it was closed to non-Muslims but that has long disappeared and all visitors are welcome.
Next stop the 2000 year old Roman ruins of Volubilis. Those Romans are everywhere. The Roman Empire certainly must have been something to see. It is 3.00 pm and it is BOILING! These ruins are too good to miss, so off we treked. IT IS HOT AND WE ARE DYING. There were only about eight other people at the ruins, so most of our photos don't include people. We were there for about an hour, but I could hardly wait to get back to the car. Everything is wet. Even my hair is dripping! This can't be good for our bodies.
The drive to Fes took an hour along a windy, mountain road. The colours of these hills are just amazing.
It took me all that time to recover from the heat in Volubilis. Our Riad in Fes in inside the old town, so Abdou had to park outside the wall and we walked in.
I am so glad we decided to pack down and just take our carry-on bags. It makes life a lot easier. This Riad is nice too, in it's own way but nothing like our Rabat one. Actually. the Riad in Rabat was a home, owned by a French family and when the parents died, the children decided to turn it into a going concern.
The Fes Riad was once five huge houses that were joined together. It has the beautiful perfume permeating all through the corridors and rooms. It is only two stories high, but has tiled steps going everywhere.
We were greeted with a lovely cool drink and a snack and then we were shown to our room on the first floor. It was very unique but it didn't have a bath so Phil rang Reception and we were upgraded to the Ambassador's Suite, with a bath, 20 foot ceilings, a very huge bedroom and a corridor leading to our bathroom. We can lock off the outside door to the entry to our area and keep it private, which is good, because the curtains are a bit see-through!
After settling in, we went for a swim. The water was actually cold. Don't know why, because it is 44 degrees. Maybe our bodies were so hot that it made the water feel cold.
We dressed for dinner and again, were the only ones in the restaurant. What is going on. Ah yes, we were there at 8.30 pm and as we were leaving at 10pm, the other guests start to arrive. I had Bass Fish and Phil had a lamb tagine and we were naughty tonight and had a dessert.
We are here for two nights which will be nice. We went up on the roof after dinner for a look over Fes at night and all we could hear were 100 different calls to prayer. What a noise. We caught a tiny two person lift to the roof and it was so claustrophobic that it reminded me of the pokey lift in Kuching that I was very glad to get out of. I was reminding Phil of that when the lift arrived at the second floor, AND THE DOOR WOULDN'T OPEN! OMG! Mild panic set in and then Tarzan Phil pulled the doors open with his bare hands. I was so relieved. Needless to say, I took the stairs back down to our room.