Casablanca was an in your face introduction to Morocco as we were just staying overnight before heading to Fez the next day.
the mayhem and filth on the streets after the vibrance of Madrid was an initial culture shock so after a quiet night in we braced ourselves for what ever comes next.
We met a couple from Israel, originally from England and family connections to Australia, and they had already been in Morocco for a week or so, so we decided to join them for dinner for an interesting night talking travels etc. They were on their way to Fes also, but were independently driving, and we were glad it was them and not us, from what we had seen earlier. We had a fun night and exchanged cards to maybe keep in touch by email etc and they invited us to visit them in Israel one day.
Our tour the next day started at the Mosque of Hassan II, and it was huge , it can hold up top 25,000 people and at Ramadan it has Moslems come from everywhere to attend prayers and over 250,000 pack into the grounds. It is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. We had an interesting tour and it is beautiful but give me the Blue Mosque in Istanbul any day for a more meaningful experience.
Our drive around Casablanca showed us that there was some nice architecture and a stop at the old Law courts gave us a reminiscent of the Andalucian architecture in Spain that gave us the spur to see Morocco.
We arrived in Fez late in the afternoon after taking a tour around the Old Medina and its walls and Kasbars looking out over the valleys and hills and settled into the sumptuous Riad Fez.
It’s wickedly ornate internal courtyard was like a palace and when got to our massive suite with its black and silver theme we felt like we were transported into another world.
We were also granted access to roof tops to look out over The Medina and apart from the Mosque domes and minarets it was the satellite dishes that caught the eye, absolutely everywhere. They call them white roof flowers.
The next morning,Our guide picked us up at 9.30 and off we went to discover this mysterious land but first stop was a small but very interesting museum to give us a feel for the Berber/Arabic/Andalusia culture and history that makes up Morocco. And then it was head first into the Souks where you are thrust head first into men, carts and Donkeys and even a rider on a horse charging through the narrow lanes with full loads on a mission.
We witnessed cloth dying, metal merchants, silk weaving, foods of all descriptions and some that defy description, spices, herbs, it was simply mind boggling what went on and how many people work in those small spaces
Lunch was at a very nice restaurant in the Medina around a lovely courtyard and we were served what we discovered was the standard fare of salads, pastinne, tagine and creamy filo desert and not sure if this was the fateful meal or not.
Back out into another part of the souk and we visited a carpet co-op in an amazing Riad which saw us walk out with one, it is simply beautiful but totally unexpected, we then bought a leather poof at the leather tanners and watched the tanning vats at work, smelly but amazing to see all the different colors
Another purchase inside an old caravansary where we watch the silk weavers and walked out with a silk bedspread and matching scarf.
Inside the Medina we visited some very interesting sights that we needed a guide to know about , madrasa , caravansary ,Pachas houses, entry ways to mosques and student quarters and pottery/ ceramic mosaic tile works to watch the skills at work.
We have enjoyed the visual spectacle of Fes and its surrounds, but there has been a lot of travelling on the roads,more than we expected. We have a guide and a very good driver , so we feel safe in the car and it’s wonderful to have the guide with you in the crowded markets etc, but we have decided that we are not tour people, even if we are the only ones on the tour, just having to be ready at certain times etc and there is not much down time.The place just goes on forever but after around 5 hrs it was time for a break as we had another dinner to go it in our package tonight.That night we were collected for the winding walk to supposedly the finest restaurant in Fez which was in another stunning Riad belonging to an old Mayor of Fez many centuries ago. They had all the right ingredients including the fez spinning musicians and they delivered a stunning fish pastities and all the usual suspects for the tourists but not what we would call the best, our lunch was better.
A funny thing happened when we arrived and noticed our name on the table and the table next to us the name of the lovely English/ Isreali couple we had dinner with in Casablanca 2 nights earlier so we had another good night of Travel chat.
The next morning, John woke with the gurgles and tummy troubles. Few siting sessions it was obvious that there was more to come, luckily it held off so that we cold enjoy the sights and sensations of the ancient 2nd century BC Roman city of Volubilis. It now lay ruins due equally to imperial pillaging for the palaces in Fez, Meknes and far away Marrakesh and then an earthquake in the 17th century finished it off. Luckily there has been Archeologists working there non stop for over 50 years and are slowly piecing it back together. So far they have unearthed about 30% of it and it has some of the best most colorful mosaics we have ever seen. The streets, forum, temples, sewerage and water systems are all evident and the best piece by far is the Triumphant Arch dedicated to Octavious before he declared himself Emperor Augustus and later Emperor Caracalla for bestowing citizenship status on the residents.
The Via Appia with its underground drainage system and it’s colonnaded covered side walkways was clear and must have been a sight to see.
The city sits above a very fertile valley still growing the olive trees, wheat and Barley the Romans planted over 2,000 years ago. we had a great local guide who educated us very well on every fine detail which was great.
Next stop was Meknes for a dodgy lunch which did not help John’s condition but he held out to visit the massive grain storage buildings and wells that remain at a constant temp all year round. Next to this are the ruins of a huge Stable complex where the Berber King
Housed his famous 2,000 Arabian horses.
we visited a lovely small Medrasa in Meknes before hitting the road for Rabat.
after a very uncomfortable night spent mostly in the bathroom John woke felling he had turned the corner