Wednesday, November 7, 2012

#912 Volubilis (Oualli), Morocco

When I first moved to Morocco, I was still quite naive and my knowledge of history rather limited. Thus, I was rather astonished to discover that there was an important Roman city in the middle of the Moroccan heartland, close to the imperial Islamic cities of Fes and Meknes. Lying in a rich green inland valley not far from the Islamic village of Moulay Idriss, close to the main train line from Casablanca lies the ruins of Volubilis. 

My history professor at Al Akhawayn University wryly said that the reconstruction was of a poor quality, such as the 'neon-signage' of the main archway -- he insisted it would be imbedded rather than awkwardly on top, but alas, this was done in the 1930s.

Dating from the 2nd and 3rd centuries, although originally settled by Carthaginians, Volubilis was a producer of wheat and olives for the province of Mauretania Tingitana, but was insecure due to the surrounding Berber tribes and it's general isolation at the south-west corner of the empire. Eventually it fell to tribesmen in 285, but continued to be inhabited for another 700 years, first as a Christian city, then as an Islamic settlement. Muslim rulers eventually moved their capital to Fes, and both before and after an earthquake in the 18th century, much of the stone was used to build the capital of Meknes.

The floor mosaics were especially impressive -- very complete with strong colors considering the open-air exposure and many centuries when it was unlikely to have been a well-maintained site! I was impressed with the underfloor heating system as well that can be clearly seen.
Apologies for the photo quality. As with most of the other Morocco posts, these are film images printed and scanned with poor quality.
Source: Lonely Planet Morocco 6th Edition

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