Day 16 – Volubilis

I didn’t write last night partially because I was exhausted but partially because I knew the post would end up as an angry, frustrated rant, and I wanted some time to reflect on our time in Morocco. I’m currently sitting in our hotel room in Cadiz, where we will be spending the next day or so, though there is nothing on the agenda for this afternoon/evening.

Yesterday was, frankly, frustrating. But good things first: we went to Volubilis, which was lovely. The site is huge and almost totally deserted – there were maybe ten other visitors where and only three or four guards, so we hardly encountered anyone else as we walked through the site. It’s surrounded by mountains and farms, so the scenery is absolutely stunning. The site itself is rather overgrown, which makes it hard to get a clear idea of what the Roman city might have been like, but it does add to the desolate beauty of the place.

As I said, the day was full of frustrations. First of all, our overindulgence in the previous night’s lamb dinner caused both of us to have digestive issues – never a good way to start the day, especially one you know will mostly be spent in the car. Then, we were caught in a speed trap on the way to Volubilis – the speed slowed down to 60 km/hour without a sign (it had been 80 km/hour), and all of a sudden a policeman is waving me over to the side of the road. 300 dihrams (about 30 euros), to be paid immediately (I had been going 70 km/hour). I was so angry – angry at the lack of signage, angry at the fact that we had to pay a fine, angry at the police officer for obviously setting up a trap. It cast a pall over the rest of the day, and didn’t help the image I had already formed the previous day of Moroccans as greedy money-grabbers. This image was only strengthened once we got to Volubilis and I went to the bathroom. A man standing outside the stalls handed me some toilet paper from a roll in his hand. I took it unthinkingly, only to find his empty palm presented to me once I had finished. Are you serious?! I wanted to scream. After paying for parking AND admission to this site that no one comes to, you want me to pay to wipe my ass as well?!?!

I calmed down a bit as we wandered through the wind-swept site, and was mostly ok on the drive back to Tangier. It wasn’t until we entered the city again that my urge to start screaming hysterically returned. The driving was just a nightmare. Roads with no lane lines painted on them, two lanes suddenly becoming one (or three!), cars coming out of nowhere, jockeying for position while going around a roundabout. It was the most stressful driving I have ever done, and the fact that we made it without adding a scratch to our already dinged up car was a miracle. We ended up having to pay extra because we hadn’t had time to fill up the tank, but given the driving situation, I deemed it a worthy expense.

Once we had dropped off the car, we headed toward our hotel for the evening. It was just inside the Tangier medina and once again, as soon as we started in, people from all sides came up to us, offering help, persistently getting our faces. Finally, I snapped: “Could you PLEASE leave us alone?!” I snapped at one guy who’d been following us for a while. He looked at my like I’d insulted his mother and grandmother and entire family and had never done anything wrong in his life and THEN I’m pretty sure he told us to fuck off as he walked away.

So. We made it to the hotel, had a small dinner of couscous with vegetables (pretty good!), then collapsed into bed. This morning, we were ecstatic about returning to Europe. I feel bad, guilty almost that I didn’t enjoy myself, and certainly disappointed – I had really been looking forward to Morocco. Not to say that there weren’t some great parts – the highlights of the trip were definitely interacting with people on a more personal level: John and Sally, our fellow travelers from Australia; the staff at the hotel in Fez, the Riad Idrissy; and the guard at Lixus.

So, dear readers, have any of you been to Morocco? What were your experiences like? Negative? Positive? Different? Similar? Was it because we were there during Ramadan? Am I totally missing something here? Help me out!

As I mentioned before, we’ve arrived in Cadiz and are taking it easy this afternoon. Nothing too ambitious after such a stressful part of the trip!