Sunday, April 15, 2012

Morocco Part 2

Next up, we reached the Volubilis site.  Oddly enough, this was the first time I had ever seen Roman ruins in person and I was in the middle of Morocco!  Who would have thought?  From afar, it didn’t seem that big, but walking through I realized that it was actually huge.  We spent an hour walking through the city and we didn’t even cover everything. 

I was amazed at how well preserved the site was.  Unlike Rome where a modern city has grown over the ancient ruins to replace them, the site of the Roman ruins in Morocco has been fairly untouched.  Walking through the city I really felt transported back in time.  Here is the main street. 

At the end there was a huge gate, what would have been one of the main entrances into the city.  It was absolutely massive and still essentially intact.  Now that’s what I call good engineering!  That has a lot to do with why I’m so obsessed with the ancient Romans.

It’s not too difficult to imagine what the street would have been like in its prime with arches all along it.

And like every Roman city, this one had a forum.

Here we are sitting on the steps.  One of the ancient Emperors could have once stood exactly where we were sitting!!!

Walking through the site, it’s easy to identify where the walls to buildings were.  Sometimes the walls were still high enough to feel like you’re walking into someone’s bedroom.  Here, for example, you can still see the mosaic floor tiles.

There were so many different mosaics throughout the city.  I didn’t think that the Romans really used mosaics that frequently but I suppose that they are simply evidence of adding a Moroccan flair to the Roman style.  The city also contained public baths.  Here we are lounging in them.

And here’s a trench bathroom.  Even with all their great engineering, the ancient Romans didn’t have flushing toilets.  But alas, you can still sit on them and feel like you’re taking part in the lifestyle of ancient Rome!

And for someone a bit more wealthy, a private bathtub, completely covered in mosaics.

And here I am just chillin’, like standing in the ruins of a city that’s part of my favorite ancient civilization is really no big deal (I was secretly…okay not so secretly…freaking out inside).

Our final site of the day was the royal city of Meknes.  Just outside the gates there was a huge lake.

The gate itself was actually really cool too.

Inside, we visited the ancient granaries and former stables.  These are apparently well known throughout Morocco but as I know very little about the history of Morocco, I wasn’t familiar with them.  They are apparently important.

We walked around Meknes a bit and had lunch there, but basically a medina is a medina.  There are so subtle differences, but for the most part they are pretty similar.  The architecture throughout seems pretty uniform to Western eyes.  For example, the Moroccan style of arches can be found everywhere as shown in this picture. 

On our drive back into Fez, we stopped by the royal palace at Fez.  Fez isn’t the capital, but as a royal city they house a royal palace where the royal family can sometimes go on vacation.

For our last day, we decided to try out the traditional Arabic bath called a “hammam.”  Hammams can be found throughout the Arab world and traditionally they are public baths, separated by gender, but in essence very similar to the ancient Roman public baths.  In the Arab world, however, they are still very popular.  Multiple generations will often go together to help scrub and clean each other before important events such as weddings.  The cool thing about Moroccan cities is that the idea of a “hammam” has been Westernized into a kind of Arabic spa in the Nouvelle Villes.  Two of our fellow female travelers at the riad recommended a place called Nausikaa Spa so we figured we would try it out. 

It turned out to be absolutely amazing.  We paid the equivalent of about $28 for a complete spa treatment.  We started out in the sauna relaxing and hanging out.  They give you a special oil soap to use to start out with.  Then we got a complete head to toe rose scented mud exfoliating scrub.  The dead skin was rolling off of me in these nasty brown beads.  I felt like I was being erased and all the eraser bits were rolling off my skin only the eraser bits were all my dead skin.  After she finished scrubbing me off and rinsing me I felt so relaxed and clean.  My skin was so soft and rejuvenated.  After rinsing off with the special soap, spending a little more time in the sauna and a quick dip in the cold water Jacuzzi, I was wishing that I had paid the extra $15 for a half-hour massage.  Honestly, I have no idea why I didn’t.  Next time I go to Morocco, I am definitely getting the massage.  I mean, it was so cheap compared to what you would pay for something equivalent in the U.S.!  On this trip we’re going to Budapest and one of the things Topdeck recommends to try out on the free day is to try out the traditional Arabic hammams.  I think that I’m definitely going to go again and to try to convince as many other people to go with me as possible! 

It would have been easy to spend all day there, but alas, we still had a few other things we wanted to try and see.  We looked for a museum that my guidebook recommended and ended up stopping in a hotel next door that had the same name.  Apparently the museum was closed, but the guy at the front desk invited us to look around the hotel.  It turned out to be gorgeous.

The central courtyard

A ceiling in one of the lounges

A traditional decorated wooden ceiling

Traditional plaster decorations on a wall

More mosaic work on a wall

Finally, the last thing on our list was to get henna!  We wondered around the medina till we found a place.  We didn’t have much time since we had to get to the airport, so unfortunately we had to rush the lady doing the designs but it still looked pretty cool!  We also didn’t get to leave the henna on our skin for as long as you’re supposed to since we had to pack up and get to the airport but it still lasted for a couple weeks! 

All in all, Morocco ended up being a great trip!  The only thing that I wish had been different is that I had been able to communicate with the locals more easily.  It was always obvious that I was a Westerner and I felt like I could never break past the barrier of tourist and host.  The next time I go to Morocco, I want to go to one of the beaches and possibly stay in the Nouvelle Ville rather than inside the medina.  Staying in the medina was great for my first time in Morocco, and it’s cheaper than staying in the Nouvelle Ville, but all the hustle and bustle is very exhausting, especially travelling as a pair of women.  Men would always be calling out to us and trying to sell us stuff, even if we ignored them.  I’m sure the beaches like Casablanca are beautiful.  Alas, I’ll have to go back someday. 

I hope you can understand why this post took me so long to write.  I had almost 200 photos to sort through and typed up in Microsoft Word these two posts together took up 8.5 pages!  I spend a lot of time selecting the best photos to upload and resizing them for webpages.  I’m so sorry for the delay but I hope it was satisfactory!  Let me know what you think in the comments :).

Anywho, that’s it for Morocco!  There’s plenty more to come!

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha... you said "one of the ancient Emperors could have stood on this very spot." I said the exact same thing when we toured Mount Vernon last weekend... I said, "George Washington could have walked this very path." Like mother, like daughter! Love you!