|Strolling down the Decumanus Maximus|
How do you say “boloo-blah-blah”?
|Roman inscription recording the name of the city|
What was Volubilis?
|The basilica (foreground) and the forum (background)|
|Arch of Caracalla|
Why did it fall into ruins?
Once abandoned, Volubilis became sort of informal quarry for local building projects—the palaces of Meknes, for example—but after the same earthquake that flattened Lisbon in 1755, little was left standing and the main monumental buildings we see today were in shambles.
What is left today?
|Mosaics depicting dolphins|
Remarkably, some vast and colorful mosaics still cover the floors of courtyards and pools in the remains of private homes across the city; you can stroll down the main streets, crossing thresholds here and there to see massive, whimsical designs that would have taken many, many hours to complete by hand.
The Tingis Gate stands on the outskirts of town, up the hill along the Decumanus Maximus or Main Street. A lanky, three-arched structure, it was rebuilt during the restorations of the forum, basilica, and triumphal arch. From here you can really get a feel for the whole sweep of the town as the northeastern side the site is empty and at a higher elevation from the center.
What I enjoyed the most was simply being able to explore the ruins with only a few ropes cordoning off the most significant mosaics; you could just crawl over the stones and balance along rows of blocks—as long as the guardian standing on a hill in the center didn’t blow his whistle at you!
Thankfully there were few tourists at Volubilis—a German tour group here, some Spaniards there—so I felt free to photograph and appreciate the ruins in the quiet, warm sunlight.
How do I get there?
|Grand taxi from Meknes|
I was really fortunate because I was able to share the price of getting there with three other Americans who graciously let me join in on the taxi they had arranged through our hotel. For 125 dirhams each (about 15 bucks), the driver took us to Volubilis, let us roam around, drove us over to Moulay Idriss where we had lunch, and took us back to Meknes, all within the span of four hours, so not a bad deal at all.
Would you go out of your way to see Roman ruins in the Arab world, like Leptis Magna in Libya or Alexandria in Egypt? Or do you prefer the living culture to the silent past? Comment below!
For more pictures, check out my set on Flickr here.