The actual town of Volubilis sits on the hillside just a short 2 km from Moulay-Idriss. I had cycled past it the previous day, but it had been too late to contemplate stopping. My plan for the day was to go back and visit the ruins, then make the short ride into Meknes later in the afternoon.
Entry to the archeological site was through a gated entrance, where I paid 10 dh and collected a ticket from the booth. It was busy with a large bus load of tourists, so the guides kind of left me alone. I chained my bike to the inside of the entrance gate, figuring it would be safe there in full view and began wandering down into a small valley. I could see the columns and Basilica a short walk up the other side of the valley, but decided to visit the extremities of the ruins first.
Volubilis is the best preserved archeological site in Morocco. The area was settled in the 3rd century BC and annexed as the Roman Empire’s most remote outpost about AD 40. They later abandoned the city in about AD 280 after the Berber tribes started to reassert themselves. What is very sad is that the site is left unprotected from the elements and in particular the mosaics have seen a lot of damage due to weathering.
Many of the mosaics depict wild animals, which were shipped to Rome for the ‘games’. Over a period of 200 years, the wild elephants, lions and bears, to name just a few, all became extinct from the surrounding hills.
Volubilis remained occupied by Greeks, Jews, Syrians and of course Berbers until the 18th century, when in 1755 the buildings collapsed during the Lisbon earthquake.
The Triumphal Arch was built by the citizens of Volubilis to the Roman Emperor Caracalla and his mother, Julia Donna, in thanks for not having to pay taxes.
As I walked back to the entrance and unlocked my bike, a tout approached me and asked me for a ‘parking fee’ for the bike. Of course I refused and he became quite animated, but I stuck to my guns. Thankfully a local came along and told him to leave me alone (he quickly left) and then we had a good chat about my cycling journey thus far, and where I planned to go.
So next, onto Meknes…