May 29, 2017

Meknes and Volubilis Day Trip


We left Fez on an exceptionally sharp and cold October morning. We are going up the Rif Mountains on that day for Chefchaouen but planned as much stop along the way to stretch the drive. We rented a private car with driver and it was convenient for the exploration we had in mind and without worrying about our luggage.

After securing in advance our sleeper train tickets for Tangier to Marrakech at Gare de Fes, we went on our way.

Our first stop was the Imperial City of Meknes. Although smaller and quieter than its neighbor Fez, the city was built in an impressive Spanish-Moorish style surrounded by thick high walls and great doors.

Our driver dropped us off Heri es-Souani, the massive Royal Stables and although no longer functioning and some parts are in ruin because of a strong earthquake in the 18th century, you still get an idea of the building's past grandeur if only for its sheer size, giant vaults and cedar wood doors. The stables used to house 12,000 of the royal’s horses, plus a groom and a slave for each one. The structure is an important part of Morocco’s history and Sultan Moulay Ismail regarded it as one of his finest architectural projects.

Entrance fee: 10 MaD
Opening hours: 9 AM to 12 noon & 3-630 PM.

From there we proceeded to Bab al-Mansour, one of North Africa's finest examples of surviving gateways. The elaborate main gate is between Meknes' Medina and city districts. We sat at one of the tables in the square and had a leisurely snack of pizza and coffee just watching the going on about us.


 Not long after, our driver collected us and we continued to Volubilis, about an hour drive away. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site of a partly excavated ruin of a once mighty empire of Mauretania of the Romans. This Berber and Roman city dates back from the 3rd Century BC and feels very Spartacus in Central North Africa set on a vast olive field.

We explored and photographed every nook and cranny soaking in some history and Roman ghost vibes at midday. Good thing it's autumn and ushering in winter so there's less risk of heat stroke as there’s hardly any shade from the broken columns and marble archways.

After a lunch of meat sandwiches, individually wrapped little cakes and boxed juices that our riad in Fez packed for us under the olive trees, we piled back on the van. Slept almost the whole way through while we rolled up the mountains. Our driver woke us up just as we were entering the city that had us most excited about traveling in Morocco. 

Entrance fee: 20 MaD
Opening hours: 9 AM to 12 noon & 230 - 6 PM.

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