Capitoline Temple and the Basilica in the background morrocco
Tourists wander the eastern side of the city with the Capitoline Temple and the Basilica in the background.

Travel back to the 3rd century BC as photographer Peter West Carey brings these ancient sites back to life through his photography.

Written by Peter West Carey

A visit to the archaeological sites of Volubilis and Moulay Idriss Zerhoun — a 45 minute drive from the train station in Meknes in north central Morocco — is to step into a deep well of history in Northern Africa.

Islam found its start in Morocco, and indeed the start of Morocco itself as a unified state began in the ancient town of Volubilis. The fertile valley around the now ruined city has been inhabited for more than 5000 years, including a far-reaching arm of the Roman Empire, which crafted most of the buildings and foundations found at what today is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here, a city of grand, triumphant arches and intricate mosaics lasted for more than two hundred years until it fell to local tribes near the end of the 3rd century AD.

Five hundred years later, Arab leader Moulay Idriss I unified Morocco and started its capital in Volubilis, but his reign lasted only three years before he was assassinated. His son, Idriss II, continued his plan to move the capital to the new town of Fes, while Volubilis continued to fall into disrepair. In the 14th century Moulay Idriss I’s remains were moved to a new mausoleum in the nearby city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, now considered by Muslims to be one of the most holy sites in Morocco.

But words can only tell one part of this rich history. You need to see the archaeology to begin to grasp what once stood proudly on this site.

The Arch of Caracalla morocco
The Arch of Caracalla.
Peter-West-Carey-Morocco Basilica
Inscriptions adorn much of the stonework in front of the Basilica.
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One of many original mosaics unearthed during restoration efforts by the French and Morocco.
Basilica -Morocco
The Basilica and surrounding fertile valley. Olives were a staple crop in Roman times and are still farmed today.
Arch of Caracalla morrocco
My daughter taking in the view along the Decumanus Maximus toward the Arch of Caracalla. This was the main road into the city, once lined with shops on both sides.
Capitoline Temple next to the grand Basilica morocco
Storks have made many homes safely atop the pillars of the Capitoline Temple next to the grand Basilica.
Capitoline Temple and the Basilica in the background morrocco
Tourists wander the eastern side of the city with the Capitoline Temple and the Basilica in the background.
Volubilis morocco
A view of Volubilis – upper centre – from the higher streets of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun.
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What did my daughter love about almost any place we visited in Morocco? The friendly cats.
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Compact and built on two hills under the Atlas mountains, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun affords almost all homes with a view of the valley below.
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The sun has almost set as donkeys cart goods on the streets of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun.
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Grab lunch or a tasty dinner before heading back to Meknes.
The Mausoleum of Idriss I morocco
The Mausoleum of Idriss I.

Read more Morocco travel guide at here.

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