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Published: January 13th 2014
(publishing with pictures now)
Headed out early today for Fes but made of day of stops before getting there. Before we left Casablanca we drove to the Hassan II mosque which is reportedly the 3rd largest mosque in the world. Forty thousand people can get in there during prayer. Of course we found cats outside and had to have picture of them, too.
We also took a swing by Rick's Cafe. For those Bogey fans, you'll know what I'm talking about! 😊
Now we start our 2 hour drive north to Meknes. Meknes is one of the four Imperial cities founded in the 17th century. It's famous for the kasbah (fortress) around the city and it's mosque and shrine for the Sultan Moulay Ismail, who brought Meknes into great power. Many ambassadors from European countries were sent to Meknes for trade talks. His lineage is still in power today.
But he knew how to have fun on a grand scale. He reportedly had 500 concubines, 12,000 horses and 16,000 slaves from Niger and other surrounding countries. The Sultan offered them the comfort of slavery versus staying war torn countries so many came willingly. We visited the huge
granary which could hold grain to feed the city for 20 years in siege. This Sultan wanted all of Europe to know they should not mess with him. We also saw the stables for the 12,000 horses. Pretty cool!
Next stop on the road trip was the town of Volubills, the best preserved Roman city in Morocco from the 2nd century BCE. Yes , I got my geek on and went crazy. It is now a UNESCO site so it is now protected thankfully. The mosaic tiles on the floors of the homes are still in magnificent condition with bright colors. At it's peak it had a population of about 20k. They have the standard buildings found in any ancient Roman site, the public toliet, public laundry and public sauna-gymnaissium. This place also had a sewer cap, a man-hole to the underground sewer that I'd not seen before. The arch in the forum area was used as a model for the Arc d'Triomphe in Paris.
We drove on to Fes and went for dinner at a traditional Moroccan Restaurant with music, magicians and belly dancers. The food was incredibly good. I thought of my friend Lillian and how
much that would remind her of Morocco in Disney World. The restaurant was in the home of a former rich merchant or governor and made into the restaurant so the ambiance was incredible. We had three courses, with appetizer dishes ( I tried to eat the traditional way with my hands but just made a mess), a large pie stuffed with chicken, egg and almond with powered sugar on the top of the crust, and finally a dish of chicken and vegetables over couscous. Oh, least I forget the local tangerines for dessert with a glass of mint tea. I was sooo full but it was sooo good! Entertainment also included a show of a Berber wedding and some of our group got to participate in that and in some belly dancing.
We really enjoy the group we are with. There are only 13 of us so we all know each other's names and even some of our passions already. Like everybody knows Ernest is the photographer and I'm the cat person so they point out all the cats for me to see. We are enjoying this trip so much so far. Our guide is great teaching us Arabic
each day and accommodations have been very good.
As I expected there is much more traditional dress among the women here. But the people we've met have been remarkable and it has been a major experience for me to see the Islamic culture up close. Although we've been to Turkey, it is so much more prominent here at about 99% of the population Muslim. There faith is a beautiful thing in it's philosophy. Practices with the treatment of women is improving and women can own property now and hold it as their own even in marriage. but the opportunity to really understand their belief is what travel is all about and seeing we are not all that different.
Tomorrow is a long day shopping in Fes so have to rest up and get ready to spend money!
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