Meknes, Moulay Idriss & Volubilis
Our private tour of Meknes, Moulay Idriss & Volubilis takes a full day from Fez. Alternatively, you can complete elements of this if travelling in from Casablanca, Rabat, or Tangiers.
You first start in Meknes. It’s sleepier and far less visited than nearby Fez, and yet is a treat for those who like to escape the tourists. It was once the capital of Morocco in the 17th century under Moulay Ismail. The main square, Place el-Hedim, was used for royal proclamations and executions and is a good place to start a short walking tour. You will see the stunning Bab el-Mansour Gate, the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and the Heri es-Souani – the immense royal granaries and stables. If you have time, it is worth popping into the Dar Jamai Museum.
You then drive to Moulay Idriss. This picture-perfect white-washed town is perched between two green hills above the valley of olive groves and pine forests. The town was closed to non-Muslims, and it was only in 2005 that tourists were allowed to stay the night. It is believed in Morocco that five pilgrimages to Moulay Idriss equal one trip to Mecca. They come to see the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss – and is especially busy in August. You can’t enter but can peak in from the outside. The vantage points above the Medina are worth the walk. It’s time for lunch, and we suggest Scorpion House, owned by Mike Richardson, proprietor of the acclaimed Café Clock in the Fez Medina. Set high on the hillside, overlooking sacred Moulay Idriss with the ancient ruins of Volubilis beyond.
You then set out on the 5km walk to Volubilis, passing through the Berber settlements of Sidi Ali, Hamraoua and El Meghafyin. You then explore the Roman town of Volubilis. It is said that it once supported a population of 20,000 and mostly dates from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Of particular note are the superb mosaics that have been excavated. You will also see olive presses, thermal baths, the basilica, Triumphal Arch and indeed the brothel. You then return to Fez for the night.