When we think about Morocco, even knowing about its rich history of Berber, Arab, African and European cultures, we are far from imagining that there’s a site with Roman vestiges. That site is Volubilis, an outstanding example of a town bearing witness to an exchange of influences since High Antiquity until Islamic times.
Volubilis was a Roman settlement constructed on what was probably a Carthaginian city, dating from 3rd century BC, in North Africa, Morocco. Just a short distance from the city of Meknes (about 28 km) it was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in Morocco in 1997.
Volubilis was a central administrative city for this part of Roman Africa, known as Mauretania. The extraordinarily fertile and beautiful lands that surrounded and still surround the town produced olive oils and several kinds of grains that were exported to Rome.
After the Romans lost their foothold in this part of Africa, which happened around the end of the 3rd century, Volubilis was not left uninhabited. Instead, people continued to live here for more than 1 000 years, being first abandoned in the 18th century, when it was demolished to provide building materials for the construction of the palaces of Moulay Ismail in nearby Meknes.
Ten centuries of occupation, from Mauritanian times when it was part of an independent kingdom, to the Roman period when it was a metropolis of the Roman province of Mauritania Tingitana towards the end a Christian era. Finally, an Islamic period characterised by the founding of the dynasty of the Idrissids, make this place one of the most valuable sites of this period in North Africa.
This wonderfully preserved site should be visited by everyone who comes to Morocco as it provides a rare glimpse into the past. For a touch of romanticism to your visit try to do it at sunset. The remaining vestiges adopt a shade of yellow with the sunset on the horizon, making the perfect frame for such a fantastic legacy.
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