Saturday night in Meknes was pretty interesting. We almost got hit by a car that spun out in the rain, saw a legit old man bar fight, hung out in the lounge of the Rif Hotel with some bored street women, and ended up at an after hours speakeasy where some agitated drunkards inquired as to our familiarity with the first page of the Koran before buying us a round of beers.
On Sunday we wandered the old section of Meknes, which feels like a completely different city altogether. Though relatively ignored on an international level, Meknes is a pretty important city within Morocco. At one time it was the capital, though this is true of pretty much every large city in the country. The medina is pretty low-key, and much less touristy than other cities in the country. It’s still pretty easy to get extremely turned around, which we did multiple times, at one point wandering back and forth across the perimeter of the royal palace for a solid hour.
Once we were medina’d out, we found our way back to the hotel to grab our checked bags and figure out where we’d stay in Fes. From the lobby, I was able to book a same day deal at the Ibis in Fes through the browser on my phone, which worked out well, as it’s literally the closest building to the train station.
Fes is the religious and intellectual capital of the country. Much like Meknes, the old city and new city feel like completely different places. Unlike Meknes, you’re not likely to end up in a carnival or a speakeasy. It was cold and dark and rainy when we arrived, so we decided to grab a bite to eat and wander the new city for a bit and leave the old city for the next day. The new city is very modern and much larger than I’d anticipated. There’s also not much to see, short of some very New York looking delis, international hotel chains, and neon storefronts.
We made it back to the hotel quite early, where we relaxed and caught up on the internet in the hotel bar, which, with it’s supermarket fluorescent lighting and general lack of things, might as well have been the lobby bar at the unfinished pyramid hotel in Pyongyang.
The next morning we walked a few miles to Fes el Bali, the ancient medina of Fes, which is currently the largest entirely car free urban area in the world. We spent the day getting lost in the maze, bartering for gifts to bring home, and watching people live their lives pretty much as their families have since the city was first established over 1000 years ago.