Volubilis: A Historic Site in Morocco Where You Can Step Back in Time

Volubilis: A Historic Site in Morocco Where You Can Step Back in Time

Outside the city of Meknes is a partly-excavated city that was once the capital of the Mauretanian kingdom. Dating back to the pre-Roman period, Volubilis is a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Morocco’s UNESCO-listed site of Volubilis dates back to before the Roman times and it is one of the country’s most significant archeological sites. Surrounded by mountains and fields, it offers something a bit different to the norm when travelling around the North African nation. 

Volubilis was once at the heart of the vast Kingdom of Mauritania, a powerful empire that spread across North Africa, including lands that are in present-day Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, northern Algeria, Mali, and Senegal, as well as Gibraltar and parts of Spain and Portugal.

Once a Berber settlement, it later became a strategic outpost of the Roman Empire. It then served as the capital of the Idrisid dynasty for a short period. 

volubilis morocco

Today, the site boasts fascinating remains and ruins, both Berber and Roman. Some sections are well preserved while others have been carefully reconstructed to provide glimpses into the area’s glorious past. Easy to reach from Meknes and Fes, here’s what you can expect at the splendid Volubilis.

Interesting archaeological finds

Before entering the ruined site, you’ll walk through a small open-air museum that displays items found in the area. There are several inscribed stones along with ornamental details that have broken away from structures, and more. Information is provided in several languages, helping you to learn more about the ancient settlement.

Signs of life from the past

As you wander through the site, keep in mind that some of the now-ruined buildings were once home to the settlements population; some 20,000 people are believed to have occupied the area in the past. Some homes were fairly small and modest, while others were grand and ornate. The House of Orpheus, the Gordian Palace, and the House of Venus are a couple of examples of once large and lavish residences. The area also had public bathhouses, administrative buildings, stores, workshops, a reconstructed olive press, storage areas, and everything else that would have been necessary for a community to thrive. There are lots of enticing nooks and crannies to explore!

Well preserved mosaics

Remarkably, despite the passage of time and the site being open to the weather, many fine examples of detailed and decorative mosaics can be found throughout the ruins. Animals, sea creatures, nymphs, mythological characters, trees, flowers, household items, musical instruments, and images of Dionysius and Bacchus (the Greek and Roman Gods of wine) are among the scenes depicted by the mosaics. 

Beautiful triumphal arch

Originally built in the 200s, honouring the death of Emperor Caracalla and standing at what was once the start of the settlement’s main street, the triumphal arch has been well restored to showcase its former grandeur.  There are several other gates and archways throughout the site too.

Temple remains

Although only soaring columns, steps, and foundations remain of the once-sacred temple, it’s easy to imagine how beautiful it would have been when at its prime. Storks now nest atop some of the pillars. Let your imagination run free and picture crowds of people coming here to pray and show their respects to the three deities of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva. 

Restored aqueduct

volubilis morocco

volubilis morocco

Though no water flows over the bridge today, and it serves no useful purpose for transporting goods and people, the remains of the old aqueduct further serve to show the site’s former importance. The remains are also very photogenic!

Glorious views

Look from the ruins in any direction and you’ll see rolling fields and undulating mountains. In spring, wildflowers add bursts of colour to the area. For awesome views down across Volubilis, head up one of the two hills of nearby Moulay Idriss. 

The old marketplace, which was once lined with luxurious shops and grand homes, and the remains of a basilica are other prominent features around the expansive complex. Volubilis is an impressive and attractive historic site. Take time to stroll through the area, soaking up the details and imagining life in the past. 

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


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