Saturday, March 5, 2016

Exploring the Ancient Ruins of Volubilis

After a not-so-great day the previous day, we were excited to meet up with Melissa (an Olmsted Scholar in Mike's class studying in Rabat) and her husband Ryan in Meknes.  It's easy and cheap (I think we paid 6USD) to take the train from Fes to Meknes and it made more sense to do that than to have Melissa and Ryan come pick us up and then drive us to Meknes.  We left the dar with about an hour to spare even though the train station was only ten minutes away since we had to catch a taxi to the train station and that involved getting out of the medina and hailing a taxi. 

I'm glad we left so much time because hailing a taxi proved to be quite difficult.  We stood out like sore thumbs once again with our pale skin and tons of luggage, so we were an easy target for hagglers.  As soon as we got out of the medina, we found the taxi stand.  There were tons of people around  and we were approached by a man who said he would give us a ride in his taxi.  Sounds great, right?  Not when his "taxi" was a sketchy white van.  I'm not even sure if that van would have made it to the train station, but there was no way I was getting in the back where there were curtains and a couch in the back.  Nope. Nope. Nope. We had been warned about random people who want to give you a ride and will charge you exorbitant amounts of money and had been told only to take a red taxi, which are the official taxis of the city.  We stood on the street fending off the sketchy white taxi driver while trying to hail a red taxi for about ten minutes until a boy offered to help us (he was probably eleven and the teacher in me wanted to ask why he wasn't in school, but I had to focus on the priorities at the moment).  He had a taxi for us in a matter of minutes and even helped us with our bags.  Mike went to tip him and he was extremely grateful.  He was so cute!) Meanwhile, the other taxi driver wouldn't leave us alone and kept telling us he would give us a better deal and  old lady who was begging behind us and had been acting handicapped had no problem jumping up quickly and begging for money when she saw Mike pull out his wallet.  It was quite the scene.  I was glad to be in the taxi.

Once we got to the train station, it was extremely easy to buy train tickets and find our train. Sidenote: the taxi ride to the train station was only 10 Durhams (1USD) so I'm pretty sure the sketchy cab driver couldn't have given us a better deal, but I digress.  The train was pretty uneventful and quick, except for the bathroom.  I went to go use the bathroom and realized that the toilet was just a hole that dropped everything onto the train tracks.  Welp, that's something you don't see every day. 

We met Ryan and Melissa at the train station in Meknes, jumped in their car and headed up to Volubilis.  Melissa knew of their great dar that had a roof top restaurant and had checked to make sure they were going to be serving lunch.  We enjoyed a true Moroccan lunch while catching up with the Dombrocks and hearing all about their adventures.  We kept laughing at how many similarities (both good and bad) there are between Morocco and Turkey!  

We ordered two of the lunch combinations which came with lots of little appetizers in the small tajines.  So yummy and pretty!

After a delicious lunch, we couldn't help but take in the views from the roof top.

After lunch, we walked through the little town to get to the car.  Since it was lunch time, we really got a feel for the hustle and bustle of the town, which always adds a little character!

I think this is the entrance to the mosque.  We aren't allowed in most mosques because we aren't Muslim, but we always try to get a look from the outside since they're usually beautiful!

After our walk through the town, we jumped back in the car and headed to the ruins.  You can walk there, but it's about an hour walk from town, so most people choose not to, although we saw some people who were eating lunch at the dar with us walking.  One good thing about walking is that you get extra time to take in sights like these!

When we arrived at the ruins sight, Melissa and Ryan were surprised at how many people were there.  There were three or four other cars/buses and they said that was the most crowded they've ever seen it!  It didn't feel crowded though since there are so many ruins, which was really nice.  

For some background, Volubilis is an ancient Roman empire city that was located on the edge of the empire.  Some people believe that it was the capital of Mauritania at one time.  We've seen a lot of ruins and knew that we would be heading to Italy the next week and seeing even more ancient ruins, but we wanted to check out these.   It's pretty crazy to see Roman ruins in Morocco and it really puts in perspective how big the Roman empire actually was!  Definitely worth the day trip.

Ryan and Mike checking out some ruins

The mosaics were so impressive for so many reasons! The attention to detail as well as the preservation of the mosaics was incredible!

Morocco is just a little bit beautiful.  Just a little ;)

Flowers amidst the ruins

I spy some hogans!

We (okay really just me) love having people around to take pictures of us together!

Ew gross. 

By the time we made it to Melissa and Ryan's apartment, it was early evening.  It was nice to just drop our stuff and hang out for a bit.  We got dinner near their apartment and spent the night drinking wine, laughing and catching up.  It's funny because, although Mike and Melissa (and many of the other scholars we have stayed with) are in the same program, we've only met them a couple of times at most.  We're never sure if we'll "click" with them or how much we'll have in common.  I think Mike would agree with me when I say that we've "clicked" with every single family we've stayed with and haven't wanted to leave.  I knew that first day that we were in for a few days of lots of fun with Melissa and Ryan.  We had so much fun with them exploring the ruins (they were great tour guides!) and hanging out with them that night. 

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