The North Morocco Adventure tour is actually pretty full on, particularly for the first few days. On our first full day we visited travelled from Casablanca to Rabat, spent a few hours in Rabat then travelled on to Moulay Idriss where we toured the city and spent the night. The following morning out first destination was Volubilis.
Rabat is the capital city of Morocco, despite it not being the most well-known for tourism. In our two hours in Rabat, we were given a map marking out a loop of the city to hit three major sites: The Medina, Kasbah and Mosque. While two hours was not actually enough time to make the loop and we had to rush back without really seeing the mosque. The sites were definitely interesting to see.
Moulay Idriss is a super cute hilltop town overlooking the ancient city of Volubilis. We had a local guide tour us around and tell us about the history of the town as well as some things about the Moroccan culture. The town had so many wonderful narrow, winding alley ways. I wouldn’t have had a hope of finding my own way around the place! After an hour or so walking we found ourselves on the hill opposite the majority of the city, to see the most amazing sunset. It was a such a stunning sight and fantastic way to end a busy day.
In regards to homes and doors there are two interesting things to mention. Firstly, it is important that from the outside of ones home you cannot determine the home owners wealth or social status. Secondly, the door to ones home is actually two nested doors. A smaller door within a larger door. Both doors have separate door knockers which make different sounds. The inner, smaller, door is for the family. The outer door is for guests. So if a woman is home alone and hears someone use the door knocker for the larger door, she will not answer. But she may peer through the vent above the door to check who it is. Obviously if someone knocks on the smaller door then she is welcome to invite her family in. I cannot verify if this is truth, but I have been told that the concepts of not displaying wealth and being able to see out but not in, also apply to the way the women dress, with their head and face coverings.
A culture quirk I heard about is in regards to the Hammam. A hammam is a public bath house. Women and men bathe separately. Typically the bath house is open for men from 8am to midday and from midday to 8pm for women. The quirk is that women typically pay 15-20% more to use the hammam than the men. As a woman in favour of gender equality I was surprised and keen to know why. The justification is that women spend longer in the hammam than men because their hair is longer and takes more time to wash, it is also the place where they go to chat and catch up on gossip. This is also the place where a woman’s potential future mother-in-law will check if a woman is suitable for her son.
Volubilis is a 3rd century Roman city on a small hill opposite Moulay Idriss. The site is partly excavated and provides a good insight into the lives of people of the time. It also provides a fantastic showcase of mosaic tile work within the buildings. Considering the good condition they are in, I wonder if they are really the original ones restored; or if the Moroccans view restoration differently to me (I have been to some places in the past where recreating something in the same design as the original is considered to be restoration). Either way, the site is quite small but certainly charming to visit, particularly if you are already in the area.