Culture in Morocco: a Day Trip to Volubilis

Culture in Morocco: a Day Trip to Volubilis

Any trip to Fes should include a day out to the gorgeous Roman city of Volubilis, probably the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in Morocco.


Getting there

The site is an hour and a half drive from Fes, through hilly countryside populated with farmers working over wheat fields (strewn in poppies during my visit) and olive groves. Dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, Volubilis was one of the Roman Empire's most remote outposts and (rather smugly) I can now tick it off as one of the missing links in the chain of Roman sites I've visited that dot the North African coast: Volubilis (Morocco) - Carthage (Tunisia) - Timgad (Algeria) - Leptis Magna (Libya) - Alexandria (Egypt).


The ruins

An impressive Triumphal Arch to Caracalla marks the entrance and some ancient oil presses still exist. I always think of Russell Crowe coming home in Gladiator - more for the surrounding countryside rather than the grisly welcome he got. During our visit the site was overrun with wild flowers and there was a huge stork's nest on one of the Forum columns. We sat and watched mother stork fly to and fro from the nest bringing back food for her squawking young. A huge carob tree provided shade whilst our excellent guide regaled us with stories of the Vomitorium (such a pleasant Roman past time and one in which the Brits still compete on most weekends) and the meaning of the word Spa: Salus per Agua - Health through Water.


Moulay Idriss

The nearby shrine town of Moulay Idriss is charming and worth stopping for lunch either on route or return to Volubilis - a venerable pilgrimage centre, it also has a higgledy piggledy medina and a good market square for coffee and people watching.