The Rif Mountains are famous for their cannabis cultivation. We are going to avoid
the worst area even though it is the most scenic. Our tour book, the local GoldWing
Club and the travelers on Horizon's Unlimited all say it is a lot of hassle to travel
through that route. So we head to Fes at the base of the mountains by the less scenic
Fez is the oldest of the "Imperial Cities". It dates from before the time of the
Moslem religion. It has been the capital city of several sultans and kings. And
it has an equally ancient Medina (old town inside the wall). You can see one of
the towers of the wall in the bottom center of the picture. You can also see the
fertileness of the area in the wheat fields and olive groves that stretch to the
In the Medina is the "souk" (shopping area of small stalls). The souk is made of
lots and lots of little lanes that intersect and divide at random and lined with
shops. We hired a guide again. We'd still be lost in there without one! The only
way that these businesses can get stock is to hand carry it, or use mules or donkeys
to carry it. You need to be alert for the cry (in Arabic) of "Watch out" or you'll
get run over!
This man had the smallest business of anyone. He does leatherwork. His shop is
the size of a phone booth! It has an extension about 2 feet high into the wall in
front of him for storage. This is his entire shop!
We also went to a pottery factory (and bought some). The work is done by hand but
comes out with the precision of a computer. It must take many years of practice
to achieve this level of accuracy in the pattern.
Then on north through fertile fields to Volubilis, the ancient Roman capital of this
Volubilis was occupied during the first, second and third centuries. It overlooks
a fertile valley and controlled the western part of Roman Africa. Unlike the European
Roman ruins, it does not look like it has been heavily scavenged for building materials
by successive generations. All of the buildings are in ruins, but there is a huge
amount of squared stone and pieces of columns lying around the site.
This is the forum, complete with a stork nest on the pillar. We noticed that smaller
birds (wren sized) use the interior of the sides of the stork's nest as a place to
build their nests.
Volubilis is famous for the over a dozen fine mosaic floors still in place.
Then on to Chechaoun, a mountain village famous for its blue lanes. Although the
Chechaoun Medina is famous for the blue color it is a rather recent addition to the
ancient village. The Jewish community started doing it in the 1930's and it caught
on with the rest of the village.
We camped there and left for Tangiers early the next morning. Exit procedures were
easy and quick, we had our paperwork all in order before arriving, and we were on
the dock watching our ferry arrive from Spain. (And where Kathy got yelled at for
taking a picture in a prohibited area.)
Upon arrival in Spain we declared that we had no cigarettes or liquor and cleared
customs without an inspection. (It's true, we had no cigarettes and our liquor was
left over from Portugal, not the duty-free store on the ship.) We went back to the
nice campground we had used before leaving Spain and proceeded to wash two weeks
of Sahara dirt out of our clothes, gear and bike. I also updated these pages as
there is WI-FI right at our campsite.
From here we head east along the coast of Spain and north towards Andorra. Then
on through France to the Loire Valley and Paris.