23 January 2016

Meandering in Morocco: Volubilis

Our trip to Morocco was definitely varied and diverse. Not only did we see ancient medinas, the Sahara, but also we saw ancient Roman ruins. Yep, ancient Rome reached all the way here in North Africa, and when we were in Meknès, we took a day trip to Volubilis, an ancient Roman city on the fringes of the empire.

In order to get here, we opted to take a bus, departing from Meknès and heading to Moulay Idriss. After about less than an hour, we reached the town, and from there we first thought of taking a taxi to the ruins. The ruins are about several kilometers away from the town. However, when we got to Moulay Idriss, the taxi drivers were rather greedy, quoting us prices that were rather high. We tried bargaining, but didn't succeed. We even almost started an argument between two taxi drivers, because we approached one taxi driver first, and he told us a price that was too high, and then we approached a second taxi driver, who gave us a lower price. When we agreed, he then forwarded us to the first taxi driver we spoke to, because apparently the first taxi driver was first in line. When the two taxi drivers realized that they gave conflicting quotes, the first taxi driver got mad and explained to us why his price is indeed correct, meanwhile the second taxi driver lost face and had to depart the taxi queue. In the end, we didn't feel comfortable giving in to the first taxi driver, so we opted to walk. It took us about 45 minutes of walking, but I have to say, I felt morally better that way. Besides, the countryside was pretty.

So we arrived in Volubilis. This city was founded in the 3rd century BC, and was flourishing until about 285 AD, when it was taken over by local tribes. The Romans thought it was too far, and therefore they didn't really protect it. Later on, the stones from Volubilis would be taken by the Moroccan rulers who built Meknès. Nowadays, it is a vast ruins that is worth a couple hours of your time.

The pictures above depict the most notable structures in the area. Only half of Volubilis has been excavated, but the basilica and the triumphal arch have been reconstructed, and is now the most notable structure of the area. There is also a Capitoline Temple, and these structures are found at the middle of the area. There are mansions that surround these buildings, some of them are excavated, and some still need a lot of work.

The Decumanus Maximus is a very wide street that bisects the area. The end of the main street is where the Triumphal Arch stands, and it forms a contrast with the other structures at the end of the street. As is typical with other main streets in ancient Rome, a number of pillars line up the sides, and yes, owning a mansion facing this street is quite a luxury.

The pictures above show the other structures: some of these are private mansions, some of these are houses, some are public buildings.

What I like about Volubilis is its collection of very intact mosaics. Most of these mosaics are found in the structures that line up the main street, indicating that these were once features of buildings owned by rich people back then. It is definitely something to be amazed of, as these mosaics feature intricate designs, all made up of small pieces of stone. Such artwork!

So yes, this was an interesting place to visit. I totally recommend it, if you're in the area. Just prepare to bargain well with taxi drivers. On the way back, we were approached by some guys with cars at the parking lot, offering to take us back to Moulay Idriss, so that we could catch the bus back. This time, these folks quoted a price that was definitely very much reasonable compared to what was quoted to us before. So we took a taxi, which allowed us to catch the next bus who was just about to depart Moulay Idriss back to Meknès.

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