Past Glory

Trip Start Jun 29, 2008
Trip End Nov 27, 2008

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day 2 of our trip saw us travel to Meknes in an incredibly slow crawl in a minibus that seemed destined to stop running at any stage, as it potted along spewing black smoke.  The driver, likely aware of the imminent death of his vehicle, drove at half the speed limit along the freeway (yep, 60kph in a 120kph zone), making the trip much longer than planned.  This minivan was meant to take us all the way to Marrakech.  It had arrived late, such that the previous day we had travelled in a coach, despite the fact our group was only 8 in number, with 4 Aussies and 4 New Zealanders.  It was fortunate we had a great group, able to joke in order to help pass the time.  We did finally make it to Meknes, Volubulis and subsequently Fez where we were to stay for 3 nights.  Thankfully, it was arranged for us to be joined by a new minivan the following day.
The Sultan Moulay Ismail, a man of excesses with a harem of 500 wives and concubines, was an admirer of Louis XIV and set about building an imperial city in Meknes to rival the Palace of Versailles.  He had Christian slaves and local tribesman labour for years on his palace complex, surrounded by massive defensive walls.  Following his death, his city fell into ruins, and it was these ruins, which have undergone 20th century restoration, which we visited in Meknes.
Volubulis, 30km North of Meknes, is the site of the most extensive Roman ruins in Morocco, from the time of the rule of Marcus Aurelius.  They were quite impressive in their extent and had some nice mosaic work in reasonable condition.  Once again, I was reminded of the level of civilisation achieved by the Romans at such a stage in history, with not only their grand architectural feats which have stood the test of time, but also evidence of their fresh water and waste management, with channelling systems for provision of fresh water to homes and a sewage system for the town.  Our guide pointed out a vomitorium, said to be used when they imbibed in too much wine, which I must admit I had not heard of before despite visiting many previous Roman sites, and many in our group doubted that was its use.  However, Ben, who has studied Roman history, informed me that it was common to have such an area to go to and purge when feasts were being enjoyed, in order to allow ongoing consumption.  Charming!!   Maybe not so civilised after all?
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