The day after meeting the host families, everyone in the Minnesota program goes on a trip to the city of Meknes and the Roman ruins of Volubilis. If you’re like me and like a bit of history, the following photos and descriptions will probably be a treat.
One of the biggest points we learned while at Volubilis was the prominence of mosaic tile floors in the houses of the richer citizens. You can see here pictures of mosaic floors featuring nymphs, including the story of a hunter who was turned into a deer for walking in on some nymphs bathing. Several of the mosaics featured pictures of various animals, including some that are nearly extinct. The second to last picture shows a mosaic dedicated to Hercules. The medusa head (seen in the last picture) was often included on mosaics near the entrance to ward off evil.
Volubilis was mainly a city for providing food products to the rest of the Roman Empire. One of their biggest exports was olives. On the drive to Volubilis, the country side was still filled with fields of olive trees. The ruins included a fairy intact olive press. We learned that extra virgin olive oil refers to the first press of the olives. The second press yielded more oil that was mainly used as fuel for lamps and not for eating. The main road pictured below would have led to Tangier and its port which took the food products back to Rome (as our tour guide pointed out, all roads lead to Rome).
There is also lots of evidence of the luxurious life the romans had. Pictured below are the remnants of a public bathroom where gossip would be shared and even political decisions made. There are several baths and pools and fountains. There is also an area specifically for people to throw up after eating way too much at a feast. These systems would have all been serviced by the aqueducts and the sewage system. One final site, was the brothel. This was marked by a sculpture of a penis at the center. Our tour guide explained these sculptures would have existed throughout the city as signs to point the way to the brothel. The Italian tourists behind us found this particularly amusing, and their laughs could be heard from quite a ways off.
In Meknes we learned about the architecture of the city. Much of the pictures show the works of Sultan Moulay Ismail who made it the capital of Morocco during his reign. Our tour guide explained that much of the structures were built because Moulay feared there would be an invasion. This included a large man made pond to provide water to the city and a large set of walls which you can see part of behind the pond in the picture below. We also visited the granary he built to feed the city during a siege. In the next picture you can see the area outside the granary where horses would have been tied up so that the Sultan and his subjects could easily get from city to city to administer his rule. Also included are pictures of two of the gates to the city, which I have noticed are one of the most important aspects of ancient Moroccan architecture.