After visiting Morocco a few years ago I was glad to return. The south of Morocco from Marrakech over the Atlas Mountains to the sand dunes of the Sahara was still in my Memory as being one of the most enjoyable trips in recent years. This time we wanted to visit the other 3 royal cities of Morocco, namely Fes, Meknes and Rabat, with a small diversion to Casablanca where I wanted to see the famous Cafe “Rick’s” and spend some Relaxing days at the seaside n El Jadida , less known by tourists.
The Airport in Fes is about 15 km away from the city, and as we approach Fes, the streets become wider and the city lights sparkle through the night – a city with over 3 million inhabitants is awaiting for us.
How do we find our hotel without knowing where it is? But we do not even get around the city’s periphery as a motorcycle joins us with a “helpfull” guy that gives us signs to open the window. In every tourist guide are described these people who are waiting for you to come to your aid – accompanying you to the hotel in the hope of a tip. I do open the car window and ask: Hotel Jnan Palace – Suivez-moi … is he answering. But my husband is verry skeptikal … we will find the hotel without your help – … and drive the car directly in the opposite direction – to prove me that he does not trust him. And so we turn a few streets up and down until we still have to ask someone and end up late at the hotel entrance.
I do not know how to describe the Hotel Jnan Palace – the entrance is imposing – a palace gate, a huge yard with exotic plates and a beautifully decorated reception hall. Receptionist speaks English and so we get the key from the room and two employees accompany us to the room. But in the room – disappointment. The furniture is old, the bathroom with the rusty taps and the mold with the mold. The hotel built in the 80’s seems to have been renovated for many years. And above all we are in an area of the city where after sunset you no longer meet a man’s foot on the streets. But we go out on a small walk and look for an ATM and buy a bottle of water. In the countries of Africa (like almost all over the world) it is not recommended to drink tap water – often not even to wash your teeth! We find an ATM at the corner of the street and get some money with the maestro card without any problems. At a small kiosk I buy two bottles of water and I have to trust the seller because I still do not know the prices. But for two bottles we pay less than one euro – which seems to me OK and I go back to the room.The hotel is a luxury category (5 stars), which is why we are very disappointed and the very day of the very poor breakfast.
In Fes you do not need a guide to find the leather tanning area. You let yourself guided by the smell. If you go the same itinerary as we went, first you will get to an open-air hall where freshly skinned skin from the sheep gathers. These skins are loaded on the donkeys, and you only have to follow the steps of these donkeys that will surely lead you to the desired destination.
But be aware ! The view of this spectacle will blow you away for two reasons: firstly because of the archaic methods of processing and the intensity of colors, on the other hand, because of an indescribable groan.
We pass through the gate of the city – Bab Mansour admiring the azure mosaics of excellent quality. Marble columns taken from the Roman ruins of Volubilis (archaeological site about 30 km away) were used to build this gate that imposes you not only on its size – it is the largest gate in Morocco but also through watercolor sculptures like a lace made of stone. Moulay Ismail built this magnificent city with the help of about 30,000 slaves and the wall surrounding the 40-kilometer-long town is now almost complete. The covered markets of Meknes “souk” as they are called here are among the most beautiful and most original of the country. Craftsmen divided into specific areas presents their works of ceramics, fabrics, bronze and jewelers without aging.
We walk through the narrow streets, covered with rods among ambulance vendors, donkeys loaded with sacks and strong smells – a mixture of perfume, cardamom and sun-dried intestines. In the middle of the souk, it is well hidden (you have to ask that you will not find it) Medersa Bou Inania, a 14th-century Qur’an school that seems to us as an oasis of peace and relaxation.
At the exit of Souk to El Hedim Square, we visited Dar Jamai, a former palace of the sultan, now a Folk Art Museum. The entry costs only 10 dinars (about 1 EUR) to all museums. At the entrance to the palace I draw attention to a poster with a camera cut and below written “NO photo, please”. But here too, after a little tip (20 dinars) to the supervisor, we are not only alowed to take pictures of what we want, but he also invite us to sit on the sultan’s throne to take and picture of each other.
We leave Meknes with a smile on our lips and head towards Volubilis an archaeological site from the time of Septimius Severus Emperor Roman between 193-211. A forum, a triumphal arch, four public buildings and bathrooms, an aqueduct, two fountains, and a tanker sprang into an area of about 42 hectares. What makes this archaeological site worth visiting is the mosaic floor of rare beauty.
Unfortunately, all of them are exposed to the sun, wind and visitors can walk over them, which will make their conservation surely problematic – so hurry if you want to see them …