Thursday, August 11, 2011

Welcome to Moulay Idriss, or "THOSE are olive trees!"

"Olive them?"

Trip #2 outside the Casablanca/Rabat area
Part I: Moulay Idriss

Moulay Idriss. Ever heard of it? Neither had we. We decided that for our second trip we wanted to venture out onto the winding mountain roads of central Morocco. We are trying to make Casablanca home, but it lacks the charm and mystique in the living medinas of the ancient cities. Destination was Volubilis, the most well preserved Roman ruins in N. Africa, but en route, why not explore the holy city of Moulay Idriss? It's just up the road and is finally open to non-Muslims to stay the night. Visiting during the holy month of Ramadan made it especially interesting as the small central square was bustling with activity late into the night.

We were introduced to a lovely guesthouse called Dar Zerhoune, named for the mountain range the city is nestled into. It was perfect for us and the proprietor, a Kiwi named Rose, gave us much insight into activities. Thank you again for being a wonderful hostess!

Arriving in Moulay Idriss, you leave your car in the small lot in the main square. There are no roads that will accommodate a full-sized vehicle, only foot traffic, donkeys, and small carts. The city is well over 1000 years old and the ancient design can be seen in the tiny winding streets that climb the contour of the mountain. The city is part of the mountain in a way that modern construction has lost. Almost every step you take to move in any direction is a stair step up or down.

From the main square it is apparent that foreign visitors are few as there are soon plenty of eager volunteers to show you to your hotel, to take you to see the “view panoramic,” or to see the rare cylindrical minaret. By “volunteer,” I mean “for a small fee” but, unless you are like Val and I and enjoy getting lost in a city, I recommend paying the pocket change for someone to direct you. An English-speaking older gentleman became our guide (without our asking, of course) and once we had walked around with him, it took us an hour of wandering the winding alleys to find our way back to our hotel. But, in the process we enjoyed the walk. Well, at least for the first 30 minutes of stairmaster action!

While you are up on the hill, visit the Scorpion House. It's a beautiful place to take in the view and have some delicious food.

Lastly, if you decide to visit Moulay, you must know that there are thermal-heated Roman baths up on the mountain just a short (and beautiful) walk along the river from the town. Visit them. You will not be disappointed. If you are, you should be more fun.

Coming Soon: Part II: Volubilis

No comments:

Post a Comment