05.05.2015 - 14.05.2015 35 °C
Today was one of those days that was so full that my head is swelling. I am sipping a large glass of red wine and eating olives while sitting in a (formerly) opulent hotel in a small village in the middle of rural Morocco after a day with a car rental that didn't work out, a tannery tour by a local guy, a tour of an ancient ruin and arriving in a town with no hotel reservation, no internet, no guide book and signs only in Arabic at 8 o'clock at night. With that said, there was no melting down, whining, or vomit and generally happy children (and parents) all day. It was definitely an epic day in a really wonderful way.
We started the day with a hike to the tannery in the ancient medina of Fes. The Medina is a maze of tiny streets enclosed by a massive wall where time has not touched for hundreds of years. The Medina is likely over a thousand years old and when you enter, you give up all hope of ever finding your way back without help. I hesitate to call it pedestrian only, as it is used by people, carts, donkeys, horses, the occasional motorcycle, giggling children, women buying produce and lots of happy cats and some eating chicken heads. You never really know what is around each corner. The alleyways are very tiny and we even saw some that were only tall enough for Kaito to walk through and they even had little mini doors which I can't even guess where they would lead to. You could imagine coming face to face with a character from Game of Thrones at any minute. It was busy, but not so busy that you couldn't stop for a pleasant chat en Francais, do some shopping or have a really strong espresso. You might find a man making wooden buckets by hand or chiseling a marble tablet, a few boys kicking around a football, horses carting 10-20 propane tanks, men hauling in bags of cement and hauling out construction waste or a cart full of fresh herbs. Considering all of this, the doors and doorways are ornately carved and painted and everything was surprisingly clean. Not at all like the slushy alleyways in Varanasi, India or the dirty streets of Asia.
One of the loveliest things about traveling is being open to local folks taking you to their shop, to see a great view and to show you around. We met an 'unofficial' guide, Bushkar, who took us to see some breathtaking views and later offered to show us the tanneries. I was a little nervous about going to the tanneries on my own with just the kids but as it turned out, our guide was from the area and waved or shook hands with most of the locals as we floated through the streets.
In the meantime, Dave was arguing with the car rental company that agreed to rent us a car and then today said that they didn't have one available. So, Dave was tasked with finding a rental car and at 'day of' prices. Like a champ, Dave found us another rental - yay! Driving out of the old city felt like time travel as we drove out of the 9th century and into the 21st century.
We piled into the car to drive to the ancient ruins of Volubilis. We were unable to find a map in anything other than Arabic so we were on our own with our phone gps. Before long, we missed a turn and had to drive out of the way along a rural country road through olive orchards where we saw several sheppards, yes real sheppards watching their flocks of sheep. In fact, we later saw many herds of sheep and even camels being watched by their sheperds. Time stands still once again.
The city of Volubilis was built by the Romans over 2500 years ago and housed about 20,000 people. The limestone used for building was taken from a nearby mountain and transported by horse and wagon. The area is famous for olives and we learned how they made olive oil 2000 years ago. The ornate mozaic tile floors were still mostly intact and only slightly faced. There were pictures of Zeus fighting with two snakes and killing a lion as well as Hercules and many other roman characters. We learned that the Romans raised money to build the Coliseum in Rome by charging to use the toilets in Volubilis and that they later housed the lions for faught at the Coloseum. It was all very cool.
We ended this very full day with an overnight stop in a town called Azrou and were very lucky to find a room and a large glass of wine.