Volubilis Travel Guide

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Mosaic in the Volubilis ruins

Mosaic in the Volubilis ruins

Hans-Peter Harmsen

Volubilis is the best preserved Roman site in Morocco and is an easy excursion from Meknes. It is on the same winding road as Moulay Idriss, the birthplace of Moulay Idriss, the creator of the first Arab dynasty. Both sites (they are 4 km apart) are definitely worth a visit, especially if you are interested in Moroccan/Roman and Arab history.

As you approach Volubulis, you will see the ruins on a long, high plateau. This is where the Roman imperial road ended. After conquering France, Spain and Tangier, the Berber tribes stopped the Romans from entering the Atlas mountains. The Roman rule lasted two centuries, and when they left, change came very slowly. Christian churches survived until the arrival of Islam and the local population of Berbers, Greeks, Syrians and Jews spoke Latin until the seventh century. The city remained an active agricultural center and trading post until the 18th century when most of the marble was transported to build Meknes. This region’s land is some of the most fertile in North Africa, and the city exported wheat, olives and wild animals hunted in the hills to Rome. The ruins remaining are buildings from the second and third AD. They are impressively maintained and excavated.

The entrance to the site is through a small gate, built in 168 AD. There is a ticket office and a cafe with a terrace, where you can get cool drinks and a reasonable tajine. The best time to come is early morning or late afternoon, because it can get real hot at the site. The site is open from sunrise to sunset.

Coming from the entrance the first sight is the olive press, which reflects the olive’s importance to the city. When you walk on you see the Forum, the Basilica and the Capitol. Continuing on you get to the Triumphal Arch. To your right, you will find most of the Mansions with their beautiful mosaic floors. Make sure to see Diana bathing and Bacchus surrounded by the Four Seasons.

Volubulis is a lovely place to be for sunset, just make sure you have a ride back to Meknes.

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