One Day Excursion to Meknes Imperial City & Roman Ruins “Volubilis”
Trip to Meknes & Volubilis from Fez to enjoy the history and architecture of two of Morocco’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Meknes is a beautiful city surrounded by 40 km of walls that contain countless architectural treasures. It is the most modest of the four imperial cities of Morocco, which makes it a different place, much more quiet and relaxed than Fes, Marrakech and Rabat. Meknes is surrounded by fields, agricultural products being one of the foundations of the economy of the city. Interestingly, this region produces the largest quantity of wine in Morocco, which is already a surprise, since Muslims are forbidden to drink alcohol. There we can visit its souks, The Place el-Hedim (which is in Meknes , and Jemaa el Fna is in Marrakech), the Dar Jamai Museum, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail and the Madrasa Bou Inania.
Volubilis is an ancient Roman city where the best preserved archaeological remains are and is the most visited site in Morocco. The area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. It occupies 40 hectares and is located 33 kilometres north of Meknes. Although it’s better to walk slowly discovering the ruins, there are some points that you should not miss, like the forum, the basilica and the temple of Jupiter, the baths, the arch of Caracalla and the beautiful mosaics.
What to Expect!
Our day’s excursion to 2,000 years in the past starts at 9 o’clock from your hotel when we drive across the Saiss Plain to the wonderful Roman ruins at Volubilis , the Volubilis of really ancient olive presses, mansions, incredible mosaics, monumental arches and Corinthian columns where you’ll have a real sense of Roman lifestyle and of that of a subsequent medieval Berber town. The site contains the Mansion containing the mosaic of the Labours of Hercules, the Baths of Gallienus and Baths of Forum with their fragmentary mosaics; the House of Orpheus and its Dolphin mosaic and Orpheus Myth; the Cortege of Venus many of whose mosaics we may only see from the outside yet will get to se the medallions of Bacchus, Diana and the Abduction of Hylas; the Gordian Palace with its bath house and pooled courtyards; the House of the Wild Beast, the House of Nymphs, the House of the Seasons, the House of Flavius Germanus, the Knight’s House with an incomplete mosaic of Dionysus Discovering Ariadne Asleep, the Triumphal Arch , the Capitol and the House of Ephebus with its pictorial mosaics, especially that of Bacchus Being drawn in a Chariot by Panthers.
We leave Volubilis behind to drive alongside the dark, outlaying ridges of the Zerhoun Hills to stop for a visit of the town of Moulay Idriss , the holiest Islamic town in the kingdom of Morocco, where thousands of Moroccan faithful come on pilgrimage (moussem) every August to pray at the tomb of this descendant of the Prophet Mohammed. Arriving at the elongated square we see above us the green-tiled pyramids of the Zaouia with its two conical quarters on either side and stroll amidst the labyrinth of alleyways before leaving for the Imperial City rebuilt by Moulay Ismail.
On, now, to the Imperial City of Meknes (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Here we shall visit the easily most beautiful Bab, or gateway, in all of the Maghreb – the Bab Mansour. From here to the El Heri es-Souani – the granary of huge vaulted structures and stables built by Moulay Ismail’s soldiers next to a pool fed by underground channels that brought fresh water all the way from the distant Middle Atlas Mountains; the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum and the Place el-Hedim to see the famous State-owned stallion stables of Haras where these Arabo-Berber horses are bred. Time for lunch (optional, not included) before leaving Meknes around 4:40 in the afternoon, arriving back in our hotel at around a quarter to six, the drama, scope and beauty of our visit forever indelibly imprinted in our memory.