Volubilis, everlasting proof of Roman Settlement in Fes

23.01.18 09:17 PM By Putri

We had plenty of time in Fes, like five days and four nights…

Okay, I admit, it’s not even a week, but in my defends five days could be a full life span for some kind of insects out there. Although our stay was relatively short in Fes, we managed to not only enjoy the Fes Medina (and got lost in it over and over again) but also visited the outskirt area where the ancient Roman once settled; Volubilis.

This ancient Roman Settlement might seem to be located far-flung in the corner of this globe, yet it's actually only about an hour's drive from Fes. It is one of many locations to visit when you are in Fes. We joined a semi-private day tour to drive us to Volubilis and at the same time visit Fes’ sister city; Meknes.

Basically, you can visit these places by taxi or other transportation means, but we decided to save our time and energy from haggling the price with the taxi driver, and took a local day tour instead. The tour was semi-private, there were only 6 of us (including ourselves), plus a very knowledgeable and friendly driver.

We drove crossing fields and farms. The road was lined with olive groves and giant cactus trees, and the surrounding view was STUNNING. We were there at the end of Fall where everything is golden and dry, in Spring, this area must be lusciously green with blossoming fields.

From the main road between Fes and Volubilis, we could take a glimpse of the huge dam that serves as water preservation for the city of Meknes and is also used to water the farms around this area. This mega big dam is known as Sidi Chahed and during spring time it becomes a spot for people in this area to go beaching. The dam is so big you can even sail in the reservoir lake !


Has it ever occurred to you that there’d be Roman ruins in Morocco?  Apparently there are. The great Roman Empire has managed to extend its territory to Northern Africa, and Volubilis is one of the most everlasting and well-kept examples of the Roman’s Empire outside Europe. This site is even listed as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1997. 

Fun movie fact : Did you know that the controversial movie by Martin Scorcese, The Last Temptation of Christ, was partly filmed here in Volubilis and Meknes? 

History bits

-The ancient Romans were the true travelers that roamed the world in loose dress-

Back in time, Volubilis was the capital of the province in Roman Africa, called Mauretania Tingitana. Say whaaaat, Roman Africa? Whazzat?? Calm down, and wiki it here.

Volubilis was built on a very fertile land, and grew rapidly under the Romans. The city became one of the most advanced in commerce by being a major olive oil producer. Olive oil was crucial. It was used not only for food, but also for medicine, animal food, and as fuel. The fertile land had become the key of the city’s success; it was surrounded by kilometers of olive groves.

The advanced commerce from olive itself made Volubilis one of the wealthy Romans Settlements, shown by the fine public buildings such as the Basilica (civic building), the temple, the triumphal arc, the public baths with heated floors, the agora, the stadiums, the libraries, and even a brothel. The city even had its own aqueduct, complete with sewage and water system. Apparently, the Romans were not only avid travelers, they were also good in plumbing and building!

Unfortunately, the locals weren't so welcoming for very long to this rapidly developing society. After some long and tiring kerfuffles between the Romans and the local, the city fell to the locals and was never retaken back. In the 18th century, a great earthquake demolished the remaining ruins, marble pillars, arts. Other decorations have been looted by the Merenids. What's left are the elaborated designs of floor mosaics, spread around the ruins. These mosaic floors once belonged to the houses of the rich. The theme of the mosaics are varied from sea creatures to adult romance themes. Each mosaic tells the story of the family in the house or ancient legends.

 And so that is Volubilis, a simple site that keeps hundreds of years’ worth of histories. 

Here are the roundup essentials on Volubilis:

  • Verdict: Yes, if you have the time for it. Honestly, you won’t miss much either if you skip it,
  • How to get there: rent a car, join a tour. Less hassle than taking a taxi.
  • Food and drink nearby: There is one vendor that sells overpriced water/drinks and snacks outside the premise. Bring your own bottled water.
  • Tips: get a local guide to take you around the site and tell you all about Volubilis. Usually they hang out at the entrance. You can ask your driver to help you negotiate. We paid 20$ our group of 6.
  • Bring: because it is scorching hot when it gets to mid-day, try to be there before noon and wear a hat.
  • Good for kids: only if you are bringing up future Indiana Jones.