The next stop after Chefchaouen was the old imperial city of Fes (of hat fame) but first we'd be making two stops on the way. The first was the ruins marking the site of the ancient roman city of Volubilis. Volubilis was a medium sized Roman city in the Roman client state of Mauretania. Although it was the main Roman presence in the west of Africa, it was still a comparatively small city of only around 15,000. It's entirely possible that I've just seen far too many ruins because I think I've just become desensitised to them. Even still, it was interesting seeing how they built a city in the middle of a pretty hot, dry, hostile environment.
The second stop was Meknes, the younger sister city to Fes. Meknes was the home of Sultan Moulay Ismail, a man who's legacy consists mainly of overkill. Dude had 16,000 black African slaves, 12,000 Arabian warhorses and 500 wives so you can imagine his pad was also pretty cool.
Fes itself was an interesting city. The oldest of the imperial cities, Fes is a winding, sprawling maze of dark, narrow streets (over 9000 in the medina alone, 46% of which are dead ends). Fes is also known as the workshop of Morocco (a nickname I just made up then). Fes is the literal and/or spiritual home of most craftsmen in Morocco and Fes seems to be one big series of interconnected workshops, cooperatives and factories.
Always exit through the gift shop
In Fes we were staying outside the medina, in the new town. At the end of the day, it was nice to leave the medina and head back because the dense, compact city centre quickly became confining and a little oppressive. It was fascinating to see but after a day of navigating the narrow streets, ducking, weaving and jumping around people, donkeys and everything else, it was nice to have some breathing room. That night we also went out to a fancy restaurant with sword swallowers, belly dancing and the worlds perviest magician.
My favourite photo of my beard
The next stage after Fes was probably the most exciting of the whole trip. After a stop to look at monkeys and lunch by a river, we made our way out to the town of Merzouga, right on the edge of the Sahara desert. Typically, as we arrived in Merzouga a small sandstorm blew in.
The following morning one of the locals took us out in a 4wd to see some of the local Berber villages on the edge off the Sahara which was cool.
That afternoon, we got ready to head out into the desert for the night. I've ridden on camels before and I've been in deserts before but nothing I've ever experienced has compared to riding camels through the Sahara desert. It was really cool, here's some pictures.Also, there was another small sandstorm when we set out, which was a little uncomfortable, I'll be honest.
We spent the night in a camp in the desert. The original plan was to sleep under the stars but that was interrupted by wind and RAIN IN THE SAHARA DESERT. Forgive me if I've been labour intensive under a delusion all these years, but I thought the very technical definition of a desert was a place where it didn't rain. I spend one night in the Sahara and it's like I'm camping out in merry old rainy England.
I'm making a big deal of it but it sprinkled for like, 10 minutes on and off. But still. Surely I'm entitled to a refund.