Today we are going to Muse about Volubilis and Meknes, a day trip from Fes. If this is your first visit, welcome to Musings. If you have been here before, welcome back. Over time we are going to talk about many things: the past, the present, perhaps the future, travel, art, society and more. Wherever my musing takes me. I hope you will come along with me.
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The Day Trip
One day while we were staying in Fes we hired a driver for a day trip to the ruins of Volubilis and then on to the Imperial City of Meknes. Both are close to Fes.
Volubilis was the western most African outpost of the Roman Empire. It is now a world heritage site, famous in part for the mosaic floors that have survived the ages.
While we were there we had the place pretty much to our selves. No crowds.
Moulay Idriss I, the great-grandchild of Hasan, who was the son of Fatimah and grandson of the Islāmic prophet, Muhammad, arrived in Volubilis in 789 bringing to Morocco the religion of Islam. While living in Volubilis, he founded the nearby town which bears his name, Moulay Idriss.
It is a holy shrine for believers. When I was a boy non-Moslems were not allowed to stay in the town after sunset, but I understand that has changed.
Jeanette and I spent an hour or two meandering through the ancient streets of Volubilis. She had turned her ankle so she sat out some of the walking.
Then we were off for Meknes.
People ask about the countryside. They expect Sahara desert, sand dunes and camels. They would be surprised. The area through which we traveled was all cultivated, green and well-kept.
Meknes is one of the four Imperial Cities of Morocco. The others are Rabat, Fes and Marrakech.
Only one Sultan made Meknes his capital, Moulay Ismail. He was one of the pivotal rulers in Moroccan history. Under his rule, the country was consolidated, the Arabs, Berbers, Jews, nomads and land tillers, into one nation. He extended his empire to include what is now Mauritania, present day Morocco and much of present day Algeria. His reign was long, 1672 to 1727 and he left Morocco as a power to be reckoned with.
A man of excess, he walked large. Moulay Ismaïl had a harem of 500 wives plus concubines and is alleged to have fathered a total of 867 children, including 525 sons and 342 daughters. He also built palaces, governmental buildings and military facilities.
Meknes is sometimes called the “Versailles of Morocco”, because of its extravagance. Moulay Ismaïl employed over 25,000 slaves in the construction.
We visited the granaries and stables. They were amazing, huge. 1000 slaves worked in the granary to support the 12,000 horses he kept in the adjoining stables. Another 1000 slaves worked in the stables.
Here you see Jeanette leaving the granary and moving into the sun lite stable area.
Originally the stables had a roof. In 1755 the roof was destroyed by the massive earthquake known as the Great Lisbon Earthquake. This earthquake created heavy damage in Portugal and south into Morocco, impacting Meknes. It also destroyed nearby Volubilis. The granary survived due to its massive walls and arched ceiling. The stables were heavily damaged and, since the crown had moved to Marrakech, they were never repaired.
One of the places we visited was the Batha Museum. This was an example of a royal residence. The building was the show. The only objects on display were utilitarian objects and examples of ancient and traditional dress.
After I took this photo, I was told I could only photograph the structure. Hmm!
The Islāmic tradition does not include sculpture or human or animal images. As a result painting is nearly nonexistent. Instead there is a great emphasis on geometric pattern as can be seen in the tile work seen almost everywhere.
The residence was wonderful with high ceilings, many decorated, enclosed courtyards and intimate gardens.
So there you have it, Volubilis and Meknes. At the end of the day we returned to Fes for our last evening before heading to Tangier.
I’ll tell you about Tangier later.
more to come
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