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Top 10 Places Not to Miss > Voublis, Walili Roman Ruins
Travel To Volubilis, Walili (Roman Ruins) in Morocco
There is no better proof that the Romans once occupied Morocco
than the dramatic and breathtaking archaeological site of Volubilis, (Arabic, Walili) located thirty-three kilometers from Meknes
in the Middle Atlas. The nearest town is Moulay Idriss
, named after the great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The site, which has been recognized by UNESCO since 1997, became famous abroad when Martin Scorsese made it a feature location for his film, The Last Temptation of Christ.
Visit the Mosaics in Volubilis on a Morocco Private Tour.
Volubilis is best described as a colony where Roman culture was made central to its inhabitants. Originally, the site was a Carthaginian settlement since the third century B.C.; however, the Roman Empire transformed the city into one of its administrative centers. The Romans transformed Volubilis
into a typical city complete with mansions to house the Roman officials, a town center, a triumphal arc and temples devoted to the Roman gods. Christianity was the practiced religion and Latin was the spoken language by the Greeks, Jews and Syrians living in Volubilis.
Volubilis was the administrative center of the province in Roman Africa called Mauretania Tingitana. The fertile lands of the province produced many commodities such as grain and olive oil, which were exported to Rome, contributing to the province's wealth and prosperity. Volubilis functioned as a final stop of the Roman imperial roads that went across France, Spain, down Morocco’s northern city of Tangier and eventually into Volubilis.
Of all the outsiders that attempted to settle in Morocco, the Berbers were least able to get along with the Romans. Although the Romans brought essential items to Morocco such as the sundial and cooking utensils and added value to Morocco’s economy with introduction of the oil press, the Berbers refused to accept the Romans exploitation of Morocco’s fertile lands to cultivate wheat and other grains to export to Rome. After 300 years of quarreling with the Berbers and the fall of the Roman Empire, the Romans left Morocco.
One interesting fact is that after the Berbers took back control over Volubilis, the Jews, Greeks and Syrian immigrants lived harmoniously alongside the Berbers until the seventh century, when Morocco’s new sultan Moulay Ismail came into power.
Both foreign and Moroccan tourists travel to Volubilis to explore the site’s great historical significance. The Fes Festival of Sacred World Music, which takes place each June, features an annual concert at Volubilis held within the ancient Roman ruins. A two-hour drive from Fes, concerts in past years have featured local Moroccan performances by Sufi groups, the Akhawat el-Fane el-Assil Ensemble, Songs of the Brotherhoods of Morocco- El Boussairi, the Hadra Women of Chefchaouen, Sacred chants of Jbel and Tibetan songstress Yungchen Lhamo.
Today, Volubilis is covered in fascinating ruins decorated with beautiful mosaics and colorful tiles depicting Roman mythology. Volubilis’ ruins are argued to be the some of the best preserved north Africa and at first glance, with some imagination, offer the opportunity to see what a traditional Roman city once looked like. Several fragments of walls still remain, along with parts of massive columns and arches; this is thought to be the courthouse. Furthermore, the capitol, the basilica and the triumphal arch are visible.
Visitors who come to Volubilis usually enjoy an itinerary that consists of visiting the open air museum with remains of altars, sculptural fragments, and colorful mosaics. Leaving the museum, you will cross a bridge over the Fertessa stream and wander into an area mixed with houses and industry; each building shows evidence of one or more olive presses. Even Volubilis has been under Moroccan rule for centuries; the importance of olives in Volubilis is why the city has not been reinvented.
Further along, the House of Orpheus displays the affluence of one of the richest men at the time of Roman rule. The houses public apartments and rooms are the main attraction. The private rooms are decorated with a dolphin mosaic. Above the House of Orpheus, the sand colored ruins of the Capitol and Basilica, the main public buildings, are well visited.
Before visiting the mansions and mosaics, be sure to appreciate the remains of the aqueduct and fountains across the triumphal arc. After you do, make sure to explore the grand and extravagant series of the Decumanus Maximus mansions, including the House of Ephebus, House of Columns and Palace of Gordians.
The closest city to Volubilis is the picturesque white washed town of Moulay Idriss. If you stand on one of the twin hills of Moulay Idriss, you can see Volubilis in the short distance. Moulay Idriss is only about five kilometers away from Volubilis. Being at a distance, you will be able to appreciate the green plateau that Volubilis is situated on. Also noticeable is the line of cypresses accompanying a series of columns, arches. The horizon is dominated by the triumphant aqueduct. Also you will notice how the Fertessa River, running on one side of Volubilis, adds a sense of tranquility and charm to the Roman ruins.
After you have experienced a day of playing archeologist, dine at the Volubilis Inn, where you will be surrounded by pomegranates and jasmine. This is a great spot to catch the sunset fall over this mystical site.