North of Meknes is Volubilis, a well-preserved Roman city, where archaeologists found the first traces of Jewish settlement in Morocco.
Volubilis was founded in the 3rd century BCE as an Amazigh settlement. It grew rapidly as the capital of Roman Mauretania from the 1st -3rd centuries CE. The city covered about 100 acres with a 1.6 mi circuit of walls. The Romans constructed many public buildings in the 2nd century, including a basilica, temple and triumphal arch. Showing their wealth built on the cultivation of olives, rich families constructed town-houses with mosaic floors.
The city fell to local tribes around 285 and was never retaken by Rome because of its remoteness and indefensibility on the south-western border of the Roman Empire. It continued to be inhabited for at least another 700 years, first as a Latinized Christian community, then as an early Islamic settlement.
In the late 8th century, Volubilis served as the power center for Idris ibn Abdallah, the founder of the Idrisid dynasty. By the 11th century, Volubilis was abandoned, and the local population was transferred to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, about 3.1 mi from Volubilis.
One tombstone found in Volubils contained the Hebrew inscription, “Here lies Matrona, daughter of Rabbi Juda.”
Another Jewish item found at Volubilis was an oil lamp with a decorative menorah. These two items are definitive proof of the existence of a Jewish-Roman community in Volubilis.
Moulay Idriss Zehoun
Moulay Idriss Zerhoun contains a mausoleum commemorating the founder of the first Muslim state in Morocco, Idriss I, who oppressed the Jews, forcing many of them to convert.
Ouezzane and Azjen
Further North of Volubilis and Moulay Idriss Zerhoun is Ouezzane, a town controlled by an important Muslim fraternity who encouraged Jewish traders and agriculturists to live near-by. East of Ouezzane is the village of Azjen, where the tomb of the most important Jewish saint, Amram Ben Diwane, is found. The Lag B’Omer Jewish holiday pilgrimages to his grave attract hundreds of Jews from both inside and beyond Morocco.