Meknes, Morocco

Meknes, Morocco

There are few things that I enjoy as much as traveling by train through a strange land. Riding a train is like listening to a story; A young Woman struggles with her water jar, a child in the back of a moving truck with is dog, men resting in the shade from digging a irrigation canal, a group of people working in a field, the rich grassland outside of a small village….all these stories are played out in my mind as the train moves deeper into Morocco.

Meknes (7) (Custom)

Meknes (8) (Custom)

The $12 train ride ends with us in Meknes a city built by Berbers (the indigenous people of North Africa) in the 8th Century. The low earth colored city is build around and in, the ancient walled city. Walking into one of the nine grand gates of the city we are immediately lost in a maze of pathways and thousand year old paved roads. This is a living museum, with homes 1000 years old, bakeries that veiled covered mothers wait in line at. Dead-end after dead-end eventually requires us to ask (in gestures) for help from two young girls. They try to speak to us in Arabic and French but eventually just motioned us to follow them. They lead us on a confusing path through tunnels dug into the defensive walls and narrow walkways that leads us to the center of the city. We had hoped to escape the city (being overwhelmed by being so lost) but we try to explore the intimidating giant courtyard.

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Meknes (10) (Custom)

The center of the city is filled with stalls selling radio batteries, olives, camel feet, long robes, Barbie dolls and juices. The food market alternates from beautiful displays of fruit, to motorized contraptions that automatically de-feathers chickens, to heavenly fragrances of flowers, to powerful smells of old goats heads for sale. Feeling our senses assaulted and the shadows deepening, we retreat to our hotel for the night.

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Meknes (11) (Custom)

Twenty miles outside the city of Meknes is an important but rarely visited ancient city (300 BC) of Volubilis. It sits at the foothills of the Atlas Mountain range and was a critical part in the Roman expansion into Africa. Long ago I saw photos of Meknes from a fellow adventurer and have always wanted to visit. For $35 we hired a 1983 Mercedes tank and a driver for half the day to drive us out to the ruins.

Meknes (1) (Custom)

Meknes (2) (Custom)

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Like most important Roman cities, Volubilis had fountains of fresh water, paved roads, sewer systems, drainage grates (carved from stone), schools, heated public bath houses and a thriving market.

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Meknes (14) (Custom)

The rich lived in large multi-story homes with hydraulic powered fountains and amazing mosaics, complete with grand reception solarium. One of the neat things about Volubilis, is that most the mosaics are still intact…still there…baking in the sun. Much of the stone has been slowly taken over the years by Berber tribes to build their homes but the city is still visible to the mind.

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We really enjoy ruins and both talked about imaging the inhabitants going about their lives in such a wonderful “modern” city. Below are a few more snaps.

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  1. #1 by Tanya Melendez-Dance on October 23, 2010 - 10:14 pm

    Hi Tamara, how are you? What have you been up to? I asked your mom and she gave me your site. Fill me in. Talk to you soon.


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