Archaeological Site of Volubilis in Meknes, Morocco

Archaeological Site of Volubilis in Meknes, Morocco

Volubilis Archeological site Morocco Travel

The Mauritanian capital, founded in the 3rd century B.C., became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings.

Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in a fertile agricultural area. Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris.

Sitting in the middle of a fertile plain, the ruined Roman city of Volubilis is the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco. Its most amazing features are the many beautiful mosaics preserved in situ, and it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997. Volubilis is about 33km north of Meknes and can easily be combined with nearby Moulay Idriss Zerhoun to make a fantastic day trip from Meknes or Fez.

Only about half of the 40-hectare site at Volubilis has been excavated. The better-known monuments are in the northern part of the site, furthest from the entrance in the south.

In the heat of a summer day, the sun can be incredibly fierce, so bring a hat and plenty of water. Spring is the ideal season when wildflowers blossom amid the abandoned stones, and the surrounding fields are at their greenest. The best time to visit is either first thing in the morning or late afternoon; at dusk, when the last rays of the sunlight the ancient columns, Volubilis is at its most magical.

Although parts of certain buildings are roped off, you are free to wander the site at will. Just beyond the entrance gate lies a small on-site museum, which displays the ancient city’s most celebrated finds and includes some of the prized discoveries, such as some fine bronzes, although many remain in the Archaeology Museum in Rabat.

 

ANCIENT VOLUBILIS

Although the least remarkable part of the site, the olive presses here indicate the economic basis of ancient Volubilis, much as the plentiful olive groves in the surrounding area do today – look for the flat presses and stone storage vats dotted about the site. Wealthy homeowners had private olive presses.

THE BUILDINGS 

Next to the House of Orpheus are the remains of Galen’s Thermal Baths. Although largely broken, they clearly show the highly developed underfloor heating in this Roman hammam (look for the low arches). Opposite the steam room are the communal toilets – where citizens could go about their business and have a chat at the same time.

The Capitol, Basilica, and 1300-sq-meter Forum are, typically, built on a high point. The Capitol, dedicated to the Triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, dates back to AD 218; the Basilica and Forum lie immediately to its north. The reconstructed columns of the Basilica are usually topped with storks’ nests – an iconic Volubilis image if the birds are nesting at the time of your visit. Around the Forum is a series of plinths carved with Latin inscriptions that would have supported statues of the great and good. Keep your eyes out for the carved stone drain-hole cover – an understated example of Roman civil engineering.

The marble Triumphal Arch was built in 217 in honor of Emperor Caracalla and his mother, Julia Domna. The arch, which was originally topped with a bronze chariot, was reconstructed in the 1930s, and the mistakes made then were rectified in the 1960s. The hillock to the east provides a splendid view over the entire site.

 

Houses with Mosaics

The House of Orpheus is the finest and largest home, containing a mosaic of Orpheus charming animals by playing the lute, and a dolphin mosaic in the dining room. Note the private hammam has a caldarium (hot room) with visible steam pipes, a tepidarium (warm room) and a frigidarium (cold room), as well as a solarium.

On the left just before the triumphal arch are a couple more roped-off mosaics. One, in the House of the Acrobat, depicts an athlete being presented with a trophy for winning a desultory race, a competition in which the rider had to dismount and jump back on his horse as it raced along. To the west of here is the House of the Dog, famed not for its mosaics but a lonesome rock plinth with a giant phallus carved into the top of it – this establishment was once a brothel for weary warriors who would stop off here after making it back to the triumphal arch after the battle.

From the arch, the ceremonial road, Decumanus Maximus, stretches up the slope to the northeast. The houses lining it on either side contain the best mosaics on the site. The first on the far side of the arch is known as the House of the Ephesus and contains a now-incomplete mosaic of Bacchus in a chariot drawn by panthers.

Next along, the House of the Columns is so named because of the columns arranged in a circle around the interior court – note their differing styles, which include spirals. Adjacent to this is the House of the Knight, also called House of the Cavalier/Rider with its incomplete mosaic of Bacchus and Ariadne. The naked Ariadne has suffered somewhat from the attentions of admirers.

The next four houses are named for their excellent mosaics: the House of the Labours of Hercules, the House of Dionysus and the Four Seasons, the House of the Nymphs Bathing, though the nymph mosaics are heavily damaged, and the House of the Wild Beasts. The first is almost a circular comic strip, recounting the Twelve Labours. Several of Hercules’ heroic feats were reputed to have occurred in Morocco, making him a popular figure at the time.

Some of the best mosaics are saved until last. Cross the Decumanus Maximus and head for the lone cypress tree, which marks the House of Venus, home of King Juba II. There are two particularly fine mosaics here, appropriately with semi-romantic themes. The first is the Abduction of Hylas by the Nymphs, an erotic composition showing Hercules’ lover Hylas being lured away from his duty by two beautiful nymphs. The second mosaic is Diana Bathing. The virgin goddess was glimpsed in her bath by the hunter Acteon, whom she turned into a stag as punishment. Acteon can be seen sprouting horns, about to be chased and devoured by his own pack of hounds – the fate of mythical peeping toms everywhere.

Hiring a guide

Information boards are much improved and explain in English, French, and Arabic what you’re actually seeing. It’s well worth hiring a guide, especially if you’re pressed for time. If you prefer to wander on your own, allow at least two hours to see the essentials. The official guides await near the entrance to the site and conduct good one hour tours for about Dh250. Insist on getting one that speaks your language fluently.

 

Getting to Volubilis

The simplest and quickest way to get to Volubilis is to hire a grand taxi for the return trip. A half-day outing from Meknes should cost Dh350, with a couple of hours at the site and a stop at Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (worth an overnight stay in itself). The same trip from Fez (about twice the distance) will cost about Dh1000.

A cheaper alternative is to take a shared grand taxi from Meknes to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (Dh10; ask for Zerhoun), and then hire a grand taxi to take you to Volubilis (Dh30 complete hire, one way). If the taxi waits for you and takes you back to Meknes, the cost is Dh120. If you don’t arrange in advance to be taken back, simply ask the guardian at Volubilis car park to find you a taxi. Note that shared taxis to Moulay Idriss only run from near the Meknes Institut Français.

If the weather isn’t too hot, it’s a lovely one-hour walk (one way) between Moulay Idriss Zerhoun and Volubilis. Alternatively, trot down on a donkey arranged through Dar Zerhoune in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun (Dh150, one hour), and take a taxi back.

Arabic Baths of Santa María

Arabic Baths of Santa María

Arabic Baths of Santa María

The Arabic Baths whose remains survive in calle Velázquez Bosco, very near the Mosque, were possibly built in the Mudejar period on the site of a 10th century washing room connected to the Great Mosque of Cordoba. They are now part of private house, and are open to the public for a small entrance fee.

These baths are rather small, but are a perfect example of this type of Mudejar (hispano-islamic architecture style) building. The present-day hallway was originally the changing room or rest room, bait al-máslaj, and led to the cold water room. The bait al-bárid or cold room, has undergone several alterations, and is now an open courtyard. The vaulted ceilings and the pool are lost, but the original galleries still remain with horseshoe arches and capitals from the Caliphal period.

The hot room, al bait al-sajín, is rectangular with a barrel-vault ceiling, and the recesses in the wall which contained the hot and cold water baths still remain. Just next to this room, at a depth of ten metres, is an elliptical-shaped water cistern.

How to Get There

Formentera: What to see in the Spanish Island

Formentera: What to see in the Spanish Island

If you are looking for tourist attractions in Formentera, in this section we give you a list of places that you cannot miss on the island given its tourist interest. Formentera has options for all tastes: art and culture, nature, sport, tradition, etc.

Below you will find a list of varied tourist attractions, so you can organise your trip by visiting those that interest you most. Let’s go!

1. Faro de la Mola

This lighthouse is located at the highest point of the island, just on the edge of a cliff of more than 150 meters. Thanks to the views it offers it has become one of the most visited places in Formentera, and one of the most photographed by tourists. Here’s some inspiration: Instagram images of the Mola lighthouse.
Follow these directions.

Visitar el Faro de la Mola en Formentera

Ses Salines Natural Park

The Ses Salines Natural Park, located between the islands of Ibiza and Formentera, is the main protected natural space of this island. Walking among its ponds, getting to know the biodiversity of the area, plunging into its crystal-clear waters and snorkelling among its seabed are some of the activities we recommend.

Vista al Parque Natural de Ses Salines

Megalithic tomb of Ca na Costa

This archaeological site has positioned itself as the most spectacular of the Balearic Islands among other similar funerary buildings. In addition, its location makes it one of the most visited tourist attractions, as it lies between the Estany Pudent pond and the town of Es Pujols, two other places that you must visit in Formentera.

The urban nucleus of San Francisco Javier


This town, thanks to its set of historical constructions, is undoubtedly the most interesting in Formentera, also it is a quick town to visit so you can combine it with other routes. During your visit you cannot miss the church of San Francisco Javier (Sant Francesc Xavier) and the historical complex we mentioned, called ‘Sa Raval’.

Núcleo Urbano de San Francisco Javier en Formentera

Museum of Ethnography of Formentera

Formentera culture fans will not be disappointed. Despite its small size, the island has an ethnographic museum to learn in detail about what traditional life was like among the island’s inhabitants. In addition to this museum, you can find an interpretation centre of the Ses Salines Natural Park and many other cultural activities.

 

Visitar el Museo de Etnografía en Formentera

WHAT TO DO IN FORMENTERA?

If you are looking for activities to do in Formentera during your stay, below we offer some ideas:

1. Shopping at artisan markets

The island has preserved its hippie essence and demonstrates it in the different markets that attract tourists to buy handicrafts and walk around their stalls. We recommend that you visit the La Mola hippie market, which you can do every Wednesday and Sunday from May to October in the heart of La Mola lighthouse.
Find out how to get there.

Ir al Mercadillo de La Mola en Formentera

2. Discover Formentera by bike

Formentera is ideal for cycling because of its small size and the amount of flat surface it offers. It also has well signposted cycle paths and green circuits, ideal for observing the island’s biodiversity and architecture.

 Recorrer en bici Formentera

3. Snorkel or dive

In another article we told you about the best beaches of Formentera, including some that are good for snorkelling or diving. The waters of Formentera invite you to immerse yourself in them, regardless of the beach. The pleasant temperature of the water throughout the year (22° to 27°), together with the great biodiversity it contains, make the island an ideal destination for fans of this sport.

Hacer snorkel en las playas de Formentera

4. Discover its coasts by Kayak

If you are passionate about water sports, you will love discovering the coasts of Formentera by kayak. The island’s small size and its good weather conditions will make it very easy for you. As well as getting unique views of its beaches, lighthouses and towers, you will be able to admire the marine fauna and flora from your boat.  

 Rutas en kayak en las playas de Formentera

5. Discover the mill route

Formentera has 6 windmills that are classed as cultural heritage of the island. You can combine the visit to some of them with other activities that we have suggested. You will love the traditional appearance of these mills, for more information about this click here.

A great gastronomy 

The most demanding pallets have an excellent reason to travel to Formentera and taste each of its gastronomic treats. Many of the specialities will leave you with an unforgettable taste in your mouth that will make you want to cook them for yourself when you go back home.

Many of its dishes and products have become gastronomic references, such as the Peix Sec de Formentera, a unique artisan speciality made by drying fish in the sun. This product is used in a multitude of typical dishes, such as ensalada payesa.

Ensalada payesa en Formentera

In general, the quality of the fish on the island is excellent and can be seen in many dishes: bullit de ratjada, rape a la cassolana, bonito casserole with fennel and capers, bull d´anfos, etc. Likewise, seafood also makes up many of the must-try dishes.

You can’t leave without trying other typical products from Formentera: liquid salt, artisan fresh cheese, honey, dried figs, bescuit, herb liqueur, etc. Shall we continue?

Peix sec en Formentera

Now that you have a guide with places to visit and plans to do in Formentera, organise your trip with your favourite ideas and enjoy this haven with personalised routes.

7 Restaurants to Go in Formentera

Formentera Food
Source: Nacho Pintos

It’s no secret that Formentera has long been an unspoiled, stylish little island, bathed in dazzling Mediterranean light. A slice of Caribbean paradise with it’s crystal turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, Formentera is an idyllic destination for travelers. The smallest Balearic island has a famously bohemian lifestyle which is perfectly reflected in the healthy, locally produced and ecologically minded cuisine served up in its restaurants. The following are a few special locations loved by locals and visitors  alike.

1. Juan y Andrea

Probably one of the most well-known and long-held establishments on the island, this restaurant offers up excellent seafood cuisine right on the sand in the stunning Playa Illetas. Run by the same family since 1971, this is the place to be seen if you want to rub shoulders with well known island celebrity regulars, or watch the glamorous crowd emerge from their yachts for an al fresco lunch. Certainly it’s upscale vibe is reflected in the prices, however Juan y Andrea is quintessential Formentera and not to be missed.

Information

  • Name: Juan y Andrea
  • Address: Playa de Illetas
  • Opening hours: 1pm – 7pm
  • Phone: +34 971187130
  • Website: www.juanyandrea.com

2. Tiburon

Tiburon, (the Shark Bar) is also located at Playa Illetas, really one of the most prettiest and most paradisiacal beaches on the island. Admire the outline of neighbouring big island Ibiza as you enjoy mouth watering mediterranean simple and healthy cuisine from your table on the terrace. Make sure to try the well-loved surf and turf (fillet steak with prawns) or one of the delicious salads. With your feet in the sea, relax and enjoy the ambience, the ideal place to let your troubles drift away.

Information

  • Name: Kiosko Tiburon
  • Address: Playa Cavall D’en Boras
  • Phone: +34 659 638 945
  • Website: www.tiburon-formentera.com

3. Beso Beach

This is one of the most fashionable beach hut style hang -outs on Formentera where you will supposedly find the best paella (seafood rice dish) on the island. With its palm canopy roof and sandy floor, Beso Beach is all about natural, rustic decor and chilled vibes. Many plates are made for sharing with tasty options such as black rice, paella and shellfish as well as popular Spanish meats like Jamon Iberico. Located in a secluded spot just steps from the sea at beautiful Playa de Cavall d’en Borras, Beso Beach also gets lively in the evenings for music and dancing.

Information

  • Name: Beso Beach
  • Address: Playa Cavall D’en Borras
  • Opening hours: 12.30 – 22.00
  • Phone: +34 622 222 113
  • Website: www.besobeach.com

4. Pizzeria Macondo

An Italian restaurant full of Italians can only be a good sign! If you’re looking for authentic, delicious, wood fired pizza this is the place for you. Huge portions and a wide and varied menu (including pasta and other mediterranean cuisine). Situated in the centre of San Ferrant, bustling Macondo is popular with locals and has been a long standing Formentera favourite for many years. Leave room for dessert because the pannacotta de dulce de leche is not to be missed! Be sure to arrive early for dinner as they do not take reservations and it can get busy at night, that’s what happens when you serve the best pizza on the island.

Information

  • Name: Pizzeria Macondo
  • Address: Career Major 67, Sant Ferran
  • Opening hours: 13.00 – 16.00 / 19.30 – 1.00
  • Phone: +34 971 32 90 69
  • Website: www.macondoformentera.com

5. Pirata

Ask anyone on the island about Pirata and they’ll tell you the same thing. It’s barely changed since it’s opening years ago. With it’s simple setting and easy vibe, it’s still the hippy haven it always was. Located right in front of of the most scenic coves on Playa De Illetas, Pirata serves up fresh and delicious sangria by the pitcher and is an idyllic spot to breathe and soak up the beach vibes. Try the lobster with fried eggs or pop by in the late afternoon for a coffee as you gaze out over transparent blue waters. Heaven.

Information

  • Name: Kiosko El Pirata
  • Address: Playa de Illetas
  • Phone: +34 971 324064
  • Website: n/a

6. Blue Bar

Sitting right on top of a sand dune at Platja de Migjorn, Blue Bar is where you will catch unrivalled views of the sunset. Supposedly in its hey day (it’s been open since the 60’s) Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix would drop in. The food is international with Mediterranean and Asian flavours catering to a wide range of tastes. Casual and unpretentious, the ambience is groovy and there is often either live music or DJ sets all adding to the vibrant scene.

Information

  • Name: Blue Bar
  • Address: Sant Ferrant des ses roques
  • Opening hours: 12.00 – 4:00
  • Phone: +34 666 7581 90
  • Website: www.bluebarformentera.com

7. Es Moli de Sal

Known internationally for a high level of service and excellent quality cuisine, Es Moli de Sal is certainly one to tick off your Formentera bucket list. Set in a beautifully reformed salt mill, it’s prices may be a little higher than some of the other establishments, but it’s worth it for the exquisite views and spectacular scenery. Another island favorite in front line for a stunning sunset, the kitchen is famed for raw fish carpaccios and excellent seafood rice (people rave about the lobster). Es Moli de Sal is the kind of casual-chic, unique and unforgettable island experience travelers are looking for.

Information

  • Name: Es Moli de Sal
  • Address: Playa de Illetas
  • Phone: +34 971187491
  • Website: www.esmolidesal.es

For such a tiny island, Formentera has a truly impressive array of dining options, sure to please all types of food -lovers. The only problem you will have is deciding where to go next as you explore beach after pristine beach, tasting fresh seafood and sipping on cocktails as you admire yet another stunning view of azure waters. The magic and charm of laid-back Formentera will capture the hearts of all who visit.

What to see and do in Casablanca (Morocco)

What to see and do in Casablanca (Morocco)

Casablanca, Morocco‘s commercial centre, tends to come lower down on the tourism list, behind the likes of Marrakech and Rabat; however the city’s French colonial legacy, entwined with the traditional Arab culture, ensures there’s lots of diverse things to do and see. Alongside the art deco buildings, and old stone medina alleys, visitors can find museums, palaces, and the second largest mosque in the world

Hassan II Mosque

Completed in 1993 and located on a platform overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the iconic Hassan II Mosque is the second-largest mosque in the world, and one of few open to non-Muslims (through selected guided tour opportunities lasting around an hour each). The mosque, which can accommodate up to 25,000 worshipers, offers Muslims the chance to pray on a glass floor, giving the unique feeling of praying directly over the sea. Everyone is welcome to admire the beautiful piece of architecture at any time from the spacious courtyard, which alone can accommodate a further 80,000 people.

La Corniche

Located in the same region as Hassan II Mosque, La Corniche is a beach front district offering an array of dining experiences as well as pools and beach access. On a hot day, the area can be found brimming with surfers, swimmers and sunbathers, offering a less traditional and a more holiday-escape side of Morocco. La Corniche offers an area full of entertainment, and the chance to go on a refreshing walk on the beach, or even a dip in the sea if you’re feeling daring.

Morocco Mall

Located at the end of La Corniche region is Morocco Mall, one of the biggest shopping centres in Africa. A modern hub, Morocco Mall offers enough to entertain anyone from families to couples, and for the whole day. On top of the extensive range of shops, anything from H&M to Dior, and a vast range of food options, Morocco Mall also hosts an indoor aquarium complete with a small shark, a fountain display outside, and even indoor ice skating and an indoor fairground. There really is something for everyone. For a taste of the traditional Morocco, there’s even an indoor souk (market), however traditional shopping is best left to the old medina.

 

The Old Medina

Unlike in many Moroccan cities, the old part of town is surprisingly easy to pass by in Casablanca. There is the temptation to head straight out to the seaside to visit the Hassan II Mosque and beach area, however discovering the charm hidden behind the old city walls is a must on any trip to a Moroccan city. With its typical labyrinth style character, getting lost is undoubtedly easy, but with a bit of caution this can be a hidden beauty in itself. Indeed, it poses little risk as you’ll soon find yourself at one end or the other of the old quarters. Experiencing the pace of daily life, with children running in the narrow streets and men smoking in cafés, you can join the shoppers in their search for traditional treasures, and find the little sights buried in the medina, such as the Berber Mosque.

Old medina of Casablanca, Morocco, Africa ©Mikadun/Shutterstock

Museum of Moroccan Judaism

This unique museum, being the only Jewish museum in the Arab world, offers an insight into the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Jews in a Moroccan Civilisation. Presented through exhibition rooms containing paintings, ornaments, clothing etc, as well as complete displays of Moroccan synagogues, it demonstrates not only the Jewish influence on Moroccan society, but highlights the history of interfaith coexistence in Moroccan civilisation.

Sky 28

For a taste of luxury and unique beverages, head to the Sky 28. The bar offers guests the chance to sit in a tasteful atmosphere, overlooking the city, and drinking a pricey yet worthy cocktail. Best visited at night while admiring the views of the illuminated city, this is an escape from the hustle and bustle of the old medina and the traditional Moroccan life. There’s even live music to create a chilled and comfortable atmosphere.

View over the city of Casablanca, Morocco ©Marianna Ianovska/Shutterstock

Parc de la Ligue Arabe

South of Place Mohammed V lies the Parc de la Ligue Arabe. Designed in 1918, this park, complete with a palm-tree-lined avenue, is Casablanca’s biggest open space. Perfect for games and walks, and offering a choice of small cafés, the Arab League Park gives guests the chance to relax and admire the flora of Africa, and even venture to the Cathédrale de Sacré Coeur, the neglected former cathedral on the edge of the park, hinting to the Art Deco past of Casablanca.

Place Mohammed V

A visit to the administrative hub of Casablanca, the Place Mohammed V is a chance to experience first-hand the work of architect Henri Prost. Surrounded by public buildings which set the scene for further buildings throughout Morocco, including law courts, the square also hosts the statue of Marshal Lyautey, the first French Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925. In addition to this monumental statue, the square features a grand fountain dating back to 1976 which, at certain times of the day, hosts a music accompanied water show.

Square of Mohammed V and courthouse © Masterovoy/Shutterstock

Villa des Arts

Part of the ONA Foundation, one of Morocco’s primary cultural foundations, the Villa des Arts is one of the largest museums in Casablanca and is situated near the Parc de la Ligue Arabe. The Villa des Arts promotes contemporary arts in a framework of Moroccan culture and heritage and features around 800 artworks permanently, as well as temporary expositions of international and contemporary artists. It provides a different perspective on Moroccan culture, and even the building itself is a beautiful piece of Art Deco architecture daring back to 1934. Hosting numerous cultural events, the Villa des Arts attracts locals and tourists all year round.

King’s Palace

Located near the new medina is yet another one of the King’s palaces. The King has a palace in almost every city just in case of a royal visit. The King’s Palace in Casablanca is just as grand as the rest of them, with its enormous open square at the front, a surplus of guards, and a grand exterior which anyone can enjoy. Unfortunately any closer access seems difficult to come by, however it’s worth it just to see from the outside and admire the architecture.

Morocco, Royal palace in Casablanca © Vlada Photo/Shutterstock
Original post from the Culture Trip & Rebecca Wilkinson