We had a great day trip to Volubilis and Meknes from Fez. It was very interesting to explore two very distinct cities in one day. One used to be an administrative center of Roman Africa dominated by spectacular Roman ruins and the other used to be the imperial capital of Morocco dominated by high walls and greatdoors that enclosed a medina, mosques and a royal complex.
Volubilis is a Roman settlement in northern Morocco 58 km/36 mi from Fez. It was established in 40 AD as the administrative center for this part of Roman Africa responsible for grain production and export to Rome. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Unlike other Roman cities, Volubilis was not abandoned after Rome lost its control of this city in 3rd century A.D. It was continually inhabited for another 1,000 years. It was only abandoned in 18th century when it was demolished by then ruler Moulay Ismael to obtain materials for the construction of his palace in the neighboring town of Meknes.
Meknes was the imperial capital of Morocco under the reign of Moulay Ismael (1672–1727), before it was relocated to Marrakech.
The heart of Meknès medina is Place el-Hedim, the large square facing Bab el-Mansour. Built by Moulay Ismail and originally used for royal announcements and public executions, it’s a good place to sit and watch the locals go by.
A vendor in Place el-Hedim.
They said that the tastiest mints grow in Meknes. Reluctantly, we passed on the mint tea in favor of iced cold Coca-cola. After walking around Volubilis under the heat of the sun, we badly need something cold and refreshing. After all, it was fun to see Coke cans with both English and Arabic logos.
A table of baguettes – a delicious legacy of French protectorate in Morocco.
We took a grand taxi from Meknes back to Fez. Grand taxis are old Mercedes Benzes that run on intercity routes. It was a cozy affair. There were two passengers squeezed on the front seat with the driver and we were squeezed on the back seat with two other passengers. No wonder we looked uncomfortable.
Getting there: To reach Volubilis, we took a grand taxi from Fez to Meknes. It cost about 10 dinar per person. From Meknes, we chartered a grand taxi to Volubilis for a round trip ride. It took a usual negation and we paid 120 dinar. The driver’s original quote was 200 dinar; they always start exorbitantly high. The acceptable fare for chartered taxi is the total amount of fare per person multiply by passenger capacity (normally 6). From Meknes, we took a shared grand taxi back to Fez.
Travel Date: October 2007
Photo Gears: Canon EOS Rebel XT, EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, Casio EX-Z750
Travel Guides: Lonely Planet Morocco and Rough Guide
Related Article: Roman Ruins: Morocco’s stunning sites, with few tourists
Related Blog: Away We Go