Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Meknes Trip

A large full floor mosaic in one of the buildings.

Nudity in Morocco, how refreshing.
\ Me at the top of the hill, over looking the whole city

A view of the Arc of Triomph

Team Meknes: Linda, Donna, Alex, Henry, Emily, Sean, and Ed

After my 2 week post pre-service training in Azrou I had to head home though a city called Meknes. Some of my fellow volunteers were traveling there to sightsee so I thought I would join them seeing as Meknes was on my list of Moroccan destinations.
We stopped off at a hotel that someone had found in the Lonely Planet travel guide which cost 90 Dh (12 dollars) for a night, each person. You know you are in Peace Corps (and that you’re cheap) when you cringe at having to spend 90 Dh per night on a less than perfect hotel. I wasn’t going to put up a fight because I just wanted to have a safe place to leave my luggage.

We were in search of a way to get to the Roman ruins that Meknes is famous for. Between Ed’s Lonely Planet guide and the receptionist at the desk speaking Darija/French we found out how to get to the taxi stand where we would find a ride to the ruins. Well we walked away with somewhat of an idea, the rest we just figured out on the way. That’s the trend here in Morocco, don’t ever expect to understand things completely.

We found a taxi driver that agreed to drive us out to the ruins (30k north), wait for us for 2 hours, then drive us back. The small problem was, our group was seven people strong and taxis, by law, are only allowed six passengers. Two too many if you ask me, but hey no one really ever asks me!

If he wouldn’t take all seven of us we would have had to split up into two taxis and it would have cost us each a lot more money. Three of the members of my travel group had learned Berber languages in training, so they were not able to communicate with the taxi driver. Me, being forced into a leadership role, out of sheer necessity, took the challenge without even thinking twice. I tried my best to negotiate a good price with the man and explained that we were volunteers who just really wanted to see these ruins. After a few minor miscommunications and a few minutes of sweet talking I had secured us seven spots crammed in a taxi.

The seventh person sitting on the laps of everyone in the backseat agreed to duck when we passed police checkpoints. There were at least 3 both ways. The seventh person just looked like a piece of baggage on someone’s lap so we got past without a hitch.

The drive to the ruins was a beautiful one. The countryside was so lush and green and Donna, a native of England, claimed the landscape reminded her of home. We drove up into the mountains a small bit and arrived at the ruins about 30 minutes later.

Volubilis was an ancient Roman city dating back to the 3rd century BC. It was an essential Roman administrative city in North Africa, responsible for grain production and exports to Rome. It also was responsible for communication between the Romans and the Berber tribes of Morocco.

Volubilis survived after Rome lost it’s grip on this part of North Africa in 3rd century AD. The Latin language survived too, until the domination of the Arabs in 7th century AD.

People continued to live there for 1000 years until the city was demolished to use the materials to build the Islamic city of Moulay Idriss 4 kilometers away. If not for this demolition Volubilis could have become one of the best preserved Roman cites in the world. Some of the best treasures gained from excavations have been moved to a museum near the royal palace in Rabat.

But there is lots left to see including strong sturdy columns and mosaics still standing in their original spots.