Ruins and History in Morocco – Meknes and Volubilis

May 6th, 2008 at 7:06 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Sunday went as planned. After an early breakfast we were loaded onto the buses we had been using for the past couple of days, along with our luggage, and taken to the Moroccan city of Meknez (also spelled Meknes), which was about a two and a half hour bus ride.

Meknes was originally built by Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismael in the 18th century in an effort to create a place that would be analogous to Versailles. Meknes’ building consumed huge resources, with stones and materials taken from other Moroccan cities for its buildings.

Nowadays, Meknes is just another Moroccan city, albeit one with a rich history. Much of the original Meknes no longer exists, as it had been built with wood, but we visited the granaries and stables, as well as several gates and the mausoleum of Moulay Ismael. The granaries were rather impressive in terms of their size, but only the corner stone columns of the stables remain, so other than the sheer size of the stables (which could hold over a thousand horses), there was not much left to see. The mausoleum also serves as a place of prayer, and we were privileged to be allowed in to see it (after taking off our shoes).

As time was limited, because we needed to get to the ship Sunday evening, we didn’t see much else of Meknes other than a couple of gates into the old medina before heading to the ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis, about 30 minutes away. I am not sure if Meknes was just not meeting expectations based on the comparison made to Versailles or rather because our whole visit felt abbreviated and rushed due to time constraints. Not sure we’ll ever find out.

Along the way to Volubilis, we passed the city of Moulay Idriss, which contains the mosque of Moulay Idriss, an Islamic holy place. The city was originally listed as part of the tour, but again due to time limitations we merely drove by after a short stop some distance away to take pictures of the city.

Volubilis was far more extensive than we had expected, and apparently archeologists have been slowly reconstructing parts of the city, including some walls and columns. We had a tour provided by a local guide who was a bit difficult to understand, but we did spend about 90 minutes walking around with him and our fellow bus travelers. Again, we could have easily spent more time exploring other parts of the ruins, but we needed to get to our prearranged lunch at the Hotel Volubilis, up on a hill overlooking the ruins.

Bas stands in the ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis in Morocco
Bas stands in the ruins of the Roman city of Volubilis in Morocco

The view at lunch was great, but service was slow, and again, due to time pressures, we had to rush out as the servers were trying to serve us traditional mint tea at the end of our meal (with no dessert apparently).

It was a long three and a half hour bus ride back to Casablanca where we finally saw our ship, Lindblad’s National Geographic Endeavour – our home for the next eight days. It was a real relief, as we had visions of spending the rest of our tour on tour buses, as we had the last several days – I think we had more bus time than time out of the bus, which was not exactly our idea of the sort of expedition we thought we had signed up for.

Once we entered the ship, we were whisked off to our cabins – understandably smaller than a typical hotel room, but comfortable. We then headed up to the lounge for a glass of champagne, some snacks, and our ship safety drill, followed by an orientation and buffet dinner. Along the way we unpacked our bags completely for the first time in two weeks.

Jake, Krystyana, and Linda during the safety drill on Lindblad's National Geographic Endeavour
Jake, Krystyana, and Linda during the safety drill on Lindblad's National Geographic Endeavour

Our first night’s sleep on board was not as restful as we would have liked, as we needed to acclimate to being on a moving ship, including the rocking motion, the rumbling of the engines, and the resulting creaking in our cabin. But again, it was good to know we were sitting put with our clothes in one place for a while (for the record, our second night was much more restful).

 

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