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Volubilis in Morocco

Volubilis

Volubilis is an ancient Roman city where the best preserved and most visited archaeological remains in Morocco are located. In 1997, the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

History

Excavations indicate that the first inhabitants of Volubilis were Carthaginians, in the 3rd century BC. Later, in 42 AD, the city was annexed to the Roman Empire.

The Roman urbe soon exceeded 20,000 inhabitants, almost entirely devoted to agriculture, particularly wheat cultivation, at Rome’s behest. Volubilis was part of the Roman Empire until the end of the 3rd century, when it fell to Berbers, Greeks, Syrians, and Jews.

At the end of the 8th century, Idriss I made it his refuge and, after proclaiming himself Emir, alleging direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad, turned Volubilis into the spreading point of Islam in the area.

Volubilis’ decline was marked by a terrible earthquake in the 18th century that destroyed most of its buildings. What managed to escape the earthquake was later raided to embellish the palaces of Meknès.

What to see in Volubilis?
Although the best way to get to know the city is undoubtedly to walk through the ruins, there are some interesting spots that you cannot miss:

  • Forum, Basilica and Temple of Jupiter: Located in the upper part of Volubilis, these were the three focal points of public life in the city.
  • Baths: Despite their rather shabby appearance, it is still possible to observe the heating system used in these Roman baths.
  • Arch of Caracalla: Erected in marble in 217 in honor of the emperor and his mother, it was crowned by a bronze quadriga.
  • Mosaics: Probably the most famous elements of Volubilis, these mosaics depict a wide variety of themes. The most famous are the Labors of Hercules, the Bath of the Nymphs, the Acrobat, Bacchus and Ariadne, and the Bath of Diana. Uncovering them all without a guide can prove to be a daunting task!

With or without a guide?

In order to explore Volubilis without missing any details, we strongly recommend that you request the services of a guide. At the entrance to the archaeological complex you will find official guides in all languages. The ticket costs 20 dirhams per person.

How to reach Volubilis from Fez?

There are several ways to reach Fès, let’s see them in order of convenience:

  • Booking a private tour: highest quality, vehicles in good condition and affordable prices. The price is around 250€ per vehicle and you will have a private guide at your disposal. You can book your tour here.
  • Hire a cab for the whole day: a cheaper option than the first one, although you will have to haggle over the price, travel in an old car and rely on a driver with a “sporty” driving style, who probably won’t even speak English and won’t be able to explain any of the monuments you visit. The price of this is around 100€.
  • Car rental: the condition of the roads in Morocco leaves something to be desired, not to mention that the locals drive quite recklessly. Taking into consideration, moreover, that the vehicle they will offer you will not be one of the newest, we advise against this solution. However, if you wish, you can rent a car in Fès.
  • Reaching Meknès and hiring a cab: you can get to Meknès by train, bus or in a collective cab, which is very cheaply priced (about 5€ per person and ride). Once in Meknès you can hire a cab with driver during 4 hours, priced about 60€.

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