Volubilis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in a fertile plain at the foot of the Jbel Zerhoun (jbel = mountain), about a 30-minute drive from Meknes and about 1 hour from Fez in northwestern Morocco.
CLICK to see tours to Morocco. A stop at Volubilis can be added to any of our Morocco tours.
From about 300BCE, Volubilis was the capital of the indigenous Berber kingdom of Mauritania. In 44CE, the area became the Roman province of Mauritania, with Volubilis as its capital. As a Roman provincial town, Volubilis was about as far out in the sticks as you could go. Despite this remoteness, it developed into a fine little city. Evidence of large-scale cultivation and processing of grains and olives suggests the area was something of a bread-basket for Rome.
The Romans pulled out late in the 3rd century but the city continued to be inhabited at least until the 11th century. The city was looted for building materials for nearby Moulay Idris, capital of Idris I. (Idris I introduced Islam to the area in 788 and founded the Idrisid Dynasty and the Kingdom of Morocco.) Volubilis was further depleted to build Meknes and an 18th-century earthquake did significant damage.
The site sprawls across 100 acres, with only about half uncovered. Excavation proceeds in fits and starts. It’s a beautiful, serene setting and rarely very crowded. Depending on how interested you are in Roman ruins, especially mosaics, you can spend 2-4 hours poking around. Volubilis is known for an abundance of mosaic floors in very good condition. Pour a little water on them to bring out the colors.
There’s no shelter, so be sure to bring a hat and plenty of water.
A new on site museum, set to open any day now, will hold artefacts from Volubilis, which were previously at the Archaeological Museum in Rabat.