Yes, there are Roman ruins in Morocco. I couldn’t believe it at first either but the Romans were pretty badass and their empire stretched to the corners of Northern Africa.
Volubilis was built in 3rd century BC (which is 2300 years ago, what?!) by Carthaginian but grew rapidly under Roman rule from 1st century AD onwards. It was quite a prosperous city due to the fertile soil surrounding the area. However, by 3rd century AD, the city fell to local tribes and was never taken back due to its remoteness. Poor Volubilis was abandoned. Fret not, a Christian and later Islamic community took over until 11th century where it fell into disrepair.
Now a UNESCO site for its exceptional preservation, Volubilis is a wonderful place to explore and lose yourself in time.
Volubilis is about one and a half hours away from Fes which makes it a good option for a day trip. Tour companies usually have the option of visiting Meknes and Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (a holy city) after the trip to Volubilis.
Some of the stones were looted by Moroccan rulers to build Meknes. Ooops.
As you can see, Volubilis is exceptionally well-preserved.
Well, that is until stupid tourists decide to sit on the ruins.
I realised that I don’t walk very glamorously.
We were very lucky that the rain had passed just as we arrived in Volubilis, making for picture perfect shots with fluffy clouds and blue skies!
Volubilis was actually the first Roman ruin I had visited in my entire life. Clearly, I was a little too excited and went overboard with the photos. I did appreciate the size of the compound and the intricacies that were quite well-preserved. It wasn't very crowded as well (evidently) which meant that I could take as many photos as I wanted. Do yourself a favour and go early!
Next up on the agenda was Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, a holy city. It was here that Moulay Idriss first brought the religion of Islam to Morocco. He also initiated the construction of Fes.
While the town is quite small, it gets packed in the holy month of Ramadan. It is believed that six pilgrimages to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun is equivalent to one Haj to Mecca. This is especially important for the Moroccans who might not have enough money to go make the journey to Mecca.
As a town, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun was certainly quite interesting. It was small and quaint, nothing exceptionally special, but yet it held such a great importance to the history of Morocco.
Meknes was our next stop; it was one of the four imperial cities of Morocco—which meant that it was once the capital of Morocco. While the medina was significantly less impressive than Marrakesh, we got hopelessly, hopelessly lost. Our guide had given us time to explore the city at our own leisure. Big Mistake. We followed one street after another, making forgetful turns and getting distracted at the nougat that street vendors were offering.
At the stipulated meeting time, we realised that we had no idea where we were. AT ALL. Futile attempts were made to look for landmarks to orientate ourselves but to no avail. The couple that was exploring with us had decided to take a taxi back to the meeting point. Being broke ass students, we decided to be brave and use our heads—ok, I used Google maps. The hard part was that we forgot the name of the meeting point and had to guess the exact location. Since I’m writing this now, I think its safe to assume that I’ve made it out of the blue LOL.
Meknes is quite a vibrant town and certainly has a more authentic feel than Marrakesh. I would certainly recommend it for those who would like to #livelikealocal
I must say that I quite enjoyed the day trip out of Fes. Volubilis certainly allowed me to better appreciate the long history of Morocco. Meknes offered an insight to daily life that was different from the chaos that was Marrakesh and the confusion that was Fes.
A little word of advice would be to combine this day trip with an overnight in Chefcheoeun. Not visiting Chefchaoeun is definitely one of my biggest regret of the Moroccan trip. I was a little put off by the fact that Chefchaoeun was 3 hours away from Fes. Little did I know that it would make more sense to just overnight in the blue town after the Volubilis and Meknes Shenanigans. AH WELLS, at least you know and won’t make the same mistake!