Tag Archives: Fez

Morocco, Top Travel Tips – The Historical Sites

Volubilis Morocco

I continue with my short series of Top Travel Tips for Morocco and today I recommend the historical sites and specifically the Roman City of Volubilis.

Taking a day trip out of the city of Fez and after a long drive we eventually saw signs for the excavations of Volubilis and our guide for the day, Abdul, left the highway and followed a dusty pot-holed track towards the Roman City.

I am not sure what I was really expecting but this took me by surprise rather like the moment we came across the Roman ruins of Segobriga in Spain in 2009 for even from the road it was clear that this place was much bigger than I was expecting.

At the entrance to the site we paid the reasonable entry fee and then negotiated with a local guide who offered to give us a guided tour and a history of the city and when we were all satisfied with the price we set off along a dusty path towards the excavations and Hamid began his commentary

Volubilis was the Roman capital of the Province of Mauritania and was founded in the third century B.C., it became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings.  Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in the middle of this fertile agricultural area.  The city continued to be occupied long after the Romans had gone and at some point converted to Islam and Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris.

It is now of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site, admitted to the list in 1997.

Roman City of Volubilis Morocco

Volubilis was an important and versatile place, a garrison town which protected the far south western boundary of the Empire, an agricultural bread basket producing important crops like wheat and olives in the fertile valley to be transported across the Empire via Tangier to the North next to the Mediterranean Sea and a city of rich noblemen who built themselves fine villas and a beautiful city in an enviable location.

Much better I imagine to be posted here than to the northern extremes of the Empire at Hadrian’s Wall.

Volubilis, it turns out, is the most important ancient archaeological site in Morocco and Hassan took us into the old streets running north to south and through the foundations and walls of the houses that flanked them.  In many of them there were fine mosaics and I thought it a little surprising to find them here exposed to the elements and not having been removed to a museum nearby.

Volubilis Morocco

The houses were huge and with a bit of imagination it was almost possible to imagine what this place may have been like two thousand years ago.  It was interesting to walk around the old streets, wander through the corridors of the houses, along the main street of shops and imagine that in this very place there were soldiers marching, classic plays being performed in the theatre, emperor worshippers in the temples, magistrates swaggering around importantly in togas, and slaves to do all of the dirty work.

After walking along the main street lined by the remains of grand columns and arches we arrived at the centre piece of the city, the triumphal arch which has been carefully pieced back together by French archaeologists nearly a hundred years ago.  Next to the arch was the Forum, the centre of political life in the city and adjacent to that the ancient Basilica where the citizens came to worship their gods.

Hamid concluded the tour with an explanation of Roman life in this area and tried to speculate why the Romans suddenly abandoned Morocco but like many historians who have wrestled with this question before him could provide no answers.

He walked us back to the car park where Abdul was waiting and we paid the agreed fee and added a tip to thank him for an excellent tour.

Read this wonderful interpretation of what might have happened at Volubilis at Nareszcie Urlop.

Volubilis Morocco

Morocco, Top Travel Tips – The Souks

Fez Colours

“I believe that Marrakech ought to be earned as a destination. The journey is the preparation for the experience. Reaching it too fast derides it, makes it a little less easy to understand.”  ― Tahir Shah, In Arabian Nights: ‘A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams’

And so our quick visit to Morocco was suddenly over all too quickly.  I had previously said that I wouldn’t go back again but the truth is I enjoyed it.

Flushed with enthusiasm I have decided to put together some top tips for visiting this beguiling and welcoming North African country:

First – Be sure to visit the Souks

This extract is from a previous post about a visit to the city of Meknes…

The journey from Moulay Idriss to the UNESCO World Heritage city Meknes took about thirty minutes and when we arrived in the city Abdul stopped first at a lay-by on the edge of the city with a panorama of the city.  The word panorama makes it sound picturesque or interesting but I have to say that from here it didn’t look terribly exciting at all, just very similar to Fez with a jumble of off-white concrete box buildings and a forest of satellite dishes and TV aerials.

Fortunately we didn’t stay long and Abdul drove us into the centre of the city and took us directly to the central square of the Medina, which, although much smaller reminded me straight away of Marrakech.

Abdul parked the taxi right outside the gates of the Royal Palace and I was concerned about that, but I needn’t have been because Abdul seemed to know a lot of people, probably even the guards and there was no problem.  He certainly knew the owner of the restaurant the ‘Terrasses Pavillion des Idrissides’ and before we knew very much about it we had been led to a terrace table overlooking the square by a couple of eager waiters.  We examined the menu carefully before making our selections and then we enjoyed a simple meal at a very agreeable price.

The main square was moderately busy but didn’t feel crowded and we walked past the snake charmers and the men with Barbary Apes all trying to sell photographs, fortune tellers and soothsayers and my favourite the tooth puller who would have provided dental surgery at a fraction of the cost of the National Health Service if we had been brave enough to allow him.

Meknes Souk Morocco

There were rows of market stalls selling fresh and dried fruits and others competing to sell a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and all around the square were cafés and restaurants with high level balconies where people were sitting and just enjoying the random entertainment.

“By the blue tiled walls near the market stalls, There’s a hidden door she leads you to, These days, she says, I feel my life just like a river running through…” 

Rather like Al Stewart in the ‘Year of the Cat’ we slipped into the souk and walked past carpet shops, elaborate lampshade stores, slipper shops, silver and pottery workshops, shops selling leather, silks, ceramics, spices and pastries and our senses were under constant assault from the colourful sights, the rich aromas and the chatter and noise of the traders.  Occasionally a donkey and cart would send people scattering as new supplies were delivered and the shop owners were probably glad of this because the only place to go to get out of the way was inside the shop doorways where someone was waiting to pounce.

Fez Carpets

Threading our way through the heaving twisting lanes we elbowed our way through the crowds and nodded politely as we rejected invitations from all sides, trying all the time not to make eye contact and declining inducement to go inside the shops and look all the time trying hard to remember the way that we had walked so that we could get out again without getting lost.

We seemed to be the only tourists here so we weren’t too adventurous and soon we were back on the sunny street which led to another souk, this time the food market which, maybe because it was Saturday, was exceptionally busy.

There was large butchery section here and there was an overpowering smell of blood, offal and sawdust.  Whole goats hung from metal hooks, there were bulls’ heads in various stages of being dismembered and sheep heads carelessly discarded and lying on the floor for anyone who wasn’t paying attention to trip over.  Along one of the internal lanes there were cages and cages of live chickens just waiting to be selected, purchased and killed.

The process was swift but brutal – the selection made and the price paid the butcher deftly cut the bird’s throat and shoved it unceremoniously into a plastic bucket, head first so that the blood would drain away.  The poor thing struggled for a short while but when it was dead and drained it was dunked first in boiling water and then freezing water and then plucked on a primitive but effective plucking machine.  Micky, a butcher himself, and Kim stopped to watch the macabre process but Christine, an animal lover, and Sue, a bit squeamish, walked on without stopping.  I went with Sue and Christine.

Essaouira Spices

As we turned a corner there were herbalist shops with spices arranged in colourful pyramids and baskets of dried flower heads and quack remedies.  Kim went inside to look at the jars of colourful potions and perfumes and to enquire about the spices and the prices each time making a promise to return later.  I imagine that this is a promise that shopkeepers in Meknes hear hundreds of times every day and probably don’t take them too seriously but after a few minutes we did return to one of them and this probably took the owner by complete surprise.

We bought a few bags of spices and I began to worry about taking these little multi-coloured bags of suspicious looking powder through customs especially bearing in mind that Morocco has a reputation of being a big producer of illegal drugs.

Our heads full of the sights and sounds of the busy souk we pushed our way out through a main entrance and made our way again across the main square which was beginning to fill up and I imagined that it was going to be a big night in Meknes later.  We wouldn’t see this of course because now we had to find Abdul who had promised to take us to see the other important sites in the city.  We found him chatting to the restaurant owner – presumably negotiating his commission!

marrakech-10

Morocco, Essaouira – Background and Research

Morocco Postcard Map

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting.

Morocco is in North Africa which geographically and politically is included in the United Nations definition of the area comprising  seven countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara.  It is the twenty-fourth largest country in Africa out of fifty-four and is one of the most developed with the sixth largest economy of the continent (after Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, and Angola).

Of all the countries in Africa it is the closest to Europe and technically Britain because it is just twenty miles or so from the Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and along with France and Spain it is one of only three countries with both a Mediterranean and an Atlantic coast line.

Morocco is placed one hundred and twenty-sixth in the Human Development Index which isn’t especially good and means that it is categorised as having only medium human development in an index that ranks countries by data composed from life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.  It is sixty-sixth in the OECD Better Life Index and forty-second in the Happy Planet Index which is one place behind the United Kingdom but way ahead of the United States which is as low down as one hundred and fifth.

I wonder however if they consulted absolutely everyone.  There is an awful lot of poverty in Morocco and with no welfare state payments or safety net there a lot of street beggars.  Even for those in work it is not so wonderful and Morocco is in the top three countries in the World where workers are dissatisfied with their jobs, the other two are Nigeria and Japan. Japan?

Essaouira Derelict Doors

Morocco has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites but the chances of visiting more than one or two in a single visit is very remote because they are spread evenly right across the country.  This time we were visiting the Atlantic port of Essaouira which is included in the list.  Previously we had visited three others at Marrakech, Fez and Meknes.

The country has one thousand eight hundred kilometres of coastline and twenty-three Blue Flag Beaches.

Essaouira is only one of five place names in the World that contain all five vowels in just one single un-hyphenated name.  The others are Donaueschingen in Germany, Dogubeyazit in Turkey, Berrouaghia in Algeria, Alexandroupoli in Greece and Mediouna which is also in Morocco.  So, with two  Morocco is the clear winner in place names with all five vowels in the name.

Football is the national sport and the national team have appeared four times at the FIFA World Cup finals and fifteen times at the Africa Cup of Nations where they were winners in 1976.

I have been to Morocco before.  The first time was in 1989 when I went not to Africa but to the USA and visited World Disney World!

Epcot World Showcase

Of all the countries at the EPCOT World Showcase the Morocco Pavilion was the only one in which the country’s government aided in the construction and they did this so that they could retain some measure of Islamist control over the design of the mosaics and to ensure that everything was as authentic as possible in the representation of the Muslim faith.

The Disney Web Site introduces Morocco like this: “A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way into this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosaics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has two fascinating sections: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.”

Well, one thing that I can confirm is that they have certainly got the shopping bit completely right because Disneyland and the Souks of  Morocco certainly have a lot in common when it comes to trying to part visitors from their money as I found out when taking a guided tour of the Fez souk.

Fez Colours

EPCOT World Showcase – Morroco

EPCOT Morroco

The Disney Web Site introduces Morocco like this: “A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way into this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosaics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has 2 fascinating sections: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.”

Well, one thing that I can confirm is that they have certainly got the shopping bit completely right because Disneyland and the Souks of Marrakech certainly have a lot in common when it comes to trying to part visitors from their money as I found out when taking a guided tour of the Fez souk…

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Mosque Fez Morocco

Inside the Mosque

The Mosque wasn’t open for business at this time but we wouldn’t have been allowed in even if it had because non-believers are forbidden from entering a Muslim Mosque at any time.

In another post I wrote about how we were unwelcome in the holy city of Moulay Idriss, so much so that Abdul, the taxi driver wouldn’t stop for even a moment or two for a sightseeing walk through the intriguing streets but there were other exclusion zones in both Fez and Meknes.  These were the Mosques and although we could look through the open doors and windows we were certainly not allowed to step over the threshold.

I find this difficult to understand, apparently even the prophet Muhammad invited Christians to pray in a mosque before meeting with them but it seems that attitudes have changed and intolerance has become an unwelcome religious characteristic.  I am forced to compare this with our own balanced approach which certainly (I hope) wouldn’t exclude a visitor of a different faith to the UK entering, for example, Westminster Abbey or any other religious building.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Beyond

Mosque Fez Morocco

Beyond The Doors – The Forbidden Mosque

The Mosque wasn’t open for business at this time but we wouldn’t have been allowed in even if it had because non-believers are forbidden from entering a Muslim Mosque at any time.

In another post I wrote about how we were unwelcome in the holy city of Moulay Idriss, so much so that Abdul, the taxi driver wouldn’t stop for even a moment or two for a sightseeing walk through the intriguing streets but there were other exclusion zones in both Fez and Meknes.  These were the Mosques and although we could look through the open doors and windows we were certainly not allowed to step over the threshold. 

I find this difficult to understand, apparently even the prophet Muhammad invited Christians to pray in a mosque before meeting with them but it seems that attitudes have changed and intolerance has become an unwelcome religious characteristic.  I am forced to compare this with our own balanced approach which certainly (I hope) wouldn’t exclude a visitor of a different faith to the UK entering, for example, Westminster Abbey or any other religious building.

Around The World in Eighty Minutes – Part Three, Morocco

Epcot World Showcase

Of all the countries at the EPCOT World Showcase I suppose I will have to revise my earlier judgment and say that Morocco was probably the best representation of them all.

This is in part due to the fact that the Morocco Pavilion was the only one in which the country’s government aided in the construction and they did this so that they could retain some measure of Islamist control over the design of the mosaics and to ensure that everything was as authentic as possible in the representation of the Muslim faith.

The Disney Web Site introduces Morocco like this: “A realistic Koutoubia Minaret leads the way into this faraway land of traditional belly dancers, intricate Moroccan architecture and swirling mosaics made by native craftsmen. The Morocco Pavilion has 2 fascinating sections: the Ville Nouvelle (new city) and the Medina (old city). Discover a bustling plaza with a variety of shops and be on the lookout for some familiar Arabian Disney friends throughout the day.”

Well, one thing that I can confirm is that they have certainly got the shopping bit completely right because Disneyland and the Souks of Marrakech certainly have a lot in common when it comes to trying to part visitors from their money as I found out when taking a guided tour of the Fez souk:

Disney (1992) and the Real Thing (2011):

Epcot Morocco Drinking Fountain  Fez Drinking Fountain

The guide, Hussein, took us first to a carpet shop where the owner gave a brief introduction to carpet making in Morocco and provided with a cup of mint tea and then the sales pitch began and the carpets started to come out as they were theatrically thrown down onto the floor accompanied by a bit of explanation about history, designs and methods of manufacture.

Soon there was a carpet barricade blocking our exit and I began to worry about how we might get away from here without buying a floor covering that we didn’t want and still the pile just kept getting higher and higher.  Eventually it only seemed fair to be honest with him and tell him quite firmly that we didn’t need a new carpet, Kim told him that we had bought a new one from John Lewis only a couple of months previously but being unfamiliar with UK department stores this information was meaningless to him, we had no intention of buying one today here in Fez and we didn’t really want the sales demonstration in the first place.

We finally moved on without any wallet damage but the relief from the hard sell routine didn’t last long because as we walked through the dusty back alleys Hussein suddenly declared that he knew a short cut and knocked on a wooden door with flaking blue paint and rusty red  hinges and as it creaked open and we were invited inside it was obvious that this was not a sudden short cut recollection at all and that we were inside another shop and I was beginning to detect a pattern here.

This time it was an antique and jewellery shop and the owner offered us mint tea and said that he would be offended if we said no and invited us to look around the shop while the kettle boiled.  I’d had enough tea already so wasn’t looking forward to any more but luckily Micky came to the rescue and after a bit of bartering bought some silver bracelets and after the deal was done we were allowed to leave and as the kettle whistled to an empty shop everyone seemed relieved to forget about the tea.

There was no attempt by Hussein to disguise the true purpose of our tour now as he rushed us past things that might have been interesting to see with indecent haste because there were no shops and presumably no commission to be earned straight into another shop selling embroidered table cloths and napkins which we escaped from quite quickly but only directly into another one selling bedspreads and brightly coloured scarves and handkerchiefs.

Here the owner had a more effective sales technique where he corralled us all into a corner in the back of the shop with no easy escape route and kept banging on and showing samples in the hope that eventually one of us would lose the will to live and get a wallet out and it worked because after a few minutes we felt obliged to buy a couple of inexpensive scarves before elbowing our way towards the door.

Outside there was a saddle makers shop but we didn’t stop and I can only assume that this was because Hussein didn’t have a deal going there because of the fact that not many tourists are in the market for buying leather saddles in Fez on account of the difficulty in getting them home because of the Ryanair personal baggage allowance restrictions.

The first stop after lunch was a spice and argan oil shop.  Argan oil is valued for its nutritive, cosmetic and numerous medicinal properties but is one of the rarest oils in the world due the small and very specific growing areas because it is produced from the kernels of the argan tree which are only found in Morocco.

Naturally there was a shop attached and after the lesson on argan oil production we were invited to look around and try some samples.  Actually it really was rather good but also terribly expensive so once again we apologised for not making a purchase and slipped out and away from the hard sell routine as quickly as we could.

Next it was a tannery and the price to pay for a rooftop view of the famous limestone dye pits was another difficult twenty minutes in a leather shop selling coats, jackets, slippers and bags. I didn’t think we were going to get out of there very easily but again Micky was our saviour when he negotiated the purchase of a belt and we were able to get away.  Abdul was waiting for us outside the tannery and he loaded us up into the taxi and we set off for the other end of the souk.

Disney (1992) and the Real Thing (2011):

003  Morocco Fez Blue Gate

We could have walked the short distance but this was no use to Hussein who really needed to keep us altogether because there was one last shop to visit.  Abdul dropped us off at Fez’s most picturesque entrance, the Blue Gate, Bab Boujloud, blue on one side, the colour of Fez and green on the other, the Muslim colour of peace.  We walked a short way into the souk which on account of this being Friday was disappointingly quiet and closing up for the day and then we ended up in a silversmiths shop where there were more invitations to look and buy but I think they sensed that we were all shopped-out by now and not in purchasing mood and so they let us go quite quickly.

Abdul drove us back to the Riad and then it was time to settle up with Hussein.  We asked how much and he said there was no set price and we should pay what we thought the tour was worth.  This was difficult for us because we had no idea so we pressed him for some clues on what he might expect and we decided on €60 which he seemed to be happy with.  We said goodbye and he hurried off presumably back to the shops and the restaurant to pick up his commission on the sales we had been tricked into.

Disney (1992) and the Real Thing (Marrakech 2010):

Disney Marrakech Entertainers  

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Wall Tile Decoration, Fez, Morocco

Abdul drove the taxi along the city walls on one side and the gardens and decorative walls of the Royal Palace on the other.  The King lives mostly in Rabat but will visit his other palaces every now and again so there was a heavy presence of military guards at strategic points around the walls.  Our first stop was at the decorative bronze main gates of the palace with carved cedar wood panels and blue tiled arches with elaborate wood and plaster decoration.

Read the full story…

 

A Life in Ruins – Volubilis, Morocco

Volubilis Morocco

At the entrance to the site we paid the reasonable entry fee and then negotiated with a local guide who offered to give us a guided tour and a history of the city and when we were all satisfied with the price we set off along a dusty path towards the excavations and Hamid began his commentary

Volubilis was the Roman capital of the Province of Mauritania and was founded in the third century B.C., it became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings.  Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in the middle of this fertile agricultural area.  The city continued to be occupied long after the Romans had gone and at some point converted to Islam and Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris.   It is now of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site, admitted to the list in 1997.

Volubilis was an important and versatile place, a garrison town which protected the far south western boundary of the Empire, an agricultural bread basket producing important crops like wheat and olives in the fertile valley to be transported across the Empire via Tangier to the North on the Mediterranean Sea and a city of rich noblemen who built themselves fine villas and a beautiful city in an enviable location.  Much better I imagine to be posted here than to the northern extremes of the Empire at Hadrian’s Wall.

Volubilis, it turns out, is the most important ancient archeological site in Morocco and Hassan took us into the old streets running north to south and through the foundations and walls of the houses that flanked them.  In many of them there were fine mosaics and I thought it a little surprising to find them here exposed to the elements and not having been removed to a museum nearby.

Volubilis Morocco

The houses were huge and with a bit of imagination it was almost possible to imagine what this place may have been like two thousand years ago.  It was interesting to walk around the old streets, wander through the corridors of the houses, along the main street of shops and imagine that in this very place there were soldiers marching, old Latin plays being performed in the theatre, emperor worshippers in the temples, magistrates swaggering around importantly in togas, and slaves to do all of the dirty work.

After walking along the main street lined by the remains of grand columns and arches we arrived at the centre piece of the city, the triumphal arch which has been carefully pieced back together by French archaeologists nearly a hundred years ago.  Next to the arch was the Forum, the centre of political life in the city and adjacent to that the ancient Basilica where the citizens came to worship their gods.

Hamid concluded the tour with an explanation of Roman life in this area and tried to speculate why the Romans suddenly abandoned Morocco but like many historians who have wrestled with this question before him could provide no answers.  He walked us back to the car park where Abdul was waiting and we paid the agreed fee and added a tip to thank him for an excellent tour.

Volubilis Morocco

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Ryanair – Inconsistency and Double Standards

Despite the weekly avalanche of complaints about the low cost airline Ryanair I have always defended their sometimes questionable business ethics and their grotesquely bad customer services on the basis that if it wasn’t for Michael O’Leary then we wouldn’t have all these affordable travel opportunities in the first place but what I saw at Fez airport was appalling and I feel compelled to write about here.  Write about it here because complaining direct to the airline is both difficult and a waste of time because the company does not take critical feedback seriously.

After we had checked in and gone through the security procedures we sat and waited for our flight in the tiny departure lounge next to the duty free store.  After about an hour or so a group of three or four young Moroccan men turned up and began to produce large empty holdall bags from their checked hand luggage and then they made for duty free where they blatantly filled these bags with literally hundreds of packets of cigarettes and saved some space for some cheap spirits as well.  There was no attempt to be discreet about this as they did it in full view of everyone in the departure lounge, enjoyed drawing attention to themselves and appeared to have the cooperation of the shop and airport security staff as well all of whom were rewarded with a carrier bag full of what were clearly backhanders.

Now, I am not against someone trying to carry a few extra duty free goods through customs if they want to take the risk of being caught but I was shocked by the attitude towards this by the Ryanair staff.  First of all the security staff escorted these men without priority boarding cards to the front of the priority boarding line while the Ryanair staff at the gate turned a blind eye.  I suppose Ryanair might say that these are not actual Ryanair staff but they were wearing Ryanair tabards and therefore representing the company and when it came time to board these men who now had two or even three large bags each just swept past the gate staff and made their way to the plane without any sort of challenge.

What has irritated me about this is that at UK and European airports vigilant Ryanair staff are always poised and ready to pounce on anyone with an oversized or overweight bag to slap an additional charge on them but here there was no attempt to enforce the company rules.  I don’t mind the rules and I always keep within them but I considered this blatant inconsistency to be unacceptable.

They still had to get on the plane and if the gate staff weren’t actual Ryanair employees then the cabin crew certainly were so I remained hopeful that they would deal with the situation according to Ryanair policy and refuse to take the extra bags on board.  Imagine my surprise (no, shock actually) therefore when they too ignored the oversized bags and even assisted the men to wedge them into the overhead lockers.  Were they expecting a backhander as well or was it just too much trouble or perhaps too dangerous to confront the issue I wondered.  Either way it is unfair to passengers to enforce company rules in some locations but not in others and during the flight home I composed a letter of complaint in my head but by the end of the flight it all seemed rather pointless.

After we landed and cleared passport control we walked through the green light ‘nothing to declare’ channel and I have to say that I was delighted that one of these cigarette smugglers had been stopped and the contents of his bag were being attentively scrutinised by the customs officer, he had been caught and was in trouble but with the help and assistance of Ryanair staff the other two or three had managed to get their contraband through UK customs.

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