Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ruins of Volubilis

On our second major day of tourism we saw sites located between Rabat and Fès.  First, we took a guided tour of Volubilis, and then our own guide showed us sites of the nearby city of Meknès.  Once again, we were reminded that this region was the home to multiple cultures who built substantial cities here.  Volubilis is the largest Roman archaeological site in Morocco, and at the time that it flourished it was the home to 20,000 Romans.  In 1977, Volubilis was selected by UNESCO to be a world cultural heritage site, “une site de la patrimoine mondiale.”   At Volubilis today, one can sees remains of several homes with detailed mosaics still clearly visible, roman baths, the town square, the temple, shops, grand “avenues”, doors, an “arch de triomphe,” columns, etc. 

After we experienced a thorough tour of the Roman ruins of Volubilis, we continued to Meknès, the nearby city, to take a tour of several Islamic sites of historical importance.  This city was the capital of Morocco at the end of the 17th century, into the 18th century.  The sultan Moulay Ismaïl turned Meknès into the most important city of the time.  He was a rather “paranoid” ruler and took many precautions against aggressors.  Thus, he built 3 walls around the city center, where he resided and kept an enormous stock of provisions just in case he was invaded and needed to restrict himself to the inner walls.  Another interested tidbit about this ruler is that he had many wives (a harem) and approximately 500 children.  He also wanted to marry the daughter of Louis XIV, but she (or her family) declined the offer because of his numerous wives.  At the main doors of the city, the marble columns that remain were originally intended to impress the princess of France, but unfortunately for the sultan, she never came.

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