Meknes - Volubilis - Chefchaouen

Our next stop was Meknes, the second of the royal cities. From the Northern Gate we walked to the shrine of Moulay Ismaïl who turned Meknes into an Imperial City in the 17th century. The city is smaller than Rabat but has a lovely feel about it.

Not far from there is the World Heritage Listed archeological site of Volubilis. This ancient city dates back to the 3rd century BC and is said to have been the capital of Mauritania which was annexed by the Roman emperor Claudius in 45 AD. Next to Pompeii, Volubilis contains the most interesting display of former Roman life. Unfortunately most of the ancient columns and walls collapsed during the Lisbon quake, but has partly been re-erected. 

Intact mosaic floors, a spa, the ingenious roman underfloor heating systems and much much more can be found at Volubilis. A very knowledgable and witty guide kept us amused with stories of the life in this ancient city. And it seems that the Romans always had the well known phallus fascination! What this stone was advertising, I dare not take a punt on.

Before our visit to the third royal city, Fes, we took a detour to the “Blue City” called Chefchaouen ( pronounced chef- shoe- in), which was a particular dream of mine. To get there we crossed a wide fertile plain. The plain was full of olive groves and fruit trees with soft rises and isolated dwellings. The landscape had a lot of similarity with Tuscani in Italy. The Moroccans eat a lot of olives. They are used in tajines and served deliciously marinated as an aperitif. No complaints from us there!

Eventually we ascended from the plain and the blue city, cradled between two peaks of the Rif mountain range, revealed itself. 

The city with it’s whitewashed and blue coloured houses was created by Andalusian refugees who fled from the inquisition. The Chefchaouens lovingly keep up with tradition and are busy whitewashing and re-painting their houses all year round. We also admired their fitness as cars can only go so far, and then everything has to be carried up the steep alleys and steps. Luckily our suitcases were carried up by the staff of the Riad we stayed in. Below left is the entrance of the Riad and further down on the right a glimpse of the inside.

© Austin Robinson 2019