19.10 – Tuesday
Today we decided to explore the Jewish quarter of Fes, but first things first. Coffee. Soon after that things started being difficult. The map, the book and our navigation (or rather a lack of one) failed enough and so we gave up all the walking and exploring and decided to get the hell out of this city. We headed to the bus station to check connections to Meknes. 40 minutes later we were already packed, had plenty tickets in our pockets and were sitting on a slightly uncomfortable and shaky bus, ready to head off. The plan was to stay in Meknes for one night, go see the ruins tomorrow and come back to Fes, stay the night and on Thursday take a morning bus to Beni Mellal. It took the bus driver another 30 minutes to decide whether we were actually going anywhere, but that is the beauty of travelling around Morocco. It is a great skill to know exactly when to get on a bus. Not too early, to avoid all the sweating and muscle cramping, but also not too late – this one has very obvious reasons. Nevertheless one hour later we arrived in Ville Nouvelle of Meknes. After taking a petit taxi, 10 DH with the meter, we found ourselves on the Place el-Hedim in front of the famous Bab Mansour. Surprisingly no one was harassing us or trying to kidnap us while looking for accommodation. After a short search, we settled for a double room worth 120 DH a night and 5 precious Dirham to use their, lovely, extremely clean shower. The way to use it was simple: never take off your flip flops, don’t touch anything, especially the walls, close your eyes and wash yourself as fast as you can! Very easy.
After a short walk around the town two quick observation were coming to mind. Meknes seemed much more relaxed than Fes, but much more poor and also: the people in this country find very strange things amusing. I don’t think I will ever get use to the idea of snakes being just at my feet or a bunch of men gathering around two boys, who are pretending they can box. Don’t laugh, they take it really seriously. Not to mention camel and goat heads hanging just a half meter from my head, with their blurry dead eyes and tongues sticking out… Also, while walking through the souks, I kept thinking to shout to those poor chickens or rabbits: “Run you stupid animals! Don’t you realize what is going to happen to you?”
The medina didn’t impress. There wasn’t much too see. Well most of all we were disappointed, because we couldn’t find anywhere decent enough to sit down for a coffee and some food. My appetite was a bit disturbed by the hanging heads anyway. In the end we had a so called dinner in one of the so called restaurants on the Place e-Hedim. Harira wasn’t as impressive as I thought and my mint tea tasted like burnt water (I never thought such thing was even possible!). Turns out it is not so easy to put leaves in a glass and brew a tea from it, one can still mess it up. We are still hoping, that when we get to the mountains, local people will nicely surprise us and let us taste some of the REAL Moroccan cuisine.
Thanks to a friend that Rhys made by the cash mashine – Hicham (local wealthy gangster i think), we found the bus station, from where we would leave to Volubilis the next day. Since we didn’t feel like paying 250Dh for a grand taxi there and back, we decided to give Moulay Idriss a go (the closest town to the ruins) and then look for someone to share a taxi with when we get there.
Note: The more coffee we drink, the more disappointed I am. Maybe it is also because of that initial first drink in Chauen. It was incredible. Nothing like European coffee (no offence to lovely strong flat whites and creamy cappuccinos!). Anyway, a thought crossed my mind today. I believe Europeans should take a bit of inspiration from Moroccan habits and maybe swap some of their beer and vodka for a cup of mint tea or coffee. Here all the men seem to be enjoying themselves watching football in a non-boozy manner. Although it is a bit odd that for some of them it is all they seem to be doing in general. A Café filled with only grown up men sippind only sugary water with mint leaves, does seem a bit odd actually. Plus Rhys says my idea would never catch on, in general.