Day 89-90: Morocco, Meknes – Fes via Volubilis

RouteMeknes (Sidi Ali) – Fez, Morocco
Route Details
Overnight stop1. Camping Diamante Verte (closed)
33.9879, -5.01916
2. Fez Parking – Ain Zleten/Linae
34.065193, -4.983022
Overnight Costs1. MAD0
(services & maybe EHU, good 4G+)
2. MAD50
(water tap, toilet for casette disposal, good 4G+)
Diesel / litre MAD9.64 (£0.77)
Exchange rate 12.47

Right, so there’s a break in the weather, not much but the clouds are not menacing. So we pack up, check out of the campsite again (!!) and and dash over to Volubilis. But as we are driving the 12km up the road, the clouds suddenly close it again and are looking dark and menacing. Oh well, we’re here now, we may as well push on. As much as we’d really love to have photos in the sun for keepsakes, we have to keep reminding ourselves that it’s winter in Morocco despite the sunny days in between. AND, in addition, they get their rain in winter. AND we’re in the north where the weather is a bit more variable away from the influence of the desert. AND we’ll be coming back!

So here’s the background to Volubilis. It was literally the end of the Roman imperial road as it was the furtherest outpost from the empire. And here begins a link to Spain that we are now beginning understand a little more. The link between the Carthagians in North Africa and Catagena in Spain has always been clear but the link runs deeper and closer than we ever appreciated. You see it pop up more in future posts, so look out for it.

As you can see from the photo of the site from a distance, it is incredibly green and we have since learnt that it is the most fertile land in North Africa. In fact, in Roman times and times of Volubilis it was the centre of olive oil production and wheat exportation. Wow!

There is also a link to Lixus now. If you remember, Lixus (click here for that blog) was the centre of export of the animals for the gladiatorial games in Rome. In fact, animals like bears and elephants and more specifically, lions. were mostly captured in Volubis. Within 200 years, they had wiped out lions in the area. Crazy, hey? Now we understand where the inspiration for the mosaics found in Volubilis came from – not just scenes depicted from lands afar, but from what they saw around them every single day. This, after all, is Africa.

Finally, the rain came and we pushed on around the site for as long as we could, then ran for shelter in Kaya, shaking off the cold, wet rain from our faithful big coats.

We had been planning to visit a permaculture farm on the way to Fez but since talking to the manager, Ben, had found out that they were full so we skipped on to Fez. Passing through the outskirts of Meknes we stopped to do some shopping at the local Carrefour and set off on our way again. It was only a matter of minutes before we could smell the alluring scent of meat barbecued over a charcoal fire and Kaya, seemingly of her accord (hahahaha), came to an abrupt halt and tossed out onto the pavement.

Perhaps I need to explain that butchers that we see in Morocco are far different to the butchers we see at home. Here the fresh meat hangs on butchers hooks outside the shop for all the gaze on in awe, not a refrigerator in sight, as cars whiz up and down the busy dual carriageway puffing out carbon monoxide onto the meat.

But if you want bbq, you have to dispense with your 1st world ideas of cleanliness and food safety and go back to trusting your instincts. The shop inside where the meat was actually being cut was clean, the chairs inside occupied, a basin for handwashing discretely tucked around a corner and despite not understanding each other, we managed successfully to order a kilo of freshly cut lamb chops (although it was a close thing for me to chose between the lamb chops and the calves liver) and fillet steak on the bone to be sent outside to the chef to be cooked “a point” to a perfectly medium rare. The meat was accompanied by the usual bread, salt & cumin and this time a bowl of zaalouk (an aubergine dip) for dipping and flavour. Rounded off with a hot glass of the ubiquitous mint tea that we never tire of. Just HEAVENLY!

Then we were back on the road heading for our stop in Fez. We arrived at Diamante Verte, a full hotel and campsite with bungalows, restaurant, beautifully clean and presented ablutions ….and all closed! But we had heard that they allowed motorhomes to stop for free for the night in the guarded carpark, so we did.

We can’t imagine the reason why there has been some dispute, running so deep, that they have been entirely shut down. What a waste of fabulous facilities on the outskirts of Fez. They deserve to be open.

One day, perhaps, Inshah Allah. Why, I feel positively local!

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