Meknes - Funky Cold Medina

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Mar 04, 2006

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Monday, January 16, 2006

Meknes is only 200 or so clicks from Midelt, so we think we are in for an easy day. Dave is again at the wheel. Given Mike isn't insured on the official paperwork, we have relieved him of his duties.

We commence the drive towards the imperial city of Meknes, by seeing the stong cloud cover over the Middle Atlas mountains, and begin the climb. Soon enough we are in snow country once more. Slowly rising, slowly rising....

The local councils in Morocco (if there is such a thing] efficiently places grit on the road for tyre grip; as well as plowing the roads clear of snow. We are in the high plains here, and for some reason there are wild dogs everywhere by the road in their woolley coats, perhaps waiting for food. They look terribly sad, or are perhaps very good actors looking for a sympathetic traveller to fling a Pringles chip out the window. Kat is their kind of target audience.

Mike in his standard humourous Manchester tongue, refers to the constant idiot drivers as "Knob Rots".

The weather is appalling as we crawl along in the Corolla. Dave does a hell of a job in the conditions. Soon enough we pull into a town in the middle of nowhere and are instructed to stop. The road ahead is closed. Bugger.

A lack of French doesn't help the situation, but I establish that the road is snowed out for a while. We are all busting for the loo. Thank god I am a guy. I end up walking round a corner and stand on a snow covered mound of rubbish, peeing up against a wall. I remember a similar incident in India where I was stuck by the road standing on garbage while taking a pee. Goatgirl referred to it as "Mmmmm good times......" Remembering it makes me giggle as I write my name in the snow.

An hour or so later a snow plow comes through and the road again is cleared again. We are off.

The weather worsens. Streams are frozen beside the road. We are in virtual whiteout. Wild Monkeys sit huddled in the snow. The land itself is visually wonderful in these conditions, but at the other end of the scale, it is bloody terrifying to drive in. You are on the high plains of Morocco, and they are covered in feet of snow. And you are in a Moroccan Corolla with no chains.

Is this Africa? Is this Morocco? Tell anyone you are stuck in a blizzard and the last place they will think you are is a few hours from the Sahara. And to think that Kat and Dave only brought one jumper each to Morocco.

After a good long time of slow 20kph driving, we can speed up a little. The Middle Atlas mountains seem to go on forever. Our quick drive is turning out to be an eventful long haul. We finally being the decent, dropping out of the high plains and down into the lower lush green plains in the lead in to Meknes. Kat is nearly delirious because of a full bladder. I need to go again but can't find a suitable enough rubbish pile.

The best of the options for those on holiday is the Ibis. With no triples on offer, its out of my price range, so I haul ass up the hill and into town with my backpacks.

The Hotel Majestic ain't no Meknes Ibis. There is no heating. No TV. No wake up calls. I have a shower in my room, but no toilet, which is a share down the corridor. But its about a lazy 50 Oz dollars cheaper. Its the little differences that make up the canyon between holidaying and travelling.

Having lost the others for the night, I jump in a cab to quickly inspect the old part of town. Meknes is one of Morocco's 3 imperial cities, but the least important. Its Medina is smaller and less extravegant. Night is coming along quickly, as it begins to get darker. I made it to Bab el-Mansour, the city gates, which are allegedly magnificent, but appear just ok. Around the corner is the Tomb of Moulay Ismail, which is closed, but on the outside also appears just so so. The Great Mosque is hidden behind other buildings and markets and is off limits to non-Muslims. There is the stench of urine around the place as the local men seem to use every possible nook and cranny to pee in. There is slight drizzle and it is very chilly.

In the words of Tone Loc, it is a Funky, Cold Medina.

I did end up in the market area of old Meknes, which was an interesting labyrinth of alleys and arches. But it was impossible to stay long because of the chill in the air and the closing of shops for the night. I headed back to the new part of town, the Ville Nouvelle, and to the 1930's Majestic Hotel and its bitterly cold rooms, wondering if the extra fifty would have been a good investment.....
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