I’ll take you on a trip through the Atlas mountains, we’ll visit an ancient Roman city called Volubilis and spend the night in the old Medina of Fes, in a modern café with a group of Moroccan guys who will sing for us. This will also be the end of our trip to Morocco. In case you missed my previous posts, you can read about the beginning of my trip here and about how we started to explore the country and its people here.
Volubilis, a Roman flower in the heart of Morocco
“Only 31 kilometers from Meknes, stands Volubilis, an ancient Roman city, the best preserved one in Morocco.
“It was completely preserved until the Lisbon earthquake in the 18th century, the guide starts his story.
“Now, a lot of houses are destroyed but the remains clearly show the beauty of the ancient city.”
I’m watching the blue sky above and the amazing nature around me.
“Romans were very intelligent, they always knew how to find a perfect place for their cities, places with fresh water and air, fertile ground, animals to hunt…” the guide continued.
Imagination is an amazing gift. In a second, I get transported to ancient times. I see rich Roman ladies walking through this large boulevard, passing by the shops, talking and laughing. I can see the beauty and colorfulness of the Forum and the big temple, dedicated to their main Gods: Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. It seems amazing. The glory of Rome flashes right before my eyes.
We are walking further and every step we take shows us more and more treasure of the ancient city. Beautiful mosaics, pillars, boulevards, the Arc of Triumph.
“Just like the one in Paris, the guide added. And this boulevard you see is just like the Champs Elysees”, he finished.
I’m watching the Roman Arc of Triumph lined up by the Sun and I’m thinking how actually it seems like Paris. Today, under the most beautiful blue sky I have ever seen, this seems to me like the most precious gift Romans left to humanity. They surely knew how to make amazing things and how to make them last for centuries. They knew how to live their lives fully and how to enjoy every moment of it. Carpe diem, they used to say. Seize the day, make the best of it. It is something we really are doing here in Morocco. And we are doing it well.”
An unexpected turn of events
“The Atlas are a mountain range in the central part of Morocco. We hope they’ll be our oasis on this hot day. There is a cedar forest full of monkeys, so we are really looking forward to visit it. The day is so hot that we are barely able to walk under the burning Sun…The only solution to go to the Atlas is to take a collective taxi that goes to Azrou. Going by a collective taxi in Morocco means seven people stuck to each other inside an old Mercedes whose windows can’t open. I won’t mention the smell nor the temperature inside. Outside was 44 degrees, I guess at least 50 inside. We exchanged the looks, took a deep breath and said: “Let’s go”. During the trip, I swear, I was asking myself at least 100 times why I needed this in my life.
We finally arrived to Azrou, a small village under the Atlas. No trace of a forest, no monkeys either. Where to go now? Renting a new taxi would be too expensive, so a new idea occurred to us. Probably, it would never come to our minds but, few days before, in our riad in Meknes, we met a Hungarian guy who hitch-hiked through Morocco. He was assuring us it was a great experience and it wasn’t so dangerous as we thought. So, should we give it a try? One look and it was decided. Off we go…
After a short time, a car stopped. Old and dirty, it surely knew better times. A man inside smiled at us and said: “Jump in”, I can take you to Ifrane. At some point, he stopped in order to show us the national park and the great view that showed the Atlas, the old volcano and a beautiful nature. A seller from a shop that sells souvenirs started his story about the natural treasure of this region, showing us everything he had in the shop, but not pushing us to buy anything like everyone else did. In the end, we told him about our intention to write a guide and that we would like to put his little shop in it, as well. As a sign of his gratitude, he gave us presents. We were so touched by this. Getting a present from a man who probably did’t sell anything for days because there are not tourists anywhere in this region, really showed us the magnitude of a Moroccan heart.
We arrived to Ifrane. We couldn’t believe it. The city looked like somebody brought an European city here, it was incredibly clean, well taken care of and, by looking at the cars, houses, the prestigious University and the ski tracks, we were able to make a conclusion that probably the richest people of Morocco live here. What we also found out is that it is called Moroccan Switzerland. Now we understand why.
It was soon 19:30h, which meant we should find a car as soon as possible cause there will be no one in the streets. This time we decided to take a taxi, to pay much more than normally, but to arrive safely. We are adventurers, but the careful ones. One hitch-hike in the middle of the Atlas was enough. And it was one of the craziest things I have ever done in my life.”
The last night
“We are going to the cafe Barcelona, curious to hear Moroccan music. We definitely didn’t expect what came next. In the heart of the bustling medina, this place offers an absolutely unreal atmosphere. The owner of the cafe invited us to his table, where some guys, more or less of our age, were already sitting, and warmly welcomed us. And then, suddenly, the magic began. Two guitars were strolling from hand to hand, deft fingers were playing different melodies, accorded perfectly with the sound of other guitars. One guy was singing, the other one making the rhythm, the third one is playing, the fourth one is also making the rhythm and the fifth one is playing. They are so perfectly accorded so we can hardly believe they aren’t professional musicians but only friends who come here and play for fun. As if we had been transferred from the hectic medina full of lower class uneducated people where we are constantly being pulled by the sleeve and everybody wanted to cheat us, to this world ruled by music, laughter and friendship. I don’t understand Arabic, but the language of love and music is universal. They are singing a popular love song that sounds so nice and different from all the melodies we have heard here. We admire each song they play and sing, and we can’t believe they are so passionate about flamenco and Gipsy Kings. We started to talk to them. We’re mixing languages, a little bit of French, a little English, Spanish, but it doesn’t matter as long as we understand each other. Very friendly guys have made this evening amazing. They just want to spread a good image of their country. And they have so many things to be proud of.
I’m thinking about Morocco and I’m ashamed to admit, even to myself, that I came here full of prejudices. “Take care out there, take care where you’re going, with whom you talk, don’t go alone”, everybody told me. Everyone predicted so many bad things would happen, but no one ever prepared me for the good ones. That’s why I’m so amazed by everything, and each new moment seems unreal, like a scene from a movie that isn’t happening to me, but to someone else. I enjoy Morocco so much, I enjoy this country so full of contrasts. I’m only afraid it is all just a dream. Just let me enjoy this a little bit more, as tomorrow we have to go back to reality…”
In case you want to take a look of our Guide of Morocco, you can do it here. Unfortunately, it exists only in Spanish, but you can see at least how it looks 😉