We went on a little Moroccan adventure last week. After 3 weeks of choking on car exhaust, dodging crazy drivers, and listening to the endless honking of car horns, we decided to get out of Morocco’s capital city of Rabat for a couple of days. Kerri had read about some amazing Roman ruins out in the middle of Morocco and they were also listed as a UNESCO Heritage site, something we couldn’t possibly pass up. I was a little concerned about the logistics of getting there, but after a little research, it all seemed pretty simple. In addition, it would be an adventure, something we all needed.
Just 5 km from the Roman ruins of Volubilis is Morroco’s most holy city, Moulay Idriss. Moulay Idriss is a tiny hillside town that is sacred to Moroccans. The town marks the spot where Moulay Idriss (the person) arrived in 789 bringing with him the religion of Islam and starting a new dynasty in Morocco.
The town has a couple of riads and a hotel where we were hoping to find lodging for the night. So, our plan was to catch the morning train from Rabat to the town of Meknes, which would only take 2 hours. We would then take either a city bus or Grand Taxi out to Moulay Idriss, stay the night, and then walk the 5 km to Volubilis the next day.
We had planned to leave Rabat on Tuesday, but after looking at the weather report for Meknes the forecast said heavy rain, which did not sound like fun. So, we waited a day and left Rabat on Wednesday, which had promised better weather.
The train ride to Meknes was comfortable and cheap, costing only about $20 USD for all three of us. Once at Meknes we spoke to the taxi drivers outside the train station, who wanted a small fortune to take us to Moulay Idriss. We had read in our guidebook about where the shared taxis meet in Meknes, which would be a much cheaper option. We hopped in a metered petite taxi and got a ride there. Once at the taxi stand, we spoke to the head honcho and told him we wanted to go to Moulay Idriss. He pointed to a blue Mercedes and said it would be 10 dirhams each, which is only $3.52 total for all three of us. The reason the shared taxis are cheaper is that they do not leave until there are 7 people in the car!
After a 25-minute ride crammed into the back of an old Mercedes passing green wheat fields and olive trees, we arrived at a very picturesque hill town. We had no idea what to expect before arriving, but once there we loved it. The town has a great “vibe” to it and feels very comfortable. It was also really quiet compared to Rabat.
We checked into the town’s only hotel for 300 Dirhams ($35 USD) for the night, which included breakfast. After being shown a couple of rooms, we got a nice room with a view overlooking someone’s laundry on the roof below us and of the green fields beyond. The room had no television (or heat) but was clean and included a bathroom with shower and a real toilet. It also had hot water! It’s amazing how quickly our standards have changed.
We wandered around the town’s narrow labyrinthine streets and took lots of photos. The streets in the town are so narrow that they use donkeys to haul goods up to the houses. The donkeys run up and down through the town with donkey jockeys riding sidesaddle on the goods. The town was really cool and it felt so nice to be out of the big city of Rabat!
After wandering the streets of Moulay Idriss we followed a dirt road up a hillside across from the town. The dirt road was cut into a hillside overlooking a cemetery and seemed to be a popular spot for the locals to come and relax. The heavy rains from the day before had caused many landslides and we were glad we had waited a day before coming. It would have been miserable wandering around in the heavy rain.
That evening we found a place that looked “clean” to try some of the local cuisine. We ordered the mystery meat skewers and a local dish of vegetables and chicken called tajine. The food was really good, but we were a little shocked when they told us the price. Before even sitting town we went over the prices with the waiter and what everything would cost. It was still cheaper than if the three of us would have hit a fast food restaurant, but we just hate feeling like we got ripped off; even if it is only a couple of dollars.
The next morning we woke up to a beautiful blue sky and the sun’s golden rays shining on the town’s colorful hillside buildings. And of course, the Muslim call to prayer. We went up to get breakfast, which was included in the price. The breakfast consisted of flat pancake type bread things called mafrouk, hard-boiled eggs, French bread, Laughing Cow Cheese, fresh squeezed orange juice, and coffee.
After checking out of the hotel we bought a bottle of water and made our way down the hill towards the ancient Roman ruins of Volubilis. The 5 km walk was nice as we passed wheat fields and ancient olive trees.
We could have easily spent a few more days in Moulay Idriss, and we probably would have if we had packed more clothing. The town is very picturesque and feels very cozy and safe. If you plan to visit Morocco, we highly recommend staying at least two nights in Moulay Idriss.