Sunday, February 1
The day dawned bright and sunny...a nice change from yesterday's drizzle! We walked about 2 km through town to the Palais Royal, one of the Moroccan King's residences. This is a huge complex housing about 2,000 people as well as many ministry offices. Tourists are only allowed in through one entrance, and we had to leave our passports with the police at the gate. We were told to walk to the mosque, turn left, and walk directly to the main door of the palace, take a picture, and then return for our passports. There could very well have been CCTV all along the route to make sure we didn't deviate! The guards at the main door were quite cheerful and happy to have their photos taken!
From there, we walked a short distance to the Chellah Necropolis built in 1339 on the remains of the Roman town of Sala Colonia.
This site is the burial place for many holy men, and includes the ruin of a mosque (only the minaret remains). It was largely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 and is now the winter home of at least 75 storks. If we understood the info panel correctly (in French and Arabic) this population is increasing by about 7% each year.
The calls of the storks reminded me of a poorly tuned Diesel engine!
The remaining tile work on the minaret is exquisite. Each one of these tiles would have been cut to fit. We are still seeing tile work with similar designs, but the tiles are stamped, stencilled or painted...the work is not inlayed.
The roman town was built into the side of the hill, and was largely excavated in the 1950s.
This was a pleasant spot with many families enjoying a day out together; children have been out of school for the last week for a winter holiday.
Next stop was the Hassan Tower, an unfinished minaret dating from about 1200. This was supposed to be the largest mosque ever constructed, but was never finished and everything (except the tower) collapsed in the earthquake. (Interesting that there are two towers in this city that remained standing after the earthquake).
King Mohammed V proclaimed independence from France from this tower in 1955, and his mausoleum is nearby...
And then we walked back towards the Riad, but not quite in a straight line...we were looking for a wine shop and finally found one (after asking in a hotel and the a gas station) near the train station in the Terminus Hotel. It was a small space, about 10 x 10', counter service, and floor to ceiling shelves of liquor...the top shelves are reached with a ladder. Our one bottle of Moroccan wine was wrapped in newspaper, a chit was handed over, and then Lloyd had to give the chit and cash (46 dirham, about $5.50) to the cashier.
So then I finished off the day by knitting in the sun on the rooftop terrace. We drank the wine, and then went out for a pizza (not quite like in Italy, not quite like at home, but hey, we're in Morocco!) at a food stall around the corner.