Friday, January 22, 2016

[MEKNES] Fancy Fancy Mausoleum Is

Meknes has two train stations: Meknes and Meknes Al Amir. The second one is where you want to go if you're planning a trip to Volubilis, although getting off at Gare de Meknes is also fine because petit taxis are everywhere anyway. The main difference is Al Amir seems closer to most of the attractions in the city itself. I’ve been to both but I recommend Al Amir if Meknes is your main destination and you like taking a stroll and seeing what the city center is like.

I got off at Gare de Meknes not because I chose to do so, but rather because that’s the ticket that they gave me at the train station. Those people are not psychic, you know. If you don’t give them a specific station, it’s safe to assume that they will just guess which is which. I decided to walk from Gare de Meknes to the city center but it was a bit far. A petit taxi would have solved the problem but I was feeling really stingy today. What did I see then?

I made it as far as a government building which had a cool looking dome. I forgot which ministry it was exactly, but it had something to do with the arts. I wasn’t able to take a good photo because the subject was against the light. And then I got hungry from all the walking and just wanted to find McDonalds. I hopped on a taxi and arrived at Ronald’s place in a minute or two. I guess I was just that hungry to walk all the way there .

Ending up at McDonalds was not really a bad thing because it’s strategically located. I forgot if it was Hilton or the Marriott which had a hotel right next to it. Right across the main avenue is a big park where teenagers usually hang out. If I’m not mistaken, the park is called Forêt des Jeunes, which is a rather apt description. The main attraction for today were teenagers doing parkour and jumping on each other. The sun was really hot but shade is not that hard to come by, so no complaints here.

You will also see a roundabout with an impressive fountain as a centerpiece. It was not working today but I could imagine how nice it would look like on a quiet evening. That avenue is quite busy so be careful when crossing it unless you have a death wish you want to fulfill ASAP. The medina is hard to miss on the opposite side of town as its walls will be visible enough for you to notice even if you are just passing by. But I’ve had enough of medinas after seeing the one in Fez, which is why I skipped this one.

Meknes is not really a tourist destination. If anything, it serves mostly as a stopover for tourists headed to Volubilis. And of course, Fez already has the reputation of having the most popular medina in the country, which is why most people would rather go there. To be fair to Meknes, though, I’d say that it looks like a really convenient place to live in. There are petit taxis everywhere and there are many chill spots like that big park where you can just hang out or go people watching.

The most touristy site I explored today was the Mausoleum which I accidentally found while trying to locate the royal palace. To tell you the truth, I’m just glad that I stumbled upon it because it seems to be the main tourist attraction around here and has every right to be so. It’s just so majestic and mysterious that you can easily visualize it as a good setting for some thriller novel or movie or what have you. Tourists usually come by in droves but leave after 15 minutes or so, which means it’s not always crowded.

But first, the Palais Royal. I find it confusing how each city in Morocco seems to have a royal palace. I always try to think that the king lives there but I think there is only one king in this country, and he can’t really live in all of those palaces at the same time, right? So I don’t really know. Perhaps, these royal palaces all belong to him and serve as his residence when he is in the city for a visit? For more reliable information, Google is always there for you.

At first I thought that entry was prohibited, but the guards said it was fine so I got in anyway. I mean, inside the wall, not inside the palace, which appears to be off-limits to tourists. You’ll manage to snap some impressive photos of the walls and the gates but nothing more other than that. That was when I decided to head east and call it a day. Upon exiting a big arc, I noticed a tour bus next to the main gate in front of a structure with a rather fancy façade.

I watched some of the tourists go in. They didn’t pay anything which means an admission ticket is not really required. You’ll find yourself in an antechamber upon entry. I don’t really know what the purpose of that chamber is but it looks cool enough to stare at. Exit the giant keyhole to your right and you end up in a series of courtyards with walls painted bright yellow. That was where I saw the worried granny seated in front of a gate that looked like a keyhole. That was a great photo opportunity, to say the least.

The best way to navigate the place is to go along with the tour group. The one I joined without them really knowing was a German tour group. You get bits of information here and there but sometimes you just want to take nice pictures to say that you’ve been there. The interior of the mausoleum is simply exquisite so expect around 20 photos or so after you are done there. By the way, you have to remove your footwear before entering the main chamber, which was carpeted anyway if I remember it correctly.

And that was where my Meknes day tour ended. Exit the main gate and you’ll find yourself in a cool plaza with a lonesome tree at the center. You can ride a horse-driven carriage if you want to but I’m assuming that it’s going to be overpriced. Petit taxis are usually on standby at that area, so you need not worry if you are in a hurry to get back to the station to catch your train.

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