It was an early start to catch the 8 am ferry to Ceuta from Algeciras. I’d free camped at the Los Barrios commercial centre along with about forty other motorhomes, including a couple I knew from Italy, Gillian & Godfredo, who I would be travelling with for awhile. I was up at 6 am and by 7 am we were on our way to the port. I’d bought my ticket in advance from a ticket office popular with motorhomers, receiving a free bottle of wine and a sponge cake with the ticket.
There were already several motorhomes waiting on the dockside, but we were directed to the front of the queue, I never found out why, but it upset one or two who were waiting. Having checked in we were called forward to board the high speed catamaran just after 7:30 and departed on time at 8:00. The crossing was quite smooth apart from a little rocking as we neared the north African coast. Leaving the ferry it was only a short drive to the Moroccan border, which seemed very quiet and within fifteen minutes we drove through the border post on to Moroccan soil. It still wasn’t 9:30 local time.
Although Gillian & Godfredo have been to Morocco several times before they have never been to Volubilis, the ancient Roman ruins situated about 30 kilometres from Meknes, one of the Imperial Cities. Gillian was keen to visit the site and we set off south.
I been to Morocco many times over the years, but am still amazed by all the changes one sees on every visit, this one was no exception with many new roads and roundabouts. After one or two little detours we found the road we wanted and headed in the direction of Tetouan. The city of Tetouan is situated about 60 km east of Tangier and 40 km south of the Spanish exclave of Ceuta (Sebta) and the Strait of Gibraltar. It is in the far north of the Rif Mountains. To both the south and west of the city are mountains. Tetuan is situated in the middle of an area of orchards containing orange, almond, pomegranate and cypress trees. The Rif Mountains are nearby, the city is located in the Martil Valley. It is situated on the northern slope of a fertile valley down which flows the Martil river. It is one of two major harbour along the Moroccan Mediterranean coast . Behind the city rugged masses of rock rise up, the southern wall of the Anjera country, once practically closed to Europeans, and across the Martil valley are the hills which form the northern limit of the still more impenetrable Rif Mountains.
From Tetouan our route took us towards Chefchaouen, a town in the Rif Mountains noted for it’s buildings in shades of blue. The town was founded in 1471 as a small fortress, which still exists today, by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami, quite a name and a descendant of Ibn Machich and Idris I, and through them, of the profit Muhammad. Originally built to fight off the Portuguese invasions in northern Morocco. The Moroccans more often call the town Chaouen and it’s a popular tourist destination. Local handicrafts such as woollen garments and woven blankets are popular with visitors as they are not available elsewhere in Morocco. The countryside surrounding Chaouen has a reputation for Kief, the region being one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco. Hashish is sold all over the town, but mainly to the locals.
Leaving Chefchaouen behind we continued south over twisting mountain roads until we finally reached Volubilis around 4 pm. Stopping a few hundred metres from the Roman site we spoke to a local who had in the past allowed me to park up in his olive grove overnight, he remembered me and once again offered the olive grove as an overnight stop. Having parked up we walked down to the entrance to the historical site, paid our 10DH (€1) entry fee and wandered around taking in the sites and taking photos. The sun was setting and the light was perfect to view the remnants of this once large Roman settlement. Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century BC and abandoned in the 11th century AD. Among the cultures that have been on the site are the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and the Idrisids. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site has been partly excavated, but there is plenty still to see. The settlement developed by the Phoenicians grew rapidly under the Romans and covered an area of approximately 40 hectares. It had a 2.6 kilometre long surrounding wall. It’s wealth in Roman times was derived from olive growing and was the site of many town houses with large mosaic floors. Volubilis was eventually abandoned in the 11th century AD after the seat of power at that time was relocated to Fes. Most of the population was transferred to the new town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun which is situated about five kilometres away. We enjoyed our visit and slept well in the olive groves under a clear sky.
We continued the following morning to Meknes, one of Morocco’s four Imperial cities. Meknes saw it’s golden age as the imperial capital of Moulay Ismail after his accession to the Sultanate of Morocco, he lived from 1672 to 1727. Meknes was the capital of Morocco before it was relocated to Marrakech. Meknes is named after a Berber tribe which were known as the Miknasa, who came from the south of Tunisia in the 9th century. Today the population of the city is approximately 1 million.
From Meknes we took the motorway west towards Rabat, Morocco’s capital before turning south to Marrakech and eventually Agaidir, where we checked into the Atlantic Parc D’Imourane campsite, which is situated alongside the beach a few kilometres north of the city.
It seems I've been travelling for most of my life.
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