We humans have always been into stories of journeys and adventures. After all, who doesn’t love to travel to the various cities our mighty world comprises and discover different civilizations and cultures?
The story I want to tell you is based on a half-mythical, half-historical city lying in Morocco, west of the city of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun. The city is called Volubilis. I went there a couple of years ago during a trip I made to explore several cities in the beautiful country that is Morocco. On the one hand, the city is famous for the region’s fertile lands and, on the other, for the magnificence of its old structures—old as in dating back to days of yore. The ruins prove that the city has been governed by different people throughout various periods of history: the Romans, the Berbers, the Byzantines . . . all of whom have left a touch of their distinctive cultures engraved on the rocks. In 1997, UNESCO declared Volubilis a World Heritage Site.
I have described the city as being mythical because it is where Hercules, the lionized hero, is said to have carried out some of his labors, including the slaying of the venomous Lernaean Hydra and the defeat of the Stymphalian birds. Chances are that in reality the first residents of the city were pretty good at concocting captivating stories. This gift allowed them to convert their city into an internationally acclaimed tourist attraction.
On my visit to the city, I rambled along its ancient walls equipped with a backpack and a small camera. I met some German tourists who told me in great detail about how taken they were with the city, with its overwhelming beauty. They asked me to take a few pictures of them in order to preserve their memories of the place. I also stumbled across a class of first graders from Tangier who were on a school trip with a few teachers. I sat down to eat lunch and watched them while I recalled the blithe days of my own childhood. After finishing up my meal, I continued my visit around the city, taking pictures here, there, and everywhere. I went inside temples and old baths with Latin inscriptions until it was time for me to go home. I boarded the bus heading to my hometown, put on my headphones to listen to some soft music, and gazed out of the window at the landscape while bidding this astonishing place a silent farewell. I had spent an amazing day at Volubilis, which had most certainly blown me away. I was dazzled by the beauty of the surrounding nature, the gentle breeze of the fresh air, and the kindness of the locals complemented by the modesty of their lifestyle. I therefore promised myself that I would return one day.
Now, I hereby extend to all Arabs, my dear fellow countrymen and countrywomen, an invitation to come visit this primeval city, to spend some time letting your imagination take you to the age of the great empires, as both the Roman and Islamic Empires were.
Written by Mohamed Douhaji.