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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Day trip Volubilis, Morocco, Friday, 26 December 2008 4:40am

Today was a day-trip by Grand Taxi out to the Roman ruins at Volubilis and the holy city of Moulay Idriss, with an unexpected stop along the way.

Volubilis was one of the most important Roman cities in Africa. It was an agricultural center that provided a lot of wheat and olives to the empire. They're both in evidence to this day. The drive out to the site was beautiful. We passed rows of olive trees and large hillsides covered with new grass. It was quite gorgeous in the sun.

At the site I decided to hire a guide. The one who offered asked if it was okay if he did the more academic parts of it in Spanish, since he didn't know all of the English words. That worked out fine.

The site is compact, but there are lots of different things to see. Houses of the wealthy with mosaic floors (I don't know why I'd been picturing mosaics on walls), religious and civic buildings with rows of columns (doric, ionic, and corinthian), sewers, a small aqueduct. Oh, and machines! Olive presses (reconstructions, of course). What more could you want from a Roman city?

The British family was leaving just as my cab arrived. We waved.

After a quick drive to Moulay Idriss, I got the unexpected chance to see a modern olive press because the driver needed to pick something up from his father-in-law, who's in the business. The machines weren't running, but it was pretty clear about how they would work.

Moulay Idriss is a good place to get lost. I was led around by an opportunistic "guide" who took me by a winding path up to a viewpoint over the city. He assured me that I looked muslim enough to go in to the mausoleum, which is a major pilgrimage site. I was satisfied with views of the entrance and its roof. I suspect that the "guide" knowingly left me in a spot that he knew would be difficult to find my way back from. Navigation would have been easy, if I could have gone through the mausoleum, which I was never more than a few blocks from, but going around it was rather convoluted.

After a pleasant drive back, I decided to go to the Ville Nouvelle (the newer french neighborhood), to get a pastry and a western-style meal. It took a few tries, but I ended up with a flaky eclair-analogue at a cafe and a tasty steak with mushrooms and a couple of beers at "Le Pub".

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