1.         Archaeological Site of Volubilis (Morocco) (C 836bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/836/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1998-1998)
Total amount approved: USD 7,500
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/836/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds


Previous monitoring missions

1999:  Expert mission

2003: World Heritage Centre Mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Risks due to development pressures; need to preserve the landscape

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/836/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2005

At the end of 2004, the World Heritage Centre received information from the Institute of Archaeology of the University College London which, through a cooperative agreement signed with the Ministry of Culture of Morocco, collaborates with the authorities responsible for the property, in the fields of research, conservation, presentation and management.  This information, which concerned the implementation of major building projects at the periphery of the property, was confirmed by the UNESCO Rabat Office, and followed by a request from the Moroccan authorities for a mission to be sent to the site. The mission was undertaken from 2 to 7 April 2005.

The mission concluded that the property presented no serious conservation problems; however, « it was necessary to improve the maintenance of all of the walls (treatment of their edges) and pavements (weed control), […] as well as more regular conservation work on the mosaics (consolidation, weed control and treatment of algae, fungi and lichen)”.

The current development project concerning a visitor centre and administrative and scientific infrastructure for the property, initiated by the Ministry of Culture due to the dilapidated state of the existing buildings, can be summarised as follows:


·  Demolition of all the existing buildings;

·  Construction, within the boundaries, of new structures that do not obstruct the view of the site from outside;

·  Designation of these structures: conservators’ quarters, administrative offices, lodging for visiting archaeologists, stores and restoration laboratory ; and welcome area (ticketing, souvenir shop, restrooms, and cafeteria) ;

·  Creation of a site museum;

·  Creation of a theatre for the Volubilis festival.

Although appreciating the quality of the architectural design adopted by the team in charge of the project, as well as the efforts for maximum integration within the landscape, the mission nevertheless highlighted certain problems requiring a revision of the project:

« The construction of a theatre or a fixed stage within the premises must be strictly avoided, all the more so as such a structure would only be used one week per year during the festival.  In the event of a simple treatment of the area with temporary tiered seating, a semicircular form that would evoke an ancient theatre in a place where it did not exist and in a site where no structure of this kind has been identified should be avoided. […]

The construction of the right wing of the proposed building poses major problems concerning the physical and visual impact on the property.  The space foreseen for the exhibition room appears both too small for a proper site museum, and too large for a simple room for the introduction of archaeological remains, therefore not justifying a building of such importance.  The very concept of a site museum should be reconsidered in the light of a detailed analysis of the objects intended for display. […]

The construction of the left wing of the proposed building appears to respond to essential site management needs and can be envisaged.  It is nevertheless suggested to modify the project in order to reduce the depth of the required terracing, even if it causes a slight protrusion of the structure in respect of the level of the land. […]

The construction of the welcome area (ticketing, restrooms, cafe, restaurant) is not an immediate necessity as these facilities already exist.  However, should it be decided to replace the existing structure – considered to be unstable or aesthetically unsatisfactory – the present location should be retained, and, in any event, the natural slope towards the wadi which leads to the area of the remains should not be used for this purpose […]

Should the creation of an orientation space be thought indispensable, it should preferably be conceived, not as an obligatory entrance to the site, but as an information point where, before or after the tour, visitors can gain a better understanding of the archaeological site. In this way it would not be a distraction from the approach to the site, nor a rupture to its integrity”. 

Moreover, the 2003 mission had stressed the importance of the landscape surrounding the archaeological site that has long been recognised as closely associated with the history and life of the ancient city.  Whilst recognising that it is not possible, from a cultural viewpoint, to separate the agricultural landscape from the archaeological site, the mission had recommended to envisage the widening of the perimeter of the listed site to include its landscape.  This would guarantee the preservation of this exceptional place in the face of development pressures. This approach could usefully be included in the preparation of a management plan, which could thus include a detailed study of the landscape surrounding the site and the measures for its management and preservation. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM


Decision Adopted: 29 COM 7B.100

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-05/29 COM/7B.Rev,

2. Regrets that the State Party of Morocco did not inform the Committee, as is stipulated in paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, of the major building projects undertaken on the site of Volubilis and of the destruction of the existing infrastructures ;

3. Expresses its concern over the scope and volume of the new buildings, as well as the visual impact of these developments that threaten to modify the surrounding landscape, as well as the approach and the understanding of visitors;

4. Urges the State Party to consider the modification of the project in accordance with the recommendations of the expert mission and to submit a revised version to the World Heritage Centre and to ICOMOS for study, accompanied by a management programme for the new installations in accordance with the management plan for the entire property;

5. Further urges the State Party to define a buffer zone to ensure the protection of the area around the archaeological site and to take into account the surrounding landscape in its entirety, in particular the agricultural plain to the west of the property, which is inseparable from its historical origins;

6. Requests the State Party to submit, by 1 February 2006, a report on progress made with the project and the recommendations of the present decision, for examination by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006).