Meknes, Morocco

Meknes on Fridays is a very quiet town.
Friday is the one day that most workers take as a rest day, per week.

The stores closed down, and people gathered in front of the Mosque’s fountain, where they wash their feet before entering the Mosque to say their prayers.

We strolled along the streets of the Medina, noticing the old wooden brown awnings that most stores had, which blended nicely with the large brown wooden doors.

The walls of most houses were painted in lime washes of ochre, pinks and earth tones.
Friday is also Couscous day, which is eaten with friends and families.
We saw people carrying plates of couscous to their families homes, along with a jar of the soup, to pour in the top.

We saw people offer couscous to homeless people sitting at the doorways in alleys.

We entered the old Meknes Medresa- which is an old Islamic school, very beautifully decorated with tile work, wood and the most intricate plaster carvings we’ve seen so far.

When eventually everything looked deserted, we decided to sit in a cafe and pass the afternoon until after the early evening prayers, when the Muezzin call is sounded and people are out again, doing business and enjoying a night out.

We came upon Masion D’Or, where the multi-lingual friendly owner invited us into her beautiful Riad.
She invited us into the kitchen, to see the food she just prepared, and sitting in her courtyard, she served us a delicious vegetarian lunch.

We took our mint tea into her lounging area, covered in mosaic tile and plaster work, with large columns and open air, and we vegetated on her sofas.

She chatted with us about the differences between living in Morocco, to living in Europe, where she said people work so hard and have little time to enjoy life and their family.

She said that in Morocco, they have plenty of time… Time is NOT a luxury… Everyone has it…. What they want and need, is money.

She said that even though they were just fed, they have a hungry stomach…always wanting more.
She said that this is one of the problems of Morocco… And the reason that there us so much crime…. People are hungry for more…mostly more money….

She said that some people in Morocco, who never get to travel or expand their horizons, just assume that in the Western world, the streets are paved with gold.
She said that these people think that every tourist is very rich, and they do not understand that in the West, just like in every other place in the world, you have to work for your money…… be wise about it too….
They just assume it is OK to take or even steal from somebody who just found Gold on the streets….

After a long rest and hearing the call of the muezzin, we heard the Medina come alive…. There were banging of hammers and people talking, as well as scooters buzzing by.

We went to explore the Royal City.
We thought that the best way to get the run-down of the buildings and monuments, was to hire a horse and a cart.
We sat in the ornately decorated private horse cart, and the driver took us around the royal city.

Meknes was the capital of Morocco under the reign of Moulay Ismail (1672–1727), before it was relocated to Marrakech and then relocated yet again.

The original community from which Meknes can be traced was an 8th century Kasbah. A Berber tribe called the Miknasa, (hence the name Meknes) originated from the Tunisian south, settled here in the 9th century, and a town consequently grew around the previous habitation.

Meknes saw its golden age as the imperial capital of Moulay Ismail following his accession to the Sultanate of Morocco (1672–1727).

We saw the royal stables, with once housed 20,000 fine breed horses, carefully chosen for the king.
The old prison, which the king installed underground the old city, once housed the Christian sailors whom he captured on the sea.

We passed by the old Jewish quarter, which has houses that have little windows on the street at ground level.
Since any consumption of alcohol is forbidden under Islam, the Jewish population used to privately and secretly make their own wine in the basements of their own houses.

We saw the water reservoir which was originally created for watering the horses, and now looks like a huge scenic and clean lake, with benches around it that the locals and youngsters use to meet, and enjoy the sunset.

We saw the royal palace, with kilometers of stone walls and ornate gates, guarded by royal soldiers.
The city has numerous edifices, gardens, monumental gates, mosques (whence the city’s nickname of “City of the Hundred Minarets”) and the large line of wall, running a length of 25 km.

We saw the beautiful mausoleum of Moulay Ismail.

At sunset, we visited the “Place El Hedim” square, just opposite the “Bab El Mansor.”
Every early evening this large courtyard is transformed into a central place for snake charmers, medicine men, people offering donkey rides and musicians.

It was truly the best time of the day….. The magical sun was setting and the colors changed every ten minutes, from soft pinks, yellows and blues, to deep orange, crimson, reds, yellows and aquamarines……

What a wonderful time of day to listen to the beat of the African drums…. And to look at the potions and healing balms made from snake poison, dry lizard skin, and scorpions…

Do they really believe these potions heal?
Yes and no….
These potions cost so little and offer some small hope….

Some of the medicine men sell it in the same old fashion way that any “secret-heal-all- potion” was sold in the pioneer times in America…. They would come into town on a horse cart, set up a makeshift stage and preach the healing merit of their cream or home made “proven” potion…

People would gather around and demonstrations would be made… And then people would hand over small pennies and the Paddler moves on to the next town… Offering a healing… Hope… Or just a good story…

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