Meknes, with a bit more than half million inhabitant is a very dense and compact urban center, surrounded by countryside, where gentle hills of dense trees stand out, behind which are plains planted with agriculture fields, interrupted here and there by scattered olive trees. The winter light filter by the scattered clouds increase the contrast of the landscape, enhance the green of the plants and the brown of the soil.
Along this rural landscape small villages pop up, but is one called Mulay Idriss that stands up and is a popular destination for tourist visiting Meknes, as is close location, about 30 kilometers north from the medina, make a easy day trip to Moroccan countryside lifestyle, on the way to Volubilis, the ruins of an ancient Roman city.
But Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, as it’s also called to the location close by the Mount Zerhoun, is much more popular for the Moroccan that for the foreigners as this village is where Mulay Idriss, that is considered the founder of Morocco by unifying the north part of the territory, arrive in the end of the first century bringing the Shia sect of the Muslim religion to these lands.
Is tomb is located in this village, making Moulay Idriss Zerhoun an important peregrination place for Moroccan, being closed to foreigners until 2005. Nowadays, the building where the tomb is located is still closed to non-Muslims, as all the mosques in the country; only the madrasas (Islamic school) are open to foreigners.
This village, with its compact white building sliding down the hill, is a good contrast with the busyness of Meknes medina. The pace is slow here and Mulay Idriss is a good opportunity to observe the rural lifestyle where the donkeys still play an important role carrying good uphill, and where the markets offer an appealing variety of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Where to sleep in Mulay Idriss:
There’s no special reason to sleep in Mulay Idriss and walking around didn’t spot any sign of accommodation.
But as Moulay Idriss Zerhoun is so close to Meknes, can easy be reached by taxi or public bus, in a day trip with still lot’s of time to visit Volubilis… so there isn’t an important reason to stay overnight in this village.
Where to eat in Mulay Idriss:
On the street that goes from the bus stand (number 15) to the main square, as also in the square itself, there are several options for food, selling kebabs and tagines. As the food here is mostly meat orientated and the prices are a bit higher, it was a good opportunity to try the Moroccan style sandwiches, which are a bit everywhere. It’s basically half of a flatbread, stuffed with what you choose from the food that is available at the window… can be meat, but there’s a choice for vegetarians, as grill vegetables, egg, boiled potato, deep fry aubergine…
As you cross the main gate, on the way to the Mulay Idriss’s tomb, you’ll hardly found any shop o place to eat, so it’s better to surrender and choose one of the restaurants or eateries downstairs, around the main square, and ignore trying the insistent invitation of restaurant employees.
How to move around in Mulay Idriss:
Definitely on foot, but be prepared to climb the steep narrow street, some of them with steps, that which spread around the whole hill, but on the top, you will be rewarded with nice views.
How to go from Meknes to Moulay Idriss:
To visit Moulay Idriss and Volubilis you can catch the local bus, called City Bus, number 15. It stops in Avenue Mohammed VI, close by the roundabout. The place is easy to reach: if you are in from the Bab Mansour, just walk down, to the right side and you’ll see the roundabout from where the avenue starts; the bus stop in the beginning of the avenue and despite the lack of a sign you’ll see lots of people waiting there for buses.
The ticket cost 7 Dirham and the trips take 30 minutes along a beautiful countryside landscape.
If you also want to visit Volubilis, there isn’t a direct way by public transport and you need to catch a shared taxi at Moulay Idriss.