Roman Ruins in Morocco

The Roman Forum at the Chellah, Rabat

As many of you may know, I lived and worked in Morocco for over four years and have many fond memories of some of the work I did using Internet as a tool for sustainable development there. I lived in Rabat where there is a ruin (the Chellah), parts of which date back to times when the Romans had outposts of their empire all over North Africa. I took the picture featured in this article in January 2001 when my parents were visiting.

Here is a quote about the Chellah taken from a site I created in 1999 (and is no longer available) called “The Moroccan Experience”.

On the bank of the Bou Regreg river, this ancient site surrounded by a high stone wall contains Roman ruins dating from the reign of Abou Hassan (r. 1331-1351). Situated on the site of the old Roman city of Salah, the ruins show a lot of Roman and Islamic influences. Inside is an old Mosque, and a mystical spring in which eels and tortoises swim. Women still follow the superstition that throwing hard-boiled eggs into this pool will improve their fertility.

During spring, many storks nest here, in the tower of the Mosque (the minaret) and in the trees all around the Chellah. You will also see many stray cats, various bird life and some wonderful plant life.

There are a number of other sites bearing traces of the Roman presence in Morocco. Some in Tangiers (a key port at the mouth of the Mediterranean), further south and inland near Meknes is the preserved site of Volubilis, and perched atop a hill that was once on the main road from Rabat to Tangiers, next to Larache (now bypassed by a motorway) there is an old Roman fishing town called Lixus. Here you can see remains of a place where anchovies were processed and there is a small amphitheatre which has great natural acoustics. You stand in the middle of the circular depression and everyone seated above you can hear you without you making any effort to have your voice carry far.

During my travels around the country I often marvelled at these sites, which are remarkably well preserved mostly due to the mild climate in that part of the world. At Volubilis, there are a couple of mosaics which are almost complete and you can walk right up to them. It’s strange, because the town itself is in the middle of nowhere, quite far from Meknes and set back from the road. All around are fields, and wild plants encroach on the archaeological site; you feel quite different walking around the ruins compared to the forum in Rome, where the city is just next door, everything is restored and nature is controlled quite clinically.

Sometimes I think I was crazy to leave the beaches, the sun, the wonderful places to visit and the friendly people. In life we make such decisions knowing, at least, that we can always go back and catch up all over again in our minds’ eye.

10 Responses to “Roman Ruins in Morocco”

  1. carrster Says:

    Sounds like a fascinating place. I enjoy things like that so much. Oh if only I were independently wealthy and could spend my days traveling and learning instead of working at a desk. *sigh*

    Lovely picture too. :-)

  2. Simon Says:

    Hi Carrster,

    It is indeed a fascinating place. I spent most of my days in Morocco working at a desk, but it was handy being able to get out and around for long weekends. I regret not having made it to the desert though.

    The US is a fascinating place too, but the cost of getting to other countries from the US is high. In Europe and North Africa you can get to a lot of different places for much less money. I’ve been to France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, England, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia… and I’m far from being independently wealthy :-D.

    -Fruey

  3. Fella Says:

    I can understand why you get those Morocco blues when its freezing cold and pouring down with rain here in northern Europe. Perhaps a long holiday back there with Yas + the lil’ fella (aka Nathan) might be on the cards this year, to catch up with both people and places over there ??
    Fellllla

  4. Simon Says:

    Fella,

    Yeah the weather isn’t too hot here at the moment, and it was rarely poor in Rabat. I’d love to take the lil’ Fella to check out the beaches near Rabat and introduce him to old friends. Just have to make sure we avoid the mother in law from Rabat… ;-)

    -Fruey

  5. pia Says:

    Would love to go to Morroco. Used to be so easy to go to Europe and further points for us; now it’s so expensive

    And you have long holidays; we have occassional three day weekends, two week vacations: for a puritianical productive country we’re not great at either

  6. Simon Says:

    Hi Pia

    Whether it’s cheap or not, it’s a minimum 7 hour flight from NYC, so it’s still quite a trip. Airline security and rising fuel prices just make it worse.

    We usually get an average of 4 weeks paid holiday in Europe, some people get 5. That does allow taking a good break from work…

    -Fruey

  7. Aidan Says:

    Have pondered several times the myriad advantages of living and working in the States, as I imagine them.
    But the scandalously short holiday allowances always seem a real slap in the chops.
    I suppose they help explain the sheer friendly and delighted enthusiasm of the super-annuated Statesians I seem to stumnble across in central London pubs so many times, always coming away full of warmth for them yet instantly regretting the probably-opposite impression our too-too-insular group has made upon them…
    But Morocco does seem very impressive. Very unlucky, too, not to get the 2010 World Cup, having applied several times before as the trailblazing influence for too-long-neglected African nations, only to be pitted at the post by South Africa. Obviously football is merely a minor matter, but following the Olympic bid, obviously the people there are keen for the rest of the world to pay a little more attention, and decently so, I imagine…
    I will, of courae, now be confiscating any hard-boiled eggs I happen to see anyone of my acquaintance merely contemplating…

  8. carrster Says:

    Hi Fruey – any updates on your Little Man? Just wondering how he’s doing….
    Carrster

  9. Simon Says:

    Hi Carrster,

    I’ll post about that now!

    -Fruey

  10. Simon Says:

    Aidan,

    I’ve never really entertained thoughts of living and working in the States. I’ve worked out there very briefly on a couple of occasions, and the 5 minute lunch break coupled with smoking areas even outside the buildings pretty much drew the line for me.

    Morocco is a great country. Sure, it has its problems as does any country with an expanding economy and a history of difficult political problems. I was there when they lost their last bid for the World Cup, and the country was really behind the bid. The effect of giving an event of that scale to a country like Morocco would be amazing for the locals. I hope they are successful in a future bid.

    You definitely want to watch out for those people holding hard-boiled eggs with the intention of throwing them into pools of water… although personally I would still allow some leniency to those people who take to grabbing half stale hard-boiled eggs from wedding buffets and lobbing them towards the nearest river / village pond.

    -Fruey