European Adventure 2010 travel blog

patricia's donkey ride

Patricia Anne and donkey

with azis the taxi driver

Volubilis Roman ruins

volubilis mosaics

onr of teh many grain storage areas

the stable area

Our guide Mahomid day 1 organised a taxi driver to take us to Volubilis (Roman ruins ) and on to We left at 9.30 and were back at 7pm. cost for the driver and taxi for the day 800dirham ($100) WE stopped on the way for any photo shots Patricia wanted, that needed more than shooting through the car window. One of the early ones was roadside vegie stalls. the attraction was donkeys. You can see from the photos that we enjoyed a ride. Getting on was trickier, no photos shown of that!

The area we went throguh included rich farming areas (mostly market gardens or olive groves), very hilly country, a beautiful aquamarine lake (which might have been the back end of a dam). Here and there were shepherds/cowherders watching over their animals, and frequently mules with loads.

Our first big stop was Volubilis the ruins of a Roman city. It was largely flattened by an earthquake in 1730, but some reconstruction done when the French took over Morocco as a protectorate from 1912 to 1940's.

A guide approached us, we rejected him figuring we could just have a quick walk around. Guide number two convinced us we wouldnt learn enough that we toook him on. He was right. The engineering works of water supply, underfloor heating via the heated water, the heating of the actual water heating, as there were no thermal springs, the sewerage system and more. We might have accidently come across some of the mosaics, but would never have known about the red light district or info on houses/larger villas, shops , commerce etc etc. we stayed over an hour, while Azis patiently waited.

Next stop was a roadside house/souveneir stall. the latter section was very dusty, but there were loads of fossils , rocks of many types, including gemstones, jewellery made from the stones, AND the fossils and lots of pottery.

After we'd bought a little, the young woman asked if wed like some tea. We said yes, and got our glasses of free Moroccan Whiskey (the traditional mint tea)

Meknes had a few, really intersting bits of architcecture beyond the always intersting and a bit different city walls, kings palaces and Mosques. The most fascinating was the old Royal granaries and stables. Some of the granary areas have been used for scenes for films such as Jewel of the Nile and The Passion. They are also used for large wedding celebrations. The acoustics in the enormous grain storage rooms was fantastic. Sound carried clearly from one end ot the other. When in use, the grain producers paid 10% of their crop in taxes to the king. He then took what he needed and redistributed the rest to the poor.

Though not as well preserved, the stables were spetacular. They were built to house 12,000 horses. Four were tethered to to each large rectangular pillar which were arranged so the guards could see diagonally down the columns. The water wheel and watering system were as ever ingenious and efficient.

we had a quick peek at one of the shopping streets. Visitors to Tocumwal will see more than a hint of the middle east. in roebourne Tocumwal and Fremantle might get a taste of Moroccan food, and certainly the moroccan whiskey. (we're writing this in Ireland and made some of our own today. not quite as good with limited resources, but not bad)

Another route back to Fez took us past vineyards. For the whole day we had Asis either driving or waiting patiently, able to speak fluent Arabic and French, and the two us, with only English. But somehow we mostly managed to communicate, though the most common excahnge was 'Bon?' and our 'Tres bein'. We had mentioned to Azis that we thought visiting Chefchouen would be good. (the towns name we managed to get across) he could do it, but body language and tone of voice suggested he didnt think it was a good idea, his preference was to take us to the Atlas Mountains (tres Bein) where we would also see cascades and lakes (similarity between the English and French words helped here) and no doubt some more places to shop

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