Morocco is not always dry and hot. This year, the winter rains were “a bit more than usual.” Actually, they flooded hundreds of square kilometres.
Courtyard of the Mosquee Kairaouine in Fez (for more Morocco photos, click here)
The night we arrive in Tanger, it rains hard. The room in the Hotel Muniria is damp, and we are glad for the extra blankets. It was in this Hotel that William S. Burroughs wrote his novel Naked Lunch, in Room No. 9. The Muniria has no No. 9. But above our room there is a locked chamber, so we imagine the noisy brawl may as well come from the ghosts of Burroughs and his pals as from the seedy Tanger Inn below.
During the day, the sea wind keeps the clouds at bay, and we can visit the medina, the museum, and a pre-Roman necropolis, but by the afternoon it is raining again. Perfectly normal, the receptionist assures us.
In Tetouan, a few hours' bus ride away in the low mountains, we get lost in the maze of the medina. The winding streets are so narrow that the rain penetrates to the street only through the gap of a few centimetres between the roofs and plastic shelters of the street stalls selling oranges, cooking utensils, brocade slippers, white cheese or almond sweets. Every now and again we have to pause next to some spice shop or tailor to let pass a particularly heavy shower. In winter, it rains a lot up here, the vegetable vendors nod proudly. It's a fertile area!
When we finally reach a large open square, we face the Royal Palace. The whole square is fenced off and heavily guarded. Rows of spectators form around the edges. The king is visiting the city and expected to pass through these streets in a short while, we learn. But then another heavy rain sets in, and most of the spectators go home without having cheered to the passing king.
In Fez, imperial town of the Merinide dynasty, we join the crowd under the leaking roof of a bus stop in order to get from the Ville Nouvelle into the medina and get lost once again. Once we have found the main tourist drag, however, the sights are easy enough to discover. From the impressive Great Mosque, just follow the handicraft stalls, postcards, iron-wrought lamps and leather sandals to arrive at Medersa Bu Inania. Overwhelmingly decorated with white stucco, carved dark wood, tiles and mosaics, the inner courtyard of this 14th century religious boarding school is a feast for the eyes. And we even catch a break in the rains. „Oh, the winter rains. Perhaps this year the amount is a little more than usual,“ the caretaker admits.
By the time we arrive in Meknes, another one of the imperial towns of Morocco, we have gone through one umbrella and get a new, larger one. At the Roman town of Volubilis, the flooded late Roman mosaic floors make the ancient rooms look like upper-class swimming pools. Meanwhile, a minaret crushes in the medina of Meknes, killing dozens of people who were praying in the mosque. Apparently, the mud-brick building had collapsed due to the continuous rainfall. Two days later, train services are temporarily stopped because of flooding along the line. „A lot of rain this year“, the locals smile and navigate around the puddles. Most are cheerful, though: Overall, floods are preferable to draughts.