This page is primarily about Volubilis, but first we'll cover one picture on Moulay Idriss. We took back roads to Volubilis from Fes which involve going up and over these mountains (the Zerhoun Massif). It's a far more interesting drive than the autoroute from Meknes. Moulay Idriss is a holy city to Moroccan Muslims as it contains the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss. The town is stretched across these two hills and is generally billed as a combination day trip from Fes or Meknes along with Volubilis. There were plenty of guides outside Volubilis offering to take us around Moulay Idriss. Of course, we'd already been there and really there's not a whole lot to see. It has an interesting geographic location, good views out over Volubilis and if you are not Muslim, you can't really go into the star attractions.
Volubilis (Oualili in Arabic) was the capital of the Roman empire's province of Mauritania. It declined towards the year 500 and was partially buried most of the time since then. What's left of it now is very impressive. Much of the interior decoration of homes is in far better shape than Roman ruins we've seen elsewhere (Spain, Italy, Greece).
Rome imposed strict import and export rules on its colonies (sort of like NAFTA) and Volubilis was thus primarily interested in manufacturing olive oil. These are olive oil vats inside a residence on the east end of town. There is also a partially reconstructed olive press on display. Much of the tile and decoration can still be seen around these vats even though they are exposed to the elements.
The floors, as can be seen here, are phenomenal. In most homes, the walls and doorways separating different rooms can clearly be seen as well as central courtyards, fountains and porticos.
Melanie has determined that three mosaics is the optimal number that can be viewed on a page like this before the reader loses all interest and wanders off to U-tube to find something more interesting to do. That means we had to whittle our collection of mosaic pictures down to 3. The pictures really don't do them justice. This is one of the more famous scenes called the Acrobat.
Nymphs bathing. If you visit Volubilis, you'll be hounded by guides around the entrance. They're official and you can hire one if you like. If you don't want one (we had multiple guidebooks which were good enough) tell them that and they'll leave you alone.
The best way to find mosaics is to look for ropes. The best-preserved mosaics are roped off and we walked around individual houses multiple times before finding some of them. That could be considered a reason to hire a guide, but we weren't really in any hurry and the site itself is a very serene and peaceful place to be so we enjoyed just wandering. This picture is of part of the 12 labors of Hercules mosaic. Only about 6 can be seen in this picture. We don't recall learning about that middle one on the left side when we learned classic mythology, but maybe there's some artistic license at work here.
It's not Roman unless there's a triumphal arch. Look! A triumphal arch! The city is still being uncovered but the open area is basically L-shaped. This arch is at the corner of the L, and the nice luxurious residences of the city stretched along one axis. The other axis contained the public buildings and then some extra residential bits. There are a few outlying buildings including a water resevoir and a couple of temples.
The main road through Volubilis led past the upscale homes and mansions including that of the governor. The vast majority of mosaics are found in this area scattered amidst the waist-high wall segments.
The central courtyard of most homes can easily be seen. This one is partially reconstructed and is typical of Volubilis architecture. The entry into the home would have been a covered hall. Homes were squares or rectangles built around an open courtyard with some sort of water feature and shaded porticos facing it. Actually it is extremely similar to the Islamic architecture found in the same areas today.