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.