Whereas Monday was spent exploring Fes proper, Tuesday was spent venturing out, first to Volubilis, an extraordinarily well- preserved Roman Empire town, then to Meknes, a city of 750,000 inhabitants with several very well- preserved buildings from the reign of Moulay Ismail and a great souk (quite different from the one we'd visited on Monday). We capped off the day with a wonderful dinner to celebrate our 41st wedding anniversary.
We saw what had been an upscale house; the mosaic floors (original) are especially treasured.
This one is of Poseidon. It was not as impressive as the house we saw in Ephesus, although, to be fair, this one is exposed to the elements.
Then there was the basilica. This was not a religious building, but rather a public building that was mostly used for legal courts and business matters.
....one of the still-standing gates to the city...
Note that they brought this out after the regular dessert had been served!!!!!
Meknes features many well-preserved remnants from the 17th century reign of Moulay Ismail. According to Hisham, this King was quite a personality. He had many wives and concubines, and is alleged to have fathered a total of 867 children, including 525 sons and 342 daughters. Due to a disappointment and rivalry with France's Louis XIV (after he was refused Louis' daighter's hand in marriage), he ensured that the buildings he had constructed were every bit as grand-- if not grander, than those of his rival. We visited the granaries, which held up to 50 years' worth of surplus grain, the Royal Stables, which could hold up to 12,000 horses, and the Bab Mansour. gateway-- one of the finest and most notable in all of Morocco.
The walls were quite thick, to withstand any invading force, and replete with archways, which are considered a symbol of good luck.
Sadly, part of this site, as well as buildings in other parts of the country, were either destroyed or badly damaged during the Lisbon, Portugal Earthquake of 1755, which caused much destruction over a wide area.
Wayne had pasta pillows stuffed with langoustines and bathed in a light vodka sauce.
These actually tasted wayyyy better than they look in the pictures.
This course was delectable and , really, there was no need to continue. But, we persevered. We both had fish for our main course. I had sea bass avec epices marocains et legumes. Our server warned me that the spices would be strong; they were and the preparation was fantastic.
Wayne had grilled St Pierre on a bed of black risotto and wild rice. Also quite tasty.
It being our anniversary, we had to have dessert and these were worth the calories. I had une tarte limon differente--our server explained this would be the best (and most unusual) lemon tart of my entire life. Obviously, he wasn't aware of our complete eating diary, but his description wasn't far off. The lemon tart was served in a cookie " tube" topped by meringue and garnished with lemon zest. Memorably fantastique!
Wayne had a similarly configured pear tarte with salted caramel ice cream and salted caramel accent drizzle.
Once again, we rolled out of the restaurant and a very memorable 41st anniversary celebration.
This day was billed from the get-go as a driving day (our Sahara exploring and camping adventure is Thursday day and night and we have to drive across 8 hours of the kingdom to get there). We had multiple stops with different topography at each, ranging from Swiss alps terrain and a Swiss- type town (Ifrane, which, at over 3,500 ft elevation is usually snow-covered at this time of year)...
...to cedar forests (complete with North African macaque apes)...
...to the Ziz River (named for all the honey-producing bees who live here; we saw roadside stands where they were selling the honey in Coke bottles! No...we did not stop and buy any.), a tunnel built by the French during the Occupation, the Gorge Dades (the Grand Canyon of Morocco, which reminded us at times of the formations at Zion in Utah; the photo overlook where we stopped, combined with the position of the late-afternoon sun, does not really do justice to the vista).....
....and just as interesting and beautiful are the miles upon miles of date palms which run along the bottom of the canyon and provide much of the income for this region. That is why this is called "La Route du Mahjou"....
... and finally to our oasis for the night, the Kasbah Chergui in the town of Erfoud.
Thursdayit's off to the desert, which is actually what the word "Sahara" means!, so saying "The Sahara Desert" is redundant) Our camp there, while advertised as luxurious, does not have electricity. So, you'll hear from us next on Friday night or Saturday.
Notes: We have learned two additional Arabic words: wacha (with the "ch" pronounced as in "kreplach"....but we know that won't help some of our readers), which means "OK". So Hisham will explain what we are supposed to do and then say "Wacha?", to which we all reply "Wacha!". The other is "yellah", which means "Let's go everybody!".