Thursday, 6 March 2014

March 6th

We had breakfast in the open courtyard outside our rooms where the doctor’s event had been the previous evening.  We were presented with another huge basket of breads and pastries (far too much for three), plus a tagine which revealed a huge omelette making us realise that these cooking pots are very flexible.

Quite a hard ride, in fact!!
We then went to the main square where we had arranged to meet the chap from the previous night to take us around the imperial city by horse and rather splendid looking carriages.  We were accosted by various carriage drivers, but stuck to our guns and said we had already arranged for our ride and would wait for our driver.  He ended up being a no show so we went with someone else in the gaudiest carriage complete with net curtains and gold and silver tinsel.  I was delighted, but think Hanna may have been a tad embarrassed!

The room bordering the tomb
It turned out to be a great idea as the imperial city covered quite a big area and walking it ourselves would have taken ages and been quite boring.  We visited Sultan Moulay Ishmail’s tomb which we arrived at via various slightly decrepit high walled courtyards with very Moorish style tiles up to 2 metres high along the bottom of the walls.  The inner sanctum was beautifully decorated with columns from the Roman town of Volubilis, marble from Italy and local intricate plasterwork and tiles.  The doors were beautifully carved and painted and made from cedar from the Atlas mountains.

We then moved on to the granary stores and royal stables and a guide took us round.  We were shown round vast chambers with walls 4 metres thick to ensure a constant temperature of 16 degrees throughout the year.  The stables, which were roofless due to the great Lisbon earthquake in 1755, were vast and had once housed 1500 animals!

Mosque entrance for men in a neighbourhood
We were then dropped off at the edge of the Medina and another guide met us there and took us on a tour of the various areas – Arabic, Berber and Jewish.  It was really fascinating as he regaled us with lots of facts and figures and history, which I think we all found very interesting and relevant.  For example, we discovered that the 4 imperial cities are all associated with different colours – Red = Marrakech, Blue = Fez, Yellow = Rabat and Green = Meknes.  We also learned about the symbolism of the number of balls on the minarets.  You can get 3, 4 or 5 and the most literal interpretation tells you the size of the mosque.  However, 4 balls also symbolises the number of prophets, 5 balls  = the 5 balls pillars of Islam and 3 balls.........I can’t remember!

We also learned that each neighbourhood in the medina always has 5 important buildings – the mosque, the school, the bakery, the fountain and the hammam or bath house, and even our untutored eyes started to recognise when we had passed into a new neighbourhood.

Just exiting the metal working area.......
The tour was really amazing as we passed such a variety of stalls and areas – clothing, food, metal work with men welding with no regard for health and safety whatsoever, building materials, name it, we saw it!!

Of course, we didn’t escape our tour without the obligatory visit to a carpet shop which was located in a Berber co-operative.  The guy who showed us the carpets was a fantastic ambassador for Berber culture and so enthusiastic about tourists coming to the under-rated and under-visited Meknes.  The carpets were truly amazing, but so huge that much as I’d have liked quite a few of them, we just don’t have any more room at home.

Now, which one shall I choose...........?
Feeling a little jaded by this time, we fortified ourselves with a drink on a roof top terrace with delightful views over the squares.  We’re now back at our hotel enjoying some downtime before adventuring out tonight for dinner.  We’ve already checked out a place which has local trout on the menu so will go there and report back on it in our next posting.

No comments:

Post a Comment