Although not as famous as some of the other ancient roman cities found in Morocco, Lixus is still an impressive site to visit, and at just 35 km from Asilah, it’s a great destination for a day trip.
The ancient city was founded in 1200 BC and was home to the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs. It was abandoned around 1300 AC because of a mosquito problem, as well as to find a site with more water. Some believe it to be the mythical Garden of the Hesperides and a sanctuary of Hercules, although there is no clear evidence. Many of the important artifacts have been removed and can now be seen in museums in Rabat and Tetouan. However, ruins of the city are still present and you can walk around the main sites.
During the Roman period, Lixus was famous for its production of garum, a paste made from fish. At the entrance to the site you can see the pools where fish were laid out and covered with salt in order to make the paste, which was then shipped to other parts of the Roman Empire.
The public baths are another legacy from the Roman era and the changing rooms, pools and ovens to heat the water are still visible. There is also a large mosaic of Poseidon in the middle, which has been covered over with dirt to preserve it. Just behind the baths is the amphitheatre, where gladiators and lions used to fight. In another area you can see the district where the wealthy lived, close by the armoury and watch tour. You can also walk through the ruins of old temples and a mosque, as well as the ancient Roman forum which has been partially restored.
The original settlement measured 62 acres although, today, we can only see 10% of it. The area is protected by a wall and guards are onsite 24 hours a day. It’s open to visitors and there’s no entrance fee. The guards will happily give you a tour of the area with a full explanation of the ruins in French or Spanish in exchange for a voluntary donation.
To get to Lixus follow the old Larache road south, and 3 km before you reach Larache, turn right at
Site guardians will give you a guided tour in exchange for a small contribution
Visit Larache for lunch. Down by the port you can eat fresh mixed fish platters, or buy your own to by barbequed.
If you like historical sites like this, you should also visit Mzoura – the size of an ancient stone circle.