Morocco to Madrid 11: Meknes

So, before getting to our next city, I feel I can sum up our old city in a pretty simple experience that, also, helps to contrast where we are now.

After dinner last night, we’re walking back to the riad and there are two girls in front of us, non-local, and behind us a young guy starts chirping “Heyyyy spicy ladies, look at that sugar…. “, followed by sucking noises.  Daina looks over his shoulder and the guy retorts “Are they your sisters?”  So, we actually do wander up to them, let them know a sketchy guy is hissing after them (they were oblivious) and offered to walk with them for a bit, which they declined because they were going the opposite way of us (and, let’s face it, having two big tourists telling them somebody sketchy is following them may be the equivalent of somebody sketchy following them).

Anyway, glad to have done our job, we return to our riad door and the kid chirps “Hey!  You don’t do that when you come to Morocco.”  I shoot him a “whatever” glance, Daina gets the buzzer, we go inside, no mess, all done.

Daina then later remarks to me that the guy “probably had a knife, everybody’s face here is cut up”, which, with his job, is an observation he for sure would be able to make, and I remember the mentions of knife-muggings, both in the medina after dark and at the Tomb of the Merenids, high above Fes, after sunset.

So I guess that’s my way of saying Fes is sketchy and, while I definitely wouldn’t miss it if you’re interested in medina life, I hope it doesn’t represent “typical Morocco”, at least in terms of city life.

After stopping off for some pictures of those aforementioned Merenid Tombs, where we got a panorama of all of Fes, we hopped on an A-Series highway (i.e. tollway) to get to our next Imperial City, Meknes.

What a difference.

Bab El-Mansour

Forgetting about the sights for a bit, we only had a couple of guide offers, and they were politely brushed off with phrases like “Meknes is small, I think we’ll be okay”.  People said “Welcome to Morocco” without following it up with an offer of drugs or asking us into a shop.  Even the restaurant touts on the main square would back off if you said “no” politely enough.  Sure, there was a shopkeeper where I bought some Meknes ironwork who, after negotiating a price, asked me to give more “for the artist”, which has never happened in any negotiation we’ve had here in Morocco, and didn’t make any sense, since the artist was negotiating along with us, and was rebuked by “If you’re not paying your artist, then why am I paying you?”  However, if there’s one thing you can count on in Morocco, it’s hard-bargaining, so I was willing to let that slide.

So what I’m saying is that, in terms of Imperial Cities (with us having been to Marrakesh and Fes), Meknes “wins” for not treating us like a Visa while walking through the streets.

Room for 12000 horses.

The sights are also pretty manageable, with the most beautiful gate we’ve seen this trip, Bab El-Mansour, the Bou Inania Medersa, the museums and the Place El-Hedhim square all within easy walking distance of one another.  Further afield were the Royal Stables, which were definitely the most amazing sight.  Built by the slave army of Moulay Ismail (1645-1727), it housed twelve-thousand horses that were each waited on hand and foot and treated significantly better than most humans under him.  Nearby was the “Water Palace”, which fed water and grain to the horses through a giant pool, which we couldn’t get a good shot of today due to some washroom emergencies, but one of the great things about having a car?  We can head back tomorrow on our way up north!

So, Meknes’ sights aren’t huge and don’t take a long time, but they also don’t really stress you out.  I think people may tend to skip this town over for Fes, but I’d definitely recommend doing them both.  Because while Fes is going to leave you feeling a bit frustrated, Meknes is a much more calming sort of place.

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