After breakfast, our hosts had to attend to some issues with our room, which has been newly renovated, and we made a decision to simply move to another room in our Riad, just across the hall from the one we stayed in last night. It was no problem at all, because of our accommodating hosts, and because we are currently their only house-guests anyway.
By the time we left our riad, it was already 11:30, and since today is Friday, everything everywhere is either very quiet, or outright closed until the late afternoon.
Friday is the day of prayer for Moslems, and we saw many men washing their feet before entering one of the Mosques in the medina for mid-day prayers, and also some women entering their own door in the Mosque, screened off from the men. The Friday mid-day meal is also an important event that keeps most businesses closed until about 5pm. Traditionally, couscous is made for this meal, because it is a time consuming dish to prepare, and it is shared not only with family members, but also with the poor, the homeless, or even strangers and visitors who do not have a family to eat with. Today, as we were walking the quiet streets of the medina, we saw many people carrying covered dishes piled high with couscous, bound for either a family member’s house or to serve a person in need. We also saw women carrying trays of dough, for either breads or Moroccan pastries, walking to their neighborhood bakery ovens.
We walked through the ghost-like medina for a couple of hours, which made seeing and photographing the design and structure of the buildings far easier, and came upon a lovely looking Riad, Riad D’Or, that also advertised being a restaurant. We stopped in, and the proprietor and chef showed us into the kitchen, so we could see what she had prepared freshly that morning. She had not made the traditional Friday couscous, because a group of tourists staying with her yesterday had requested to be served couscous, and she didn’t want to make the same dish two days in a row. So instead we had a selection of stewed eggplant, peppers, rice, and beans…all delicious! She’s told us that the medina reopens on Fridays at 5pm, so we relaxed in her riad’s beautiful, airy central patio, with its open-air roof, and wrote in our journals, since not much will be open for a few hours anyway.
When we heard the muezzin’s late afternoon signal, that the medina’s businesses use as the time to reopen, we ventured out to the main plaza outside Bab Mansour. There we hired a horse and carriage for a trip around the Imperial City, which is so large and spread-out that it would be an all-day affair to walk…and besides, it was much more fun to sightsee by way of a buggy!
The sultan used to keep over 20,000 beautiful horses, and we first passed the reservoir for their drinking water, which was the size of a small lake! Beautifully maintained with benches encircling it, it now serves as a place for couples and friends to enjoy the cooler weather that comes with the late afternoon.
Next we stopped our carriage, so we could have a look inside the Imperial Stables, that once housed about 12,000 horses – a huge, cavernous stone building with massive wood doors…hard to imagine as the home for so many horses!
We also saw the royal palace, where Moulay Idris, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and the founder of Arabic Morocco in the late 8th century, used to drive a chariot pulled by eunuchs, or by scantily-dressed members of his harem!
We returned by our carriage via the wall that runs for one kilometer between the palace and the central square, which is called “The Interminable Wall,” or “The Wall of Death,” because prisoners marched along it to their execution.
Back in the central square at sunset, we watched the blue sky turn shades of red, purple and yellow, while we enjoyed the performers that had gathered there to entertain the crowds – musicians, a snake charmer, sellers of herbal remedies, storytellers…all in Arabic, but we enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
It was a fitting conclusion to our day in Meknes, and we looked forward to leaving for Fes in the morning.