Days: 462 (30 September 2015)
Total distance travelled: 123,346.4 kilometres (76,612.65 miles)
Rewind almost two thousand years, and here, between modern day Rabat and Fes, we’d find ourselves on the fringes of civilisation. On the fringes of the Roman Empire.
And the star of the show in this neck of the woods (literally), was Volubilis, a city that made itself rich off of the olive trade.
By the time we got here, things had pretty much turned to shit for the Romans, although as a testament to their construction prowess, there’s still quite a bit to see here.
Not that it’s any consolation to its original Roman citizens, as after the city fell to local tribes in the third century, it was considered too remote to bother sending troops to rectify the situation, and as such, Volubilis was a city of Rome no more.
The olive oil brought wealth to the city, and that wealth had to go somewhere (it certainly wasn’t shared equitably amongst the people), and as such, several people got fat off the spoils, and the floors of their once palatial homes, we were more than happy to ogle at under the late September sun.
The rich folks of this city had spent their money well, and the mosaics on which some of that cash had been spent, were pretty impressive indeed.
The focal point of the city was the columned and arched temple, so impressive it was deemed a worthy nesting place for the resident storks.
Above, the sky was also putting on a show, creating something akin to a ladder of cloud across the otherwise blue sky.
A Polish couple wandered the ruins, but otherwise we pretty much had the place to ourselves (and when I say ourselves, I refer to our tour group), so plenty of time was taken exploring and snapping pictures.
The temple, not surprisingly given the status it would have held in the ancient city, offered the highest point from which we could take in what remained of the city, many of its stairs in surprisingly good condition.
The other grandiose piece was mistaken initially for a city gate, but was in fact a triumphal arch, a standing monument to victory in some past battle, or possibly for simply upping the quantity of olives squeezed for their oil.
Whatever it’s true history, it was a nice and interesting piece.
Just not as interesting as the next surprise our guide had for us…
We were all ushered into something akin to a cul-de-sac, as he stood leaning in the centre of what must have once been a room of perhaps a house, or some other building.
Then with a flourish he stood up from the stone slab on which he’d been half sitting, half leaning to reveal… a carved stone penis!
More former town houses were explored, where the remains of fountains and pools were found, some intricate columns and archways, and more of those stunning mosaics.
A few of those tessellated pieces of floor art even sported that ancient symbol the swastika, these days more commonly associated with national socialism (yes, the Nazis) than the various historical peoples who used it long before Adolf Hitler perverted its use.
There was time enough for a cool drink and a bathroom break before we were back aboard our bus, and but for a brief moment of excitement where Julie (Sarah’s mum) blew out the flip-flop she’d borrowed from Sarah, which saw her carried back to our waiting bus by our guide Younes, we were done.
* Our flights from London Gatwick to Marrakesh (via Casablanca) with Royal Air Maroc cost us £88.09 per person.
* Our 15 night Morocco tour was booked through On-the-go travel, and costs per person vary depending on the season.