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Volubilis, Morocco
Fast Facts
Ancient Ruins
Points of Interest Nearby

Roman Ruins of Volubilis


Photo by Alfredo De Simone

Volubilis, Oualili in Arabic, is the largest and best-preserved Roman ruins in all of Morocco. The Romans settled the site around 40 AD. Volubilis was built atop a much earlier Carthaginian outpost. The ancient city once housed a population of 20,000 and stretched over 40 hectares. Volubilis served as the administrative center of the Roman province Mauretania Tingitana. It was a breadbasket of the Roman Empire; wheat flourished in a then cooler climate and was shipped throughout the dominion. Unlike other Roman settlements in Morocco, such as Lixus, Volubilis wasn't abandoned with the fall of Rome. The city was inhabited until the 11th century and its residents - Berbers, Greeks, Syrians and Jews - spoke Latin up to the arrival of Idris I in 789. Yet what makes Volubilis, a World Heritage Site since 1997, a must see for families are the in situ mosaics and well-excavated ruins. The most notable remains include a forum, basilica, triumphal arch and capital. The best mosaics are found in the House of Orpheus, House of the Ephebus and Cortege of Venus.
Getting There
Volubilis is situated 30km north of Meknes and 80km west of Fes. The nearest town is Moulay Idriss, just 4km away. The Roman ruins of Volubilis are an easy excursion from Meknes. While an outing from Fes is somewhat more complicated, it's a doable daytrip. Volubilis is accessible from the N13. The drive from Meknes is 30 minutes one way; the journey from Fes is 90 minutes on a winding road. The surest alternative is a grand taxi with a change in Moulay Idriss. From Meknes, grand taxis to Moulay Idriss depart from a small lot across from the French Institute in the Ville Nouvelle. Family Travel Tips: Grand taxis depart when full. They accommodate six passengers and are sold by the seat. Pay for one place each and ride with others; pay for all 6 and ride in comfort. Grand taxis can also hired for the day; the going rate is 350dh. Guided daytrips can be arranged through most riads.
When to Travel
The best time of year to visit Volubilis is spring (April and May) and fall (September - October). The best time of day to take pictures is early morning and late afternoon. The sun is scorching in summer; avoid touring the ruins in the peak heat hours from 13:00 to 17:00, carry plenty of water, and wear sunscreen and a hat.
Things to Keep in Mind
The ruins are open daily sunrise to sunset. A nominal entrance fee is charged. There are few signs marking the sights. Multilingual tour guides - Spanish, French, English and Italian - are stationed just inside the entrance; expect to pay 140dh for a 60-minute tour. The new visitor center and museum is set to open in late 2010.
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