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.

The once wealthy, frontier city of Volubilis

The once wealthy, frontier Roman city of Volubilis

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.

Amazing what you can afford thanks to a little olive oil!

Amazing what you can afford thanks to a little olive oil!

Mosaic: One of the big attractions of Volubilis

Mosaic: One of the big attractions of Volubilis

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.

Amazing ruins and stunning clouds

Amazing ruins and stunning clouds

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.

A rare column, free of Stork nest (left) & Stately arches... (right)

A rare column, free of Stork nest (left) & Stately arches… (right)

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!

A triumphal arch (left) & A rock hard... (right)

A triumphal arch (left) & A rock hard… (right)

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.

Yet another impressive piece of ceramic (rather many pieces) flooring

Yet another impressive piece of ceramic (rather many pieces) flooring

Apparently this spiral style of column is quite rare (left) & This road will lead you straight outta town (right)

Apparently this spiral style of column is quite rare (left) & This road will lead you straight outta town (right)

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.

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11 Responses to Volubilis

  1. Pingback: The Blue City | theworldwithchrisandsarah

  2. Tami says:

    Reminds me of all the mosaic tiles we saw at Delphi in Greece, as well as the mosaic floors of merchant shops at Ostia Antica, outside of Rome. I can’t even imagine the patience (and the expense) of creating a floor design with the detail of a women tapestry, but with tiles! Thanks for the interesting post and fantastic photos!

  3. The stark and vast landscapes surrounding the ruins make them all the more poignant and striking. Many ruins are now surrounded by modern developments. They still fascinating but ones like this are so much better.

  4. Neha Verma says:

    Ruins like these always interest me. They have thousands of stories hidden in their folds. And what you pointed about the quality of the mosaic – it’s actually true for the quality of all the building material that was used in the ancient past. I would love to visit volubilis.

  5. traciehowe says:

    I love ancient cities like this! I missed this one while in Morocco though. It’s surprising to see the mosaics still intact.

  6. Beautiful place to visit. These ancient ruined cities really fascinate me. Roman history is fascinating and full of intrigue. The Mosaic looks really exquisite. How much skill and labour must have been involved to create such a masterpiece.


  7. Milosz Zak says:

    I traveled to Morocco a long time ago, almost 10 years ago, and Volubilis was a highlight. I was really surprised you could really make out the layout of the city so well. Alas, I believe I didn’t pay as much attention to the mosaics, as I probably should have.

  8. Ami Bhat says:

    No doubt that Volubilis is interesting and amazing. But what amazes me in each pic of yours i the perfect sky that offsets the ruins. Lovely captures.

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