Day two in our journey through Morocco with Journey Beyond Travel. This time visiting the Ancient Roman Ruins of Volubilis.
If you missed Day One of our journey through Morocco with Journey Beyond Travel, do yourself the favour and click back to it here. Leaving from the beautiful indigo city of Chefchaouen, (pictured above) we drove on to the Roman Ruins of Volubilis, stopping once or twice along the way to take in the views through the mountains.
MOROCCO DAY TWO – VOLUBILIS
A Unesco World Heritage site, the Volubilis ruins lie in the middle of a plain 33km north of Meknes and is the best preserved archeological site in Morocco.
If you wish you can hire an English-speaking guide on the spot for 150 dirhams, the visit usually lasts a little over an hour. We chose to do it ourselves and I proceeded to read from the Rough Guide book that our lovely driver Hamid had for us to borrow in the car. I actually found exploring the ruins to be a lot of fun this way- I guess we will have missed a few things, but coupled with our imagination, trying to piece together what we were looking at was fun. Some of the key features of the ruins are the mosaics, finding these and matching them up with the stories in the guide felt like a treasure hunt of sorts!
It is fascinating to see these ancient creations from people who told their stories in such a beautiful way. Of course it naturally reminded me of walking around Pompeii, though, there we no other people, no tour groups, just us. There is truly something magical about standing alone in an ancient place like this.
Evacuations have indicated that the site was settled in the 3rd Century BC by Carthaginian traders and it became one of the Roman Empire’s most remote outposts. It is estimated that 20,000 people would have lived here at its peak! The surrounding fertile breathtaking lands were a source of grains to export back to Rome. The Berber tribes eventually drove out the Romans and the city continued to be occupied until the 18th Century.
Only about half of the 40 hectare site has been excavated, but some of the more interesting sites to check out are the Triumphal Arch, the houses with mosaics, the olive presses and Galen Baths. Of course it was cool to spot the giant storks nests perched on top of the columns too!
Nearby the sacred town of Moulay Idriss sits perched overlooking the ruins (and makes a nice lunch stop). Named after the great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Morocco’s first dynasty his tomb lies in the centre of the town. The drive up here provided more stunning viewpoints and seemingly endless olive groves. (See below).
The drive from Chefchaouen to Fez takes about 4 hours. After visiting the ruins, we took a quick stop at Meknes. Known for its beautiful architecture, the town is a lot quieter and less visited by tourists. Walking around we stuck our heads down the lanes of the markets which were buzzing with bees around the nougat (which comes in the prettiest pastel colours!).
Before long we were spotted by a man in the square who excitedly pulled a giant snake from a carpet bag and I ran away! Mario, of course, loved it, but I fled back to the car like a whimp.
WHERE TO STAY IN FEZ – RIAD SALAMA
Upon making our way through the alleys of Fez, our driver Hamid leading the way and our luggage drawn in a cart by a local. We came to the heavy door of Riad Salama, which opened into a small passage and finally a haven.
The light filled tiled courtyard complete with a stunning garden, trees loaded with fruit and flowers, small pool in perfect turquoise, iron chairs at tiled tables was in such stark contrast to the dark alley ways.
Every room of the Riad overlooks the gardens, with beautiful peaceful balconies. Located between the two main streets off of the Medina, with easy access to the parking area outside, it is the perfect location.
The room was down a private passage, with a generous living area (I am talking HUGE!) and bathroom. We had our dinner that night outside in the courtyard to candle light and felt in a complete oasis.
I loved the peace of the Riad so much that rather than go out exploring for the afternoon, after checking in we opted to enjoy the afternoon on our balcony and reading. I actually felt as though without a guide we would soon have gotten very lost on our own the first time in the Medina, but later realised we would have been totally fine. It is a little disorienting at first, but you come to work your way around which turns to take as you dodge donkeys and motorbikes.
In the next post, I am going to try to find a way to explain what happened to me next on the trip. It wasn’t pleasant and I am not so sure if you will enjoy reading that part, but I think I have to share it. Till next time, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below! Morocco is such a beautiful and varied country, there is so much to see and do.
Have you been? Want to go?
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MARIO RECCHIA AND JENELLE WITTY
TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT CREATING YOUR OWN TOUR OF MOROCCO WITH JOURNEY BEYOND TRAVEL, FIND THEM HERE AND BE SURE TO ASK QUESTIONS!
Follow our Morocco Journals here:
Diary Entry Day One: Chefchaouen
Morocco Diary Day Two: Volubilis
Morocco Travel Diary Day Three: Fez
Travel Diary Day Four: Marrakech Food Tour