Volubilis – The Best Roman Ruins of… Morocco?
You can imagine my reaction when I read that out loud from my trip itinerary. It doesn’t sound very… Moroccan, to say the least. Where are the stereotypical camels, belly dancers and tagines?!
Needless to say, I was the first one to be surprised to learn that Northern Morocco is home to some one of the finest Roman ruins in the world. No kidding.
The Ruins weren’t appreciated for what they were until the second half of the 19th century, when the French colonies took over Morocco and excavated the site, revealing intact, intricate mosaics, and the foundations of the many buildings that were destroyed by a big earthquake in the 18th century. But the history of the site dates back much further than just 200 years ago. In fact, it was built around 3 centuries BC by Carthaginians and continued to thrive under the Roman reign until the 3rd century.
Its key to success?
Location, location, location.
Volubilis is situated on top of some of the most fertile land in Morocco and was famous throughout the Empire for its olive-growing business, grains, and wild animals that were sent to Rome for gladiatorial spectacles. Such high-quality and sought-after items made Volubilis one of the wealthiest cities in the Empire – that’s why there are so many fine mosaics and architectural structures to admire today.
Honestly, I had no idea that SO much history went down in the area. We don’t hear about it in history books, nor in history classes in high school. But it was quite fascinating to stand in a place that held such importance and wealth in other times, more exactly almost two millenniums ago.
Especially in a country in which I never thought was so involved in the Roman Empire!
Volubilis in Morocco: Good To Know
- Volubilis may seem out of the way, but, in reality, it’s only 60km from Fes and 30km from Meknes. The problem is that if you don’t have a car, it’s a bit complicated to get there. In my case, I was there for a few hours on my Best of Morocco with Intrepid Travel.
- Hire a private guide for the visit. It lasts about an hour and holds invaluable information about how this place came to be.
- Wear your walking shoes. Trails can be abrupt and slippery at times.
- Bring water – there is not a lot of shade on site and the sun shines very brightly. Hydration is essential!