I heard about Meknes long before Rabat, Marrakech or Fez. It is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco and the least known among them. I read about Meknes as a teenager. I followed the adventures of a French Countess Angelique across France, the Mediterranean, Morocco and North America. In that book this young woman defies Louis XIV, the Sun King. She rejects his love and travels to the Mediterranean to find her long-lost love. In that book I read about the Great Eunuch who bought her at a slave auction to be the concubine of his sultan Moulay Ismail in his harem in Meknes. It was a mighty palace with a beautiful patio, guarded by wild animals. So that no one could ever escape the harem. The Great Eunuch took her one night to the rooftop of the palace to see the stars. He believed he could read her destiny in the stars and told her that her long-lost love was still alive and she would see him again. And you know what, she actually managed to escape from there with a few other slaves and fled to Ceuta.
And there I was, standing in front of the main gate of this palace in Meknes. And I thought of her. This is it, I thought to myself and let my imagination roam free. It was a hot day in Meknes. The street vendors were yelling and trying to sell oranges. The sound of flutes was filling the city square. For the snakes to dance in their baskets. The rooftops were all covered with emerald-green tiles and there was an ocean of people in front of the main gate. But everything stopped once you entered the patio. It was so beautifully decorated and the garden was enchanting. And it was so peaceful. Time had stopped for a little while.
Was she really here, I asked myself. Did she come through this door? Did she escape through this garden? And why on Earth did the books about her have such a strong impact on my life? Is it the character of Angelique? Her rebellious, free-spirited character? Or is it the fact that she never stopped believing that one day she will be reunited with her one true love? Because no matter what she never gave up? Because she defies fate? I still don’t have the answer to these questions. But she never found her love in Meknes. It happened years later in the New World.
It was very hot under the Moroccan sun that day in April. I went back out, on the city square. I was really hungry, so I avoided the street vendors. I really wasn’t in the mood. I sat at the table overlooking the palace and had my lunch. There were people everywhere. More and more visitors on the square. We have to move on, I thought to myself. Towards Volubilis. But that is already another story.