Yesterday I left off at Meknes and from there the following morning we took a quick trip out to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, one of the most famous in North Africa, circa 28 AD. It was a pretty impressive site and some of the mosaics, columns, and arches were remarkably well preserved. In fact, they almost looked real enough to make a guy believe in Romans.
After that it was onto the famous city of Fes, where the medina at Fes El-Bali (Old Town) is a baffling jumble of narrow winding “streets”, even smaller alleys, and vendors selling everything from leather slippers to pig’s heads. Heavily burdened donkeys are the only thing passing for traffic. Upon entering through the impressive Bab Bou Jeloud gate we were swarmed by so-called guides anxious to show us the sights (ie their buddy’s shop), practice their English (in their buddy’s shop) or, my personal favourite, keep the other guides from bothering us. Somewhat akin to becoming a prison bitch for protection purposes.
Anyway, Fes’s medina is famously confusing but, as you may have guessed, we opted to go it alone. Despite being armed with both a map and a sense of direction that has allowed me to find the bathroom in the middle of the night 75 percent of the time, we still ended up getting lost a couple times each day. One of our favourite shops was the one selling women’s panties, thousands of variations, tended by 3 leering teenage boys who looked more than willing to recommend size and style.
As for our room, well, Morocco heralds the return to squat toilets for us, something we’ve truly missed, as you might have guessed. It took me a couple tries to get back into proper crouching form, but so far I’ve only managed to piss on my leg once, which I’d call a moderate success. Our room is also conveniently located both in the thick of the medina and right next to the toilet, which is shared by all 9 rooms. We’re close enough, in fact, to make a fairly educated guess as to the level of fibre in our fellow guest’s diets. Talk about soothing sounds to fall asleep to.
The type of clothing worn here seems to be in a state of flux from traditional to modern. On men you see everything from jeans to business suits to traditional djellabahs. These are the traditional prayer robes that fall nearly to the ground and have a tall pointy hood. Maybe a more specific image would be to picture the KKK with just a dash of colour. As for the women, almost all the older women cover their heads and 90 percent of women in general wear long, shapeless caftans (their version of the men’s djellabah). It doesn’t take long to get so used to them that my first reflex is to join in with the nudging, grinning, and staring any time a woman in pants and a jacket comes along.
In terms of negatives, really all that comes to mind is the fact that whenever the work “kasbah” is mentioned Laynni immediately bursts into her own uniquely off-key rendition of “Rock the Kasbah”. It wouldn’t be so bad if a) she knew more than those 3 words, or b) it wasn’t accompanied by a disturbingly robotic strut that I can only assume is intended to pass for dancing.
Well, that about does it for today. Tonight we regretfully bid adieu to Fes, taking a 10-hour overnight bus to the Saharan desert town of Merzouga for some camels and camping. As the internet may be hit or miss out there we could be out of touch for a few days.
Talk to you then.
LL – Reminding me of my Volubilis comment
LL – The KKK comparison
LL – Rock the Kasbah – boy that dance sucks