From Chefchaouan to Meknes via Volubilis, Morocco
Our car was parked just outside the Medina gate named “Bab Souk.”
There is a market day two times a week in Chefchaouen, where all the Rif mountain villagers from the surrounding mountains, come to town to sell their produce.
This morning was one of these market days, and our mini car was completely surrounded with tomatoes in wooden crates, green grapes, old brass scales and many hundreds of people.
The men were very friendly, and moved some of their crates, as well as their shading umbrellas and the cement blocks that they use to secure their makeshift booths, and helped us slowly inch our way out of the busy market.
It was a laughable ordeal with five people navigating Jules out of the impossibly crowded market, while a constant river of people flowed in and out of the Medina gate, crates of produce everywhere, and vendors on both sides…. But we did it…… And with a smile…
Our road from Chefchaouen to Meknes, took us through some of the loveliest stretch of landscape we have seen in Morocco so far.
There were vast fields, fig trees, pomegranate trees, dates, Cactus loaded with juicy fruit, and olive groves as far as the eyes can see…
This area is a rich fertile growing region.
It is now late summer, and the hay in the fields has been harvested already, but some of the land is already reworked and sprinkled with fresh manure.
The fields that were harvested had a shimmering straw yellow color, while in contrast, the fields with the compost manure that was worked into them, had variations of black and gold tones to them…
Viewing these fields from the hilly road, it felt like were were driving into a fabulous abstract painting, with beautiful monotone colors… Dotted with the occasional groves of orderly lined olive trees and clear blue skies…. I LOVED it!
On the way, we drove to see the Roman ruins of Volubilis, which is an archaeological site next to the sacred town of Moulay Idriss.
Volubilis features the best preserved Roman ruins in this part of northern Africa and it was recognized in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It was wonderful to walk around that magnificent sight, filled with the remains of majestic homes, most with interior swimming pools, fountains and large rooms.
Most houses had in them olive presses, to process their own olive oils from the surrounding hills.
In antiquity, Volubilis was an important Roman town situated near the westernmost border of Roman Empire.
It was built on the site of a previous Carthaginian settlement from the third century BC, but that settlement overlies an even earlier neolithic (stone age) habitation.
Volubilis was the administrative center of the Roman Empire in Africa.
The fertile lands of the surrounding hills, were used to hunt lions that were used in the Roman games, as well as to produce grain and olive oil, which were exported to Rome.
As many as eight thousand wild animals and lions were killed for the opening of the Coliseum in Rome, and the Romans’ love of this “sport” subsequently led to the total extinction of lions in this region.
Archaeology has also documented the presence of a Jewish community in this area, during the Roman period.
The Romans evacuated most of Morocco at the end of the 3rd century AD, but unlike some other Roman cities, Volubilis was not abandoned.
However, it appears to have been destroyed by an earthquake in the late fourth century AD.
It was reoccupied in the sixth century, when a small group of tombstones written in Latin shows the existence of a community that still dated its foundation by the year of the Roman province.
Found coins show that it was occupied a few more times after this.
Volubillis was a second capital of the king Juba II who was the son of the Berber king Juba I.
The texts referring to the arrival of “Idris I” in 788, show that the town was at that point in the control of the “Awraba tribe,” who welcomed the descendant of Ali, and declared him imam shortly thereafter.
People continued to live in Volubilis for more than 1,000 years after that.
Volubilis was first abandoned in the 18th century, when it was demolished in order to provide for building materials for the construction of the palaces of Moulay Ismail in nearby Meknes.
If that destruction had not occurred, Volubilis could have become one of the best preserved Roman sites anywhere in the world.
Walking around these ancient layers of ruins, dating back to the Stone Age, and built again by the Romans, then used again during many centuries, the sun was already setting into the hills…… Creating elongated shadows and illuminating the remains of the arches and buildings with a golden light….
Some of the houses still had beautiful Roman mosaic floors, depicting Roman mythology, sea monsters, chariots, tigers, the four seasons, acrobats, women bathing………
I reflected about how our current borders and contemporary societies are nothing but an illusory short sighted vision, that we are caught up with and fueled by feeding it our limited ideas, visions of conquest and fears….
Our history as a human race, runs back to the cave men, and we have achieved so much… Grown so much….
Yet on the other hand, we are still fighting each other over borders and religion or political differences….
Our humanity, our share of the earth, unifies us all, and we need to learn to love and help one another…. Grow together and cherish our sameness….instead of taking pride in our “specialness”……..
These Roman ruins of Volubilis, do not really “belong” to Morocco, they belong to the whole world….. To the whole human race,……. just as the Pyramids in Egypt, or the Mayan Ruins in Mexico….. They are an integral part of our heritage as humans.
Granted, at times our history has been drenched in blood and featured many injustices, but borders are illusory and fluid, and they are NOT set in stone….
Our history proves this and our humanity ties us all together….Oh brothers…….what are we fighting for?….
We left the beautiful mountains and hills, and drove into Meknes, where we were staying at a Riad owned by a couple of musicians.
His name is Simon and he is a British man, and her name is Mouna, and she is Moroccan in origin, but lived in France for most of her life.
They fell in love, and moved to Morocco, where they can make a living on their small income from teaching music therapy and tribal African Percussion.
We went for a walk around town, had a bite in a central square in Bab Mansor, while watching the locals play soccer against the background of the walls hundreds of years old….
We went to bed after a most enjoyable day…. We closed our eyes and said goodbye to the whole world…
Somewhere in what seems to be a world away…. Steve Jobs the founder of Apple Computer and one of the wealthiest men in the world, has passed away so young…
I send my memory into New Zealand, where we have a lovely Japanese house with a very green garden on the edge of the Tasman Sea. On the high Rocky Mountains of Colorado, where we have a lovely modern house….. And here we are….. Walking and resting in the busy city of Meknes Morocco…. It all seems like a dream….. Maybe it is all just a dream after all…..