Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Trek Through Meknes – Erich

On the same day we visited Volubilis, we also stopped in the city of Meknes. It is a wide, expansive city. We pulled over at a point where one can see the panoramic view of Meknes in the valley below. Sadly, my pictures at that spot do not capture it. But I am including some others of various sights in Meknes.
Look how tall Carver is getting! (Ignore the step he is standing on)
Just walking around in the Medina (the old city) and around just outside the Medina walls, we saw some interesting things. The walls themselves are crenelated and tall, and in some places appear very old. This is in contrast to the walls of Marrakech, which are also old, but are level at the top (no crenelations.)

Part of the Medina wall
Perhaps most unusual is the jail. It is an underground jail! We walked through a plaza in which there are the vents that would provide light and air to prisoners. It's not actively used as a jail now, but rather as a destination.

Each little cylinder is a vent and lets in light
They have a small square where there are stalls and performers, like a tiny miniature version of the Jema El Fnaa in Marrakech. But this one was so much smaller that in about three minutes Alrica said, “I've now seen the entire square.”

Even outside the Medina walls, there are narrow alleys that snake through the bigger streets. I enjoyed this alley full of awnings.

I just liked the look of the awnings
There is a large beautiful mosque in Meknes. Now it should be noted that in Morocco, as a general rule, you are not allowed to enter the mosques unless you are a Muslim. In Casablanca there is one mosque that is open to the public. But here in Meknes, you were allowed to come into the mosque complex, walk through its courtyards, and even look in through a window into the mosque itself.

We didn't take pictures in this area, as we felt it was not appropriate. But it was interesting to see. The first room was enclosed with a roof and had a fountain. In many places in Morocco, there are still many people who do not have running water coming into their homes. So they have to take bottles to the fountain at the mosque to get water for their homes. That's why every mosque has a fountain. But you will also see some fountains along the walls of the Medina or in the streets of the Medina not attached to mosques. Several of them are beautifully decorated with tile.

Very decorative
Note, that picture is from the streets, not from within the mosque complex.

After the fountain room, we went through a series of open courtyards. The walls were easily forty feet high, but there was no ceiling. They were open to the air. In some, there were walls and pillars inscribed with Arabic words. My ability to read Arabic letters is still limited, but I believe it began with Allah, so I would guess it was either a praise of Allah or a prayer for Allah's favor.

Looking into the mosque from the window, it was difficult to make out a great deal of detail. But it appeared very different than churches and synagogues. There were no seats or pews. It was much more of an open space for people to kneel and bow and pray.

We learned that mosques in Morocco (and maybe elsewhere, I don't know) all have on the highest point a vertical metal rod decorated with a varying number of brass globes. We had seen this throughout Morocco. But what we learned that was new is that the number of globes tells you how large the mosque is, or how many people it can hold. Many mosques have three globes, but the very biggest have five or maybe even six globes.

But in all of Meknes, you will never guess what the most surprising sight might have been. It wasn't a person or a building. We saw a parked car with a Connecticut license plate.

A long way from home
I guess you just never know what you'll find in Africa!

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