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Day 5: Monday, April 5, 2022 – We’re on Our Way

From 1912-1956, the French had control of Morocco. Casablanca is the economic capital of Morocco. Our guide, Omar, told us that all beautiful buildings are named after Hassan II or Mohammad VI. Mohammed VI is the current king and Hassan II was his father. We were painfully aware of this as we tried to get to the mosque and we were directed to a bus stop.

The king today is open minded and has done many good things especially for women. The current queen is the first one that has ever been allowed to be seen by the public. Now almost half of the Parliament is made up of women.

Hassan II embarked on a massive dam building project. He built 140 dams. And his son continues that philosophy today. The water is used for irrigation.

The Morocco flag is red with a 5-pointed star.
Over half of the population is Berber. They have an additional flag. Berbers live mainly in the south. They have different cultures and habits and customs.

For nine months, Morocco has not had rain. Agriculture is their number one economy followed by tourism. Today it is raining and there is a lot of green farmlands.

If sheep are fighting, rain will continue. Omar said that his father forecasted that way. We saw sheep fighting!! But we are dry on our long bus ride.

Jellaba is a long dress coat with a pointed hood for men that covers the whole body. It can be worn anytime but is most often seen during Ramadan. It is traditional and religious. There are not as many seen in the cities as they are more influenced by European culture. Women also wear these but not as many.

During Ramadan people only work in the morning. Most shops and especially restaurants are closed. It must be a big hit to the economy! They cannot eat or even drink water during daylight hours. A cannon announces the end of the fast. It is quite a dinner bell for the whole town! That first meal is called breakfast and consists of juice, rolls, eggs, and other breakfast foods.

Around 15 years old they will begin to observe Ramadan. Some will observe it earlier as it is a sign of becoming an adult. All men grow a moustache as it is a sign of becoming a man.

All schools are free. Some subjects such as philosophy are in Arabic. Math is taught in French. There are no entrance exams except for schools for engineers and doctors. There are free public and private-pay medical care.

Moroccan Arabic sounds like fighting. It is much stronger as opposed to the Arabic spoken in Egypt and Tunisia.

Today we went to Meknes, an imperial city where there is the famous Ismail gate which is under construction sponsored by UNESCO.

Ismail was quite an interesting sultan. He was ruthless and had almost 1,000 children. Read more about him here. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ismail_Ibn_Sharif

  • Imperial cities are cities that have been the capital of Morocco at one time.
    • Fes was the first capital from the 9th-11th centuries when the Arabs first arrived.
    • The second capital was Marrakesh. It was the capital from the 11th-12th centuries.
    • Meknes was the 17th century capital. It is known as the happiest town in Africa because it is the greatest producer of wine. Ismail reigned from 1672-1727.
    • Rabat was built during 11th century and became the current capital starting in the 19th century to today by order of Mohammed V.

Berber is a derogatory nickname given by Romans.  The official name of this people group is Imazighen which means we are a free people; we will not be enslaved or colonized. They came down from the mountains and chased out the Romans. Rome’s power was beginning to decline since they couldn’t pay the soldiers. Eventually, they sided with the local people.

Meknes is sometimes referred to as small Marrakesh. Meknes is the center of the nation’s agriculture. It is also called the Little Paris of Morocco or even the Versailles of Morocco. Ismail was a contemporary of Louis XIV. He wanted to marry one of Louis’ daughters because she was blonde, but she declined.

  • Here are some recommended books (with really long titles) about Meknes during the Ismail era.
    • A Journey to Mequinez; the Residence of the Present Emperor of Fez and Morocco. On the Occasion of Commodore Stewart’s Embassy thither for the Redemption of the British Captives in the Year 1721 by John Windus
    • White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and Islam’s One Million White Slaves by Giles Milton

On the way to Meknes, we saw large forests of cork trees. These are used by the wineries. Over 40 million bottles of wine are produced each year.

While in Meknes we went to a fascinating museum that featured music and instruments from all the people groups in Morocco. It had been closed for renovations for 5 years and just recently opened.

On display were instruments, recordings, and movies of dances.
This museum was housed in the ancient home of a vizier. The outside walls have no windows. Everything opens to the inner courtyard. All of the beauty is in the center with gardens and fountains.
We stopped to have a homemade lunch at a technical school for those students wishing to complete their studies to graduate and learn other useful career skills.
The Roman Empire

Tahir was our local guide at Volubilis which means “flower city”. This Roman colony is at the base of the Rif mountains. It was one of the Roman outposts with a population of 15,000-20,000 people.

Surrounding Volubilis today are lots of Arabic villages. Over 80% of the rocks and stones have been taken away to be used as building materials of other structures. An ancient recycling program perhaps??

In 1755, there was a huge earthquake that affected this area and much was destroyed or covered up. UNESCO started reconstruction in 1997.

There are over 2,000 mosaics that can be found in the 150 acres. Only 50 acres of this ancient city has been uncovered with 100 acres yet to be discovered.

In 212, an edict issued by Caracalla declared that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given full Roman citizenship. Romans tax everything even water and he was likely growing his tax base.

Then in 217, there is a monument to Caracalla in the center of Volubilis that said no more taxes. Was this a change of heart or an effort to ward off a revolt??? This was likely very popular so much so that this enormous gate was erected!! Maybe so it was written in stone!!!

The Caracalla gate is on the left.

I had never heard of Caracalla but he was listed as one of the nastiest Roman rulers right up there with Nero and Commodus and Caligula. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caracalla

FUN FACT: The word spa comes from the Latin Solus per agua which means health through water. There is a place in Belgium called Spa where Romans would come to ease their sore muscles.

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