I had been looking forward to Fez and it did not disappoint. It was as if we left the 21st century and all preconceived notions of urban design behind as we entered Fez’s Medina. Fez is often considered the world’s most well-preserved medieval city and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The souks are brimming with color and contrast. The ancient section is a maze of narrow streets filled with bazaars, shops, cafés, donkeys, and people. We were entranced by the vibrant display of age-old urban tradition, and the intensity of life bursting around every corner.Our riad is pure Moroccan design and hospitality. We are welcomed with mint tea, cookies, and the smiling face of owner, Abdullah.
Our guide, Aziz, arranged for us to have dinner with a local family. Idris owns a djalaba shop in the medina and he and his wife, Nadia, have five adult children, all of whom live with them. Even their married son and his wife are living there until they finish building their little home. Idris and Nadia are clearly very proud of their children. Two of their children joined us for dinner. Idris’s daughter very shyly explained that she doesn’t date (she is 22). She is working for a bank and her parents will decide when she may keep company with a man (of whom they approve). Their son (age 26) does have a girlfriend who lives in France, so they only see each other every few months. In some ways we are all so different, and in others we are the same. We love our children.
Volubilis Volubilis was a Roman settlement constructed on what was probably a Carthaginian city, dating from 3rd century BC. Volubilis was a central administrative city for this part of Roman Africa. Volubilis was also administering contacts with the Berber tribes which the Romans never managed to suppress, but who only came as far as to cooperate with the Romans for mutual benefits.
Unlike so many other Roman cities, Volubilis was not abandoned after the Romans lost their foothold in this part of Africa in the 3rd century. Even the Latin language survived for centuries, and as not replaced before the Arabs conquered North Africa in the late 7th century.
We were amazed by the condition of the mosaic floors in the complex given that they are over 2000 years old and have been exposed to the elements for centuries. And in the middle of this historic site, the pelicans have erected their giant nests precariously at the top of the pillars.
Much of the stonework that was removed from Volubilis was used to build the palace of Moulay Ismail in nearby Meknes. Below is a photo of the stables at the palace in Meknes.
Ismail’s famous stable housed 12,000 horses under a single roof supported by stone arches. An enormous granary adjoining the stable stored grain at controlled temperatures to enable both the horses and the residents to survive a long siege. It is difficult to convey the size of the stables, but when standing inside it appears as though the arches are three stories high and go on for hundreds of yards.