What to visit in Moulay Idriss Morocco
Mulay Idris in Morocco is a must if you are going to travel in the Meknes area. So that you don’t lose time in getting organized, we are going to tell you what you can’t miss in a visit to Mulay Idris.
Moulay Idriss Morocco
As an introduction we will comment that the city was founded on the mountain of Zerhoun by Idriss I founder of the first Islamic state of Morocco at the end of the 7th century. It is named after the country’s most revered saint and the great-great-grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, who founded the first Moroccan state. It has a spiritual character that has led to the establishment of several religious monuments and shrines, the most important of which is the mausoleum of Moulay Idriss. For the faithful, it is an important centre of pilgrimage, and an annual religious festival in August attracts thousands of people who pitch their tents around the city.
The city is characterized by elaborate Islamic architecture designed in a style that is perfectly integrated into the local cultural environment. Although non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the city’s shrines, you can walk through the medina (old town) to the paths on the hillside and get incredible views of the rooftops of the entire settlement. Note that the fact that Moulay Idriss is considered a holy city has allowed it to keep its traditions more conservatively. That’s why it’s important that when you visit the village you respect its customs, for example, you have to take care of the way you dress and wear shirts that cover your shoulders and go with long trousers, despite the heat. In any case the visit to Mulay Idris you will remember it with pleasure since it is a very beautiful place and the people are very kind and attentive with the travellers and tourists.
LOCATION OF MULAY IDRIS ZERHOUN
The city is built on the rocky spurs of the Khyber and Tazga hills, about 27 kilometres from Meknes. Moulay Idriss can easily be visited on the way to or from Volubilis.
Moulay Idriss location
Central Square: Mohammed Square VI
If you arrive at Mulay Idris by car and enter through the Bab Moulay Idriss gate you will find at the entrance what is known as Place Mohamed VI, the centre of the village of Moulay Idriss. You can park here if you wish.
In addition to its geographical and functional importance, it also stands out for its beauty and great attraction since it is full of arches where you can find some souvenir shops and some restaurants and cafes where you can have a drink or rest. It is a square where you can sit for a while and observe the life of this small city.
Mausoleum of Mulay Idris
At the end of Mohamed VI square you will find the most important monument of the holy city. This Mausoleum is the Shrine Moulay Driss I, descendant of the prophet Mohamed, founder of the Idrisside dynasty, the first Muslim dynasty in Morocco. He found refuge in Moulay Driss Zerhoun, after fleeing from Baghdad at the end of the 8th century. The entrance to the Mausoleum is forbidden to non-Muslims, we can only see the Mausoleum from the outside.
In every city or town you visit in Morocco, the market is a mandatory stop. You could not be less during a visit to Mulay Idris. The Souk and Central Market of Moulay Idriss are very authentic and there are a lot of fruit and vegetable stalls. The market is almost opposite the central square behind the restaurants on the main street that crosses the village.
The circular minaret
Although the city is not big in general it is not easy to find this minaret of the Sentissi mosque. Circular minarets are not that common and apparently this is the only one in Morocco so it’s at least worth going up and taking a photo. To find the circular minaret of Mulay Idris it is best to ask the locals.
Moulay Driss circular minaret
For the fans of freshly baked bread it is possible to find a traditional wood-burning oven. All the inhabitants of the city will know how to guide you if this is the case. The smell and taste of this bread is well worth it.
To take the best pictures of the city, it is best to go up to the top of it and reach the viewpoint. It is possible to hire a local guide to take you up to the viewpoint (do not forget to haggle over the price first) but it is possible to go up without the help of a guide.
THE MOULAY IDRISS OLIVE
The Moulay Driss Zerhoun region has been famous since ancient times for its olive oil production. From the second half of November, an entire economic activity begins: the olive harvest is in full swing. Plastic sheets of all colours are stretched under the olive trees, to collect the fruit within their reach and to pick the other fruits.
In the region, the olives soon arrive at the olive presses or other containers waiting to be filled with oil. There are also occasional markets for fresh olives.
THE MOUSSEM MOULAY DRISS AL AKBAR
This moussem is the biggest religious festival in this small holy city. Every year, at the end of August, thousands of pilgrims, Sufi brotherhoods and various corporations, in search of blessings, come to pay homage to their saint, laden with numerous offerings, accompanied by troops of folklore such as Aissaoua, Hmadcha and Hal Touat.
The pilgrimage to Moulay Idriss is one of the most important in Morocco. Those Moroccans who cannot economically afford to make a pilgrimage to Mecca can make five pilgrimages to the holy city of Moulay Idriss (which is the fifth of the holy cities of the Islamic world) instead. These five pilgrimages do not, however, allow them to obtain the title of Hach, which is obtained after making a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Sufi brotherhood of the Alamiyin inaugurates the ceremonies with the khamra (symbol of drunkenness) which takes the followers through increasingly breathless phases to the ecstasy of mystical union with the divine.
IN THE SOURROUNDINGS OF MOULAY IDRISS
Visit the Roman Ruins of Voulubilis
Only 5 km from the village are the most famous Roman ruins in Morocco: Volubilis. They have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Therefore, it is worth making an excursion to them. A day trip between Volubilis and Moulay Idriss can be a great plan. If you don’t want to take the car to move between the two you can move between them in a “petit taxi”.
Inside Volubilis there are several buildings that are very well preserved as the Forum, the Arch of Triumph, a second century basilica, the temple of Jupiter, etc.. The visit can be done with a guide or on your own, it depends on each one.
Where to sleep or stay in Moulay Idris
Until recently, there were no hotels at Mulay Idris as people from outside the Islamic world were not allowed in the holy city. Nowadays there are many guest houses for pilgrims and a couple of hotels for tourists. If you want to stay in a quiet place for a couple of days this city can be a good option. Also during the Moussem or pilgrimage period foreigners are allowed to stay in the city.
Where to eat
In Mohamed VI square and in the main street of the village there are several restaurants and bars where you can eat or drink something.
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