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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Morocco: Moulay Idriss

Travel Dates 3rd-5th July 2013 

The inexpensive 30 dirhams first class ride on the train from Fes to Meknes was pleasant, passing through interesting but unspectacular scenic landscapes and several small villages en-route.

On arrival in Meknes I could only find one grand taxi at the station. He was aware of the bargaining power that gave him and demanded 150 dirhams for the 20km ride to Moulay Idriss. I declined and decided to have lunch at the café near the station.

While eating lunch I saw a clear example of the more relaxed attitude
of the Moroccans to displays of affection compared to some other Islamic nations. With the recent change in Qantas transfer hubs from Singapore to Dubai the law against public displays of affection in the United Arab Emirates, including cases where visitors have been jailed for kissing their spouse, were in the news before my trip. In the public square in front of the Meknes station I saw a young girl run up to her boyfriend, meeting him off the train, and give him a steamy kiss that would have done Hollywood proud while they tried to merge fully clothed bodies. Apart from myself nobody gave them a passing glance.

My grand taxi driver was still waiting hopefully at the station. We agreed on 130 dirhams. Not much of a discount, but better than none. I discovered the real purpose for seat belts in his cab. They are to prevent the seats flying through the windscreen when the driver puts the brakes on. Although some grand taxis had rear seat belts, all of the clips had disappeared under the seats.

Later the return journey cost 10 dirhams, although I was squashed in with four other passengers plus the driver on that trip. That was when I discovered the grand taxi rank is near the other, minor, Meknes Al Amir station. It would have been cheaper to take a Petit taxi to that station first. Why they wait there, at the minor station the express does not stop at, I have no idea.

I booked at Diyar Timnay through Booking.com. It was more a guest house than a hotel, but it was clean, air-conditioned, with working wi-fi, pleasant enough and very cheap. Once again everything was on a slope. Down forty-odd steps from the street to the accommodation entrance, up twenty-odd steps to reception (if it was attended, up two more flights to the restaurant if not) and up another flight to the room. 

I became pretty fit in Morocco. 

I enjoyed my two days in Moulay Idriss. It was much more relaxed than Fes. Fes is not overcrowded by tourists but in Moulay Idriss, apart from the side trip to Volubilis, I was the only tourist I saw during my stay. There may have been other tourists, but our paths did not cross. When I was not walking up and down stairs or slopes I relaxed over coffee and watched the locals wander by.

As a lone outsider I was an object of curiosity wherever I went, but unlike other countries I have visited where tourists stand out, such as Egypt, India and Thailand I was not constantly hassled by children or adults pushing souvenirs and trinkets, demands for baksheesh or by beggars. Only once did a salesman approach after I had already inspected hats he was selling. I didn't mind that because I actually wanted the hat and waiting for him to make the first price offer was the best way to start the bidding. 

Being conscious of watchful eyes I was careful to try not to offend carelessly, such as eating with my left hand or similar gaffes. It is a small, dusty town with a central shops district. All built up and down slopes, of course. 

Possibly I was there in the off season but it may have had more to do with a lack of promotion of the town or nearby Volubilis by the Moroccan tourist authorities. More on that in the next post on Volubilis. There are several restaurants. I had the tastiest and tenderest beef tagine of my trip in one of those for dinner on my first night. 

I strolled, well, more like climbed and descended up and down the old medina a few times. 

It was similar to Fes, but smaller and less densely populated.

Part of the medina was out of bounds to non-Islamic visitors, as this section is reputed to be the resting place of Moulay Idriss I, great grand-son of The Prophet Mohammed. He founded the town in the eighth century and also commenced construction of Fes which was later continued by Moulay Idriss II, his son.

No need for translation.
The mosque and surrounds are considered one of the holiest sites in Islam, thus the ban on infidel visitors. The sign and this barrier made it very clear.

The medina had some wonderful old buildings and appeared to be cleaner with less litter or graffiti than Fes. Apart from watching my footing for cobblestones and irregular pavements I also had to watch for the leavings of the medina taxis and listen for 'a-ten-see-on!' from the mule-drivers. I didn't get lost in this smaller medina but spent quite a long time wandering the alleys. 

I also spent a couple of hours wandering the 'new' town, although most of the buildings were no longer very new.

Volubilis in the distance from Moulay Idriss
The third floor restaurant of Diyar Timnay had marvellous views. Before I visited Volubilis on my second morning, I noticed a man on the building next door chipping away with a hammer at the top of the bricks on the wall surrounding his flat roof-top. The first picture was taken the previous evening.

Within half an hour he had started to lay bricks on top of that, aided by a child who passed bricks and mortar to him as needed. 

By the time I returned in the afternoon he had completed most of a 1.5m (5') height extension to the wall and provided his home with a roofless extra storey. It looked pretty fragile, but it was still up when I left.

The locals were neither friendly nor unfriendly. Although I was obviously noticed they seemed to accept my intrusion on their lives as normal. None approached me to offer hospitality, nor did any appear to object to my presence. The only harsh words I heard were from a man who mistakenly thought I was about to enter the forbidden area, but he was profusely apologetic when he realised I was not.

I mentioned earlier that old mercedes go to Morocco to die after decades more service as Grand Taxis. This is the Grand Taxi rank outside my guest house at sunset.

Cheers, Alan

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