Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day 2: Of ruins, and relics, and scary men

Today was a bit of a mixed day - on the one hand, we found out that we could fit seven people in a taxi, maybe eight if the eighth person was a really tiny little person, and then on the other hand, Jackie and I almost got stoned for not being Moroccan.

The day began with us girls waking up at 9:30am, exactly the correct time for breakfast. Unfortunately, since our room is situated on the ground floor with the door opening onto the main common foyer with the communal food table, this meant that everyone was watching us as we made our shameful ways out. Jackie, an American who was travelling by herself, joined us for our day trip to Meknes, a city that is half an hour away by train.

At the station, James and I went to buy the tickets, and at last, we could finally put our GCSE French role plays into use! You can get some pretty decent prices for the train - 20 DH for an aller retour, deuxieme classe which was still our own carriage, albeit with some dodgy faux air conditioning. 

Once we arrived, we bargained with a taxi driver to take us to Volubilis, a city of ruins that lies half an hour away from Meknes. We were told by another traveller that he paid 350 DH for the trip, so we decided to tell the driver that an American got the journey for 250 DH, prompting the man to lower his price from 400 DH to 300 DH. Fantastic, apart from the efforts to fit six of us into four seats. The pictures will follow.

On the way, we saw some pretty neat wildlife - tall cactus trees, short cacti bearing fruit that was sold at the markets, goats and wild horses. At Volubilis, we proceeded to explore the ruins, adopting Katy as our tour guide. It was breathtaking to see just how well some of the mosaics had been preserved, and despite attempting to sacrifice Jackie at an altar in exchange for rain, we only received a mild cooling breeze as relief from the scorching sun.

By the time we got back to Meknes, it was around three in the afternoon, and we decided to go look for food in the souks...which only turned out to sell "Adidas", "Ralph Lauren" and "Gucci" belts. We wandered around that maze for ages, seeing so many pretty clothes - wish I'd made some purchases - and so many everyday things for sale. This place seemed to be the market for locals, as opposed to the souks in Fes that seemed to target tourists. 

Eventually, Angela, Jackie and I gave up and headed to a cafe on the square whilst the others carried on looking for budget food. Not gonna lie, the soup, sandwich and chips were totally worth it - something the cats thought so too as they congregated around our table in droves. One particular tiny cat made a show of sitting next to me, gazing upwards into my eyes and meowing pitifully, repeatedly begging for food. Gave in, and fed it a small piece of sausage but then instantly regretted that when even more cats began to migrate over...

When we joined up with the rest, we headed to the palace to have a look around, only to be told we weren't allowed in. The guidebook warned us that we would be left with an impression of high walls, and indeed, it was not wrong. Drawing ever closer to the time in which we'd decided to head back, we caught taxis back to the station and waited it out for the five thirty four. Unfortunately, this is where it all started to go wrong.

Parched for thirst, I'd decided to buy a Solero and in my haste, forgot that it was bad form to eat in front of the fasting natives. We were walking though a tunnel when one of the men began to say something - something like, "you are eating an ice cream, blahblahblah." Didn't think anything of it.

We went to our platform, sat on some benches and proceeded to wait for the train. A few minutes later, the same man emerges from the tunnel, walks towards us, sits down next to me and then starts to have a go at me. Jackie tells me to ignore him, and from then onwards, he turns onto her and starts a barrage of abuse that completely shocked us both. We were coming into the country without respect for the locals, she was dressed like a prostitute because her shoulders were showing, her mother was a hooker, we were all hookers, she was ugly, I was ugly, in this country we were ugly, etc. etc. 

Jackie scared him away by yelling about how we were going to get the police involved, to which he replied, get this - "fuck the police".

Like seriously, which TV show did he watch to learn that line? 

We thought that would be the end of it, but he wasn't finished with us, not by a long shot. He crossed over to the other side of the tracks, hung around for a bit, eyeing us up, and then jumped back onto the tracks, and picked up a rock with the intention of throwing it at us. 

Um, what?

This had just begun to turn really nasty. Now all the girls were standing in a group, with the guys in front of us, facing off against each other. It took two local Moroccan men to drag that dickwad away, who then started arguing with all of the men on the other platform, presumably about us. Eventually, he turned up again, this time to apologise and to tell James and Big Matt to inform us that we should not speak.

Like, seriously. In this day and age. 

He then proceeded to get on the same train as us, albeit on a different carriage, but not before walking through every carriage to see where we were sitting.

By the time we got back to the hostel, we'd recovered from this incident, but it left a bitter taste in our mouths, especially for Jackie, who as a lone traveller had been subject to abuse like this for the duration of her travels here. It was such a shame, as the day had started off so well too, and we'd wanted to give her a pleasant experience for the end of her journey.

After sorting out our finances to some mint tea on the roof with the new Hungarian travellers, we decided it was time to eat - by then it was nine in the evening, and whilst we weren't particularly hungry due to the heat, brain said it was a good idea to pack in the calories so we headed back into the medina, to the area where we'd eaten yesterday. This time, we went to La Palma, upon being won over by Abdul, a man with a silver tongue and the catchphrase: "We don't push like George Bush", much to our hilarity.

We played the touts off against each other at first, until Abdul agreed to give us the set price menu for 40 DH instead of 70 DH with free drinks and mint tea and bread. Hells to the YEAH.

I had Moroccan soup, lamb tagine and melon, all of which was yum. Whilst the soup was better at lunch and the tagine better at the place we went to yesterday, the prices here were top notch, as was the entertainment from Abdul. Not only did he teach us how to say "We don't puch like George Bush" in Arabic, he also taught us the classic, "High five", "No thanks", and "What the hell are you doing?" all very important phrases that every traveller needs to be made aware of. In addition, he gave us the number of his friend Mohammed, a taxi driver in Marrakech who would apparently give us cheap travel. Lols.

After dinner, Jackie and I went to buy some fruit - I found four donut peaches for 10 DH!!!!!!!! AHH MAHH GAAHH, when in England they're like 40p each???!

Back at the hostel, I showered and washed my clothes again, only this time, my magical Moroccan washing genie did not appear and I had to make do with poor technique.


Dinner avec le Abdul the waiter


The threat of being stoned by a maniac

Day 2 survived in a mere 40 degree high!


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