Morocco: A Week in the Kingdom – Part 2 (Volubilis, Fès, Meknès)

In my previous article, I wrote about our visit to the first three cities of our trip to Morocco: Casablanca, Skhirat and Rabat. So, this article will concentrate on the last three stops of our trip: Volubilis, Fès and Meknès.

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Columns at Volubilis, Morocco

After enjoying our last breakfast in Skhirat, we got in our car and drove off to see something I always enjoy seeing: ruins! We drove further north past Rabat to the archeological site of Volubilis, which is listed as as World Heritage Site (WHS).

Volubilis, an ancient Roman city known to be a most important archaeological site in Morocco, lies in the middle of of what has been since ancient times the country’s grain agricultural area, according to my DK Eyewitness Travel book on Morocco. In general, we like using the DK Eyewitness Travel books when we plan what to see on our trips, as they are quite informative and have great photos so that you can get a good idea of what you’ll see in the places you want to visit.

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Ruins of Volubilis, Morocco

The town, settled from 3 BC to AD 40 during the rule of Mauretanian kings, was prosperous and became quite an important city, so much so that it was elevated to the status of municipia (a free town).

When we arrived at the site, it was scorching hot. I was glad for the water we carried

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Basilica at Volubilis, Morocco

with us to quench our thirst. I was quite impressed by how big Volubilis was. The ruins, seemed to be scattered everywhere and it felt like quite a substantial archaeological site. We walked through much of the ruined town, taking our time to imagine what structures might have looked like in their heyday.

Some ruins were more spectacular than others. The one I enjoyed the most was the Basilica, which stood at the heart of the city (but, then again, I always love churches). Though the roof of the Basilica was no more, the arches of the side of the  church stood tall and strong. I am always impressed by how well Roman structures stand the test of time. And, though it is true that all that is left are ruins, as I walked around the town in general, looking inside structures that would have been homes as well as public spaces, the ruins seemed to me to echo a feeling of a lived in town. A place where people lived and worked and left their own imprint of them having lived there. Where I felt the echo of that past the most was in the artwork of the beautiful mosaic floors full of intricate designs we found scattered throughout the site of Volubilis.

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I couldn’t help but be amazed to know that what I was seeing had been there all the way back to the 3rd century BC! To know that my eyes have seen what was seen and appreciated by people back then is truly a wonderful thing, and made me greatly appreciate the talent of the builders of ancient cities, and the overall feeling that the ruined city gave.

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Triumphal Arch at Volubilis, Morocco

Another impressive structure that stood the test of time was the Triumphal Arch in the middle of the town. Overlooking the land where grain and olive trees would have grown, the structure stood proud, almost announcing the importance of the ancient town. This archaeological site is not to be missed if you, like me, enjoy seeing ruins and are considering visiting Morocco (especially if you are planning a visit to Meknès or Fès, as these cities are not far from the site).

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Fabric Shop in Fès

After Volubilis, we drove off to check into our hotel in Fès at the Palais Faraj Suites and Spa, built on the site of a Moorish Palace. Set right on the hill, it had a great view of Fès and our suite was was quite intricately beautiful in its decoration, with carved wooden ceilings, doors and windows as well as colorful mosaic floors and a beautiful view overlooking the pool as well as the view of the town. While I relaxed in our lush room, my daughter and husband went downstairs to enjoy the pool for a while.

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Lamp Shop in Fès, Morocco

The next day, we explored Fès. While the city is quite interesting to see, it felt quite claustrophobic to me. Once inside, it was like trying to find your way through a maze. The streets were quite narrow and there were many small shops on either sides of the streets as we tried to navigate our way through the enclosed town. The shops we passed were quaint, small places of business packed full with merchandise. Since we had no real path we were wanting to follow, we simply meandered through the town, past an old mosque and then through the busy Medina, which is also listed as a WHS.

In the afternoon, we were hungry and I spotted a little, local restaurant set atop a

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Merchants Chatting in Fès

building past the mosque. So, after going in and sitting at the top, we had a nice, bird’s eye view of the happenings down below in the busy street. While we ate some local, Moroccan food, we enjoyed a Moroccan band that was passing through as well as enjoyed watching the local merchants talk to one another while tourists passed by. After lunch, we continued on, making our way out of the town and trekked back to our hotel.

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Gates of Meknès, Morocco

After checking out of our hotel the next morning, we drove to Meknès, one of Morocco’s largest cities, to spend a few hours seeing the place. Meknès became an emperial city in 1672 when the sultan ambitiously began to build gates, mosques, palaces and ramparts. In an effort to try to complete these structures, the sultan even resorted to looting the ruins of Volubilis for building materials.

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Pottery Stall in Meknès, Morocco

While we were there, we entered the very large gates into the Medina and walked around in it for a bit, but then came back out and crossed the very large open square in front of the gate. There were stalls there selling lots of local pottery and we entered into another enclosed area where many more stalls were set up. This time, however, these stalls were selling food, instead of the local handicrafts. Walking past all the impressive

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and colorful displays of spices, olives, and even deserts, we eventually walked out of there and entered some side streets, just to see what else we might find. After we had had our fill of Meknès, we went back to our car and drove back Casablanca, where we returned our car and spent one more night before catching our flight back to Amsterdam.

Our trip, on the whole, was an interesting one that provided many beautiful views and aspects of Morocco via its culture, history, people and food. I would recommend a visit to this lovely country and am glad I got to enjoy the pleasure of a visit to the Kingdom!

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