May 1st ~ Explore Volubilis & Meknes, Overland to Fez
After breakfast, we drive inland toward Fez. We know ahead of time that it is going to be a long day on the road. One of the many benefits of traveling with a small group, is that there are plenty of extra seats on the bus which allows us to spread out and be comfortable.
Our morning bathroom stop gave me a “first time” experience. Several tour busses had arrived at the large petrol station (aka coffee shop/convenience store) at the same time. As seems to be typical, the line for the lady’s room was winding down the hallway. I was nearing the entrance when a large, stern looking grandma type grabbed me by the arm and quite authoritatively wrestled me inside the mens room, motioning for several of the other ladies in line to follow her.
I tried to protest, explaining I was glad to wait, but she wasn’t taking no for an answer…
There were three stalls along one wall as well as a bank of urinals on my right. I again tried to back out, averting my eyes, but NO, she insisted that I take the last stall. Well, much to everyone’s surprise, it was occupied. I’m sure the poor man standing inside that stall (no door) was not very amused.
Anyway, the other two stalls had doors, and the very puzzled faces on the men as they exited and I quickly entered and rapidly locked the door behind me was almost worth the embarrassment. And of course, once inside, the door was rattled every 10 seconds or less. I rapidly emptied my bladder, tried to suppress my giggles, washed my hands and fled.
Oh, by the way, my husband was just one of the many men from our bus who pretended they did not know me when they came face to face with me when I had been escorted in.
But as they say, “when in Rome”…
Another surprise I had this morning was how green the rolling hills were. This is very fertile and lush farm land where we pass by vineyards, olive groves, and fields where prickly pear, agave, sunflowers, lentils and other beans are grown.
Stopping to take a quick photo of a village built on the side of a hill, Tim and I crossed the road where we were approached by three local children who eagerly greeted us as their cow quietly looked on.
Along the way, we stopped to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Volubilis, the once-bustling city and African administrative center of the Roman Empire. The site also has vestiges of the Berber civilization that took the city from Rome in AD 270.
Volubilis is named after this local flower.
A private local guide escorts us through the ruins, spouting dates, facts and figures along the way. The late morning sun is getting rather hot, but thankfully a strong breeze helps keep us from melting.
You can click on any picture below for a larger size version.
And one more of the wild flowers in all their splendor.
We continue to Meknes and view the Bab Mansour gate, beautifully patterned with zellij mosaics.
But it was the marketplace just across the street that captured our attention. How I love wandering through. They are always colorful, fragrant (sometimes even in a good way), loud and lively.
Arriving in Fez around 5:00, we unload the bus for a brief walk through the narrow streets to get to our Riad for our dinner and overnight. First of all, I must admit my ignorance. I had no idea what a Riad was.
“The Riad is the Moroccan traditional house, normally with two or more storeys around an Andalusian-style courtyard that contained a fountain. Riads were the stately city homes of the wealthiest citizens such as merchants and courtiers.” ~ Wikipedia
Wow, what a treat!
We were blown away by the amazing courtyard which was where we enjoyed a welcomed glass of mint tea as well as our dinner later in the evening. The tile work was exquisite. I never did hear an exact date, but I believe this was mostly original from the 18th century.
Keys were placed on a table where every couple was allowed to choose one. It really was the “luck of the draw” as every room in a private home is unique in size, location and decor. The keys were only labeled with names, no numbers that might give away its location.
Each of us then came forward with their chosen key, where we were then escorted with our luggage to discover what room we had selected. It was rather like a fun room lottery system.
Well, Tim is usually my lucky charm and managed to choose the key to the best room in the home! It was on the main floor (so no stairs to climb), had two firm beds, a huge divan sofa, and delightful furnishings. But of course it was the stunning architectural detailing that made it so unforgettable. Oh, and did I mention it had a huge bathroom complete with an enormous bathtub.
Overnight: Riad Salam Fes, Fez – La Perle De La Medina
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Tonight I feel like a princess, staying in such an elaborate room. The mosaic workmanship is stunning and takes my breath away. What a privilege to step back in time and experience how the wealthy lived in this Riad. It is now 4:50 the following morning as I complete this write-up and I can hear the local call to prayer somewhere in the distance. Oh how I love all that we are learning and experiencing. What a lucky woman I am!