Around Fez - Visiting Moulay Idriss

Moulay Idriss 

Take one mountainside house in a charming village medina, add lots of light and a flash of artistic flair, and you get a superb retreat that's ideal for a break away from the imperial cities of Fez and Meknes.
Moulay Idriss is perched a few kilometres above Volubilis, near Meknes. The View from Fez team took the train from Fez to Meknes (40 minutes) and then shared a grand taxi from the French Institute (Dh10 each) up to the village. The drive takes around 20 minutes and winds through spectacular countryside that's awash with colourful spring flowers. An important pilgrimage site, the village has an interesting main square with shops selling incense, prayer beads and candles for the faithful, and the main street is full of restaurants and cafes for watching the passing parade.

First thing we did was climb a lot of steps...

pausing every few feet to take in the views down the side alleys.

Along the way we found a lot of doors and behind one of them we found Mike Richardson from Cafe Clock in Fez.

Behind other doors we discovered secret gardens and it was from these places that we began to get a sense of the photogenic nature of Moulay Idriss. In almost every direction the view was superb.

We were now high enough to look down on activities below us, but of course not as high as a couple of girls right at the top, who watched our slow progress with much amusement.

All the exploration had left us very hungry and finding the downhill journey a lot easier, we made it in record time to the small street of cafes off the main square.

An eye out for passing trade.

Not only was the food excellent, the street was perfect for indulging in the Moroccan national passtime - people watching. Where else would you see a man walking by with a plough on his shoulder?

While in Moulay Idriss, The View from Fez was invited to preview Dar Zerhoune, the new hotel that's the brainchild of Rose Button and Mike Richardson of Cafe Clock. High up on the hill, the house has stupendous views across the mountains, the plains around Volubilis, and down to the river.

Relaxing on the terrace and gazing
across the valley is highly therapeutic.

The bedrooms are well-equipped to sleep three or four people, there's a comfortable sitting room, and meals are available. Prices are extremely reasonable - a dorm room is Dh180 per person per night and a double with en suite bathroom is Dh400, including a delicious Moroccan breakfast. You'll be well looked after by Faisal and his father.

The hotel is light and airy.

Interesting Moroccan design features

Maybe the greatest pleasure was to sit on the terrace in the sunset, watching the changing colours of the houses as the sun set far across the plain beyond Volubilis.

Look after yourself!

Moulay Idriss can be very hot in summer. Drink plenty of water, wear a hat, cover your arms and take some sun screen. This is especially inportant if you are visiting Volubilis as well.

The Details:

Getting there.
Take the train from Fez and get off at the 2nd stop in Meknes. (ticket approx 56 dirham for 1st class). Take a small taxi to grands taxis station. Ask for Moulay Idriss. Cost for two people is 60 dirhams or if you share it - 10 dirhams per person.

In Moulay Idriss, leave the taxi and walk up the hill to the main square. Here you will find cafes and down one particular side street a lot of small street restaurants that serve good cheap food.

At the top of the square are steps leading to the Moulay Idriss Mausoleum, which on Muslims may enter. However you can take the stairs at the side of the entrance way and climb to the top of the city for a fabulous panoramic view.

Staying overnight and using Moulay Idriss as a base for visiting Volubilis is recommended. Book in advance with Faisal on +212 (0) 665 141 590. His English is perfect.

Visit Dar Zerhoune at or book through Fez Riads

All photographs: Sandy McCutcheon

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