Thursday 3rd June, Meknes, Morocco.
Meknes rocks! What more can I say? Today was by far my most enjoyable, interesting and relaxing day in Morocco so far, but before I get ahead of myself, I've got a funny story for you. Yesterday morning as I was savouring my morning coffee at a sidewalk cafe in Larache, I had a strange feeling that I would meet someone I knew. Why I had that feeling in a seaside town in North Africa, who knows? For the next couple of hours, I scoured the faces in the crowd, sure that I'd see a familiar face somewhere. By the time I'd bussed to Ksar-el-Kabir, changed to a train, and then found my way to the hostel here in Meknes, that 'premonition' had been long forgotten. So I checked into the hostel, and met a friendly young Australian couple, who immediately invited me share the melon they were eating. The girl looked familiar, and I remembered my thought from that morning, but I figured I was imagining it. Then this morning, I was talking to them again over breakfast, and it clicked. I asked the girl (whose name I still didn't catch) if she had worked in England last year. She said yes, she had. I said did you work in a bar called 'The Edge', in Croydon, just outside London? After she picked herself up from the floor, she said yes, she did. I had dropped in there for a coffee one lunchtime just before Christmas, and had spoken to her about her travels. At the time she'd said she was a bit homesick and hadn't managed to save much money. She was thinking of heading back to Oz after New Years. I remember my advice to her- which is the same advice I give to everyone- was to do everything she could to extend her travels. I assured her she'd never regret it. And now here I bump into her in Morocco, six months later. I'm not saying that it's because of my advice that she's still travelling- especially since she didn't even recognize me, but I'm going to take some credit anyway.
So to Meknes. Wow! I've met great people here in the hostel, and yes, have even found people who I can speak Australian to. The young couple left this morning bound for Asilah, but there's three girls from Western Australia staying here. (Is it true that people actually live over in Western Australia? These girls tell me there's even cities and everything, but I think they're pulling my leg!) This morning I teamed up with- read 'tagged along with'- the three girls, for a trip to the Roman ruins of Volubilis. Volubilis is not only Morocco's best example or Roman architecture, but is symbolic as it marks the furthest south and west that the Roman empire extended. Juana, Sonia and Lara had already organized a grand taxi to take them out for the day, and they were happy to have someone to split the cost. I was happy because it saved me figuring out how the hell I was going to get out to the ruins, and I got to hang out with three chicks! As far as Volubilis goes, I'm going to let the pictures do the talking. If you want to know more about the history, you can easy do a google search. All I'm going to say is that it was damn hot out there, and even though I paid twice as much as I should've for the sexy hat- okay four times as much as I should've- it was still well worth it. I took so many photographs that even after I'd edited out the rejects, I was left with eighty shots that I wanted to keep. That's waaay too many to post on this journal page, so I've quickly thrown together another addition to the Not So Savage Files. For the moment, it's just a collection of photos, but when I gt time, I'll add a bit of information about Morocco, and set up a slide show. For now, enjoy the photos on Not So Savage Files- Morocco, and then come back here!
The girls have been having a great time in Morocco, not finding themselves hassled too much at all, except for guys wanting to marry them! Hanging out with them seemed to hav a flow-on effect for me, as I enjoyed a pleasant, relatively hassle free day, even when shopping in the markets back in Meknes. The girls said that all the local men would be assuming that the three of them were my wives, and thinking to themselves "He's the man!" Cool. I'm the man!
Lara and Juana have just done from the Trans Siberian/ Trans Mongolian Railway, from Beijing to Moscow, the same route I'll be travelling, only the opposite direction. Juana is on fully paid long service leave, and so is actually saving money while travelling Morocco (which makes me sick). Lara took six weeks off work, and then phoned her boss the other day to say she'd be a couple of weeks late getting back! Sonia is based in Scotland, and has just joined the other two while they're in Morocco.
On the advice of the girls, I'm going to visit Fez as a day trip, and not actually stay there. It's only an hour away, and that will save me all the hassle that I spoke of in my last journal, turning up in a new place and having to fight your way past the touts and find a hotel. It's too bloody hot for that sort of caper anyway. I don't know what the temperature was today, but if it wasn't over fourty in the shade, I'll eat my hat!
The girls were joined by two more of their friends this evening, are together they're heading to Merzouga tomorrow, the exact same same way as I am. They've invited me to join them, which would be awesome, except I want to spend at least another day or two here in Meknes. The city itself is very hassle free, people greeting you as you pass, and store owners quite accepting if you don't see anything in their shop that you want to buy. This hostel is so laid back, it's almost comatosed. The staff mostly speak good English and are really friendly and helpful. One guy calls me "Steve libertie" because he thinks it's great that I travel alone. There's an English guy here, a doctor from Manchester on holiday with his two kids. He says he's trying to give his kids the sort of education that they can't get in school. One of the reasons he brought the kids to Morocco was to show them that the crap they see on television isn't really what Muslims are like, and that people are people all over the world. They all seem to be loving Morocco. Also, I have a roommate now, Raoul from Spain. He's an interesting guy, down here for a week or two's holiday, and he also speaks perfect English. So after two weeks with almost no conversation whatsoever, I'm inundated with people to talk to. At night the residential area around the hostel is so quiet you could hear a pin drop, which could be another reason I feel on top of the world today; last night was without doubt the best night's sleep I've had since I left England. I'm not in a hurry to move on.
Vive Meknes! Vive la liberte!