Roman Ruins in Volubilas and lots to see in Meknes – May 8, 2017
A three hour ride from Casablanca in our very spiffy 15 passenger van took us to Volubilas. It is an ancient town, initially inhabited by the Romans, 300-600 A.D. The ruins are amazing and many of the mosaics are still visible. There are stories to go with each of the mosaics, which I can’t recount, but our local guide regaled us with anecdotes. On top of one of the Corinthian columns was a nest with a stork feeding the babies. I think mom flew off to go grocery shopping, leaving dad to do the actual feeding. As we were leaving town, we saw a cell tower with a dozen more stork nests. Wish I could have had that shot!
The town itself has house upon house on two hills that resemble a two-humped camel. The surrounding orchards of olives and fields of wheat and corn are picturesque and shepherds with flocks of sheep or goats, dot the landscape. You could be in Tuscany or Mexico to feel the pastoral vibe. After, we had a meal at a restaurant overlooking more beautiful fields. It was a light meal, since we are going to a big show in Fes tonight, replete with magicians, belly dancers and more food than you can imagine. Now, we are on our way to Meknes. By the way, the weather has been spectacular.
The forty minute drive to Meknes was eye-opening. We drove to the old Jewish quarter, which had between 30,000 and 50,000 Jews in its prime. There were synagogues, schools and stores that sold kosher foods and meats. It is surrounded by a very high wall. Across the road is the new Jewish quarter. New is hyperbole, since it was probably built centuries ago. In 1948, after WWII, almost all Jews left for the new State of Israel or elsewhere. Now, there are a few hundred older Jews and the population is shrinking.
Next we went to the reservoir and attached huge storage rooms that held grain and other food commodities, just in case of a long term invasion and battle. The reservoir has potable water directly from the mountains for the city dwellers, but also was pumped into the adjacent stables that housed as many as 12,000 horses. The ancient design is amazing, in that the vaulted ceilings keep the interior temperature the same all year around. Above the vault was a flat roof, where gardens were planted. The roots of the plants stabilized the building, so there was minimal damage during the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. In the food storage rooms, the acoustics are so good that concerts are held there.
Next, we went to the Casbah, or fortress. It is being renovated now. Then, we drove around the wall of one of the many palaces for the king, should he want to visit. After all, he can’t stay at a Holiday Inn! These palace grounds comprise 40 hectares of land, allowing him to roam unimpeded. And there are full time staffs to make the palace ready no matter when he comes.
Now, we are off to Fes, for a short rest, shower, ATM visit and then tonight’s special entertainment.