Magical Morocco 2011
May 6th – 16th, 2011
 


Tuesday, May 10th, Day 4: Tangier - Volubilis - Meknes - Fes


After breakfast, we will leave the great city of Tangier heading to the roman ruins in Volubilis: a very impressive setting selected by the UNESCO as a cultural heritage for humanity. On the way there we were again entranced by the beautiful landscape of colours and even made a stop to get a few photos. The Roman ruins of Volubilis are a striking sight, set in the ledge of a high plateau, some 33 kilometres north of Meknes. It is by far the most important Roman settlement in Morocco and the best preserved, having been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The scope of the ruins may well be familiar to you: it is the setting of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. the ancient Roman city that has some ofthe best mosaics in North Africa What you discover today will be a treasured memory of your Morocco tour. Oddly enough, many of the columns and much of the marble that you see in Meknes were looted from these ruins.

We found out that Volubilis means morning glory…I guess we should have known that! In its heyday it had over 20,000 people living here and it is at the exact opposite end of Hadrian’s Wall!

Omari decided that we just had to see another sight as well, that of the Les Greniers de Moulay Ismail. Wow, was that every impressive and we could not imagine what this might have looked like when it was a working stable and granary storage area. Huge, massive thick walls with tiny little windows and water channels under the floor that kept it cool and the air moving…unbelievable and built in the 1600’s, why unbelievable? Because they had 12,000 horses stabled here! Moulay Ismail regarded this as one of his finest projects.

We stopped for lunch in Meknes at the Le Ralais de Meknes before continuing our trip to visit the old medina of Meknes, the Ismalian capital and one of the oldest cities in Morocco. Called the “Moroccan Versailles”, its medina is on the Unesco world heritage list since 1996. You will love the nobility and style of Meknès! It is one of the most beautiful imperial cities in Morocco with its 25km of ramparts and its magnificent gates including Bab el Mansour, which was reconstructed in Paris in 1999 to celebrate the year of Morocco in France. You will also love the warmth of the population and atmosphere of the souks in the medina where everyday life is an exceptional spectacle, combining colours, fragrances and spicy aromas. There are also the palaces, including the splendid Jamaï Palace housing the museum of Moroccan Arts - Dar Jamai, like the Palais Jamaii in Fez, was built by the Jamai family of viziers in 1882. It was initially used as a family residence, before being converted into a military hospital in 1912 and finally becoming the Museum of Moroccan Art in 1920. The building itself is worth a visit to admire the gorgeous second-floor reception room and the intricate decoration with sculpted plaster and painted wood. The courtyard has a refreshing Andalusian Garden planted with palm, banana and lemon trees as well as cypresses and papyrus. The museum features regional crafts ranging from wrought iron work and wooden sculpture to weaving and metalwork. Some of the exhibits date back to the Moulay Ismail’s reign.

Our Hotel for the next 2 nights was the Palais Jamai Hotel, just recently rated by Travel and Leisure Magazine as the best hotel in Fes and one of the world’s top 500 hotels. Stay there and you will know why. Each of our rooms faced out onto 9th century, 14th century and 19th century Fes.

The Palais Jamai is positioned around a magnificent Andalusian garden of orange, lemon and palm trees, and medicinal herbs. Despite its location just steps from the hustle and bustle of the Medina, its marble fountains and terraces overlooking the city offer a tranquil sanctuary. Designed and built with great deference to Arab-Moorish style 1879 by the Jamai family and intended for escape, for pleasure to the eyes and peace for the soul. The palace was transformed into an hotel in the 1930's and has since been the host to a multitude of distinguished visitors to Fes. The most historic and famous hotel in Morocco, only rivaled by the Mamounia in Marrakech. An elegant nineteenth century palace set in wonderful Andalusian gardens overlooking the Medina. Sofitel Palais Jamaï preserves the authenticity of Fez, the spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco.

Dinner this evening was at Riad Fes. I am sorry my pictures are so dark because they do not do the food justice…listen to this. Traditional fassi soup with chick peas and lentils, a beautiful variety of traditional Moroccan fresh, marinated and simmered starters, Beldi chicken seasoned with lemon comfiture and safran de taliouine, lamb tossed in a smoked onion jam with baby roasted potatoes, and for desert, Briouates in honey of gharb. It was delicious and you will just have to trust me on that.



 

 

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