When you need a vacation from your Moroccan vacation: Moulay Idriss

Fez at golden hour. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

The labyrinth of the Fez medina

The sights and sounds of Morocco are exhilarating, but they can be a little exhausting too.

I loved wandering in the souks (markets), but I got tired of people not taking “la shokran” (no, thank you) for an answer, and was annoyed by the shopkeepers who followed me down the street.

I loved the labyrinth of the Fès (Fez) medina, but I actually wanted to get lost and didn’t like having so many people try to “help” me find my way every 30 seconds.

I loved the medina of Marrakech, but couldn’t understand why the henna ladies would aggressively grab my hand and try to draw on me, when they saw me refuse the same from one of their colleagues seconds earlier. And I really hated the men who kept monkeys and snakes and made them do tricks for tourists’ tips.

So I absolutely loved it when I discovered Moulay Idriss.

The rooftops of Moulay Idriss. Photo by Johanna Read TravelEater.net

Moulay Idriss, looking similar to Fez only from this angle!

Moulay Idriss is a tiny town next door to the UNESCO Roman ruins of Volubulis, about an hour from Fès. You can read more about why Moulay Idriss is so lovely in my article for Journey Beyond Travel, Moulay Idriss: When you need a vacation from your Moroccan vacation.

When I was planning my trip to Morocco, Google wasn’t very helpful when I was looking for a place to stay near Volubilis, one of the Moroccan sites on my must-see list. So I ended up seeing it via a day-trip. That was a mistake.

Later I heard about Moulay Idriss from hotelier and de facto Moulay ambassador, Rose Button, and she invited me to see Moulay with her and hosted me at a baking class at her guest house.

I wish I’d had the time to stay and spend more time in Moulay, but I got enough of a taste to know I want to go back and to know that I can strongly recommend both the town and staying at Rose’s Dar Zerhoune.

Dar Zerhoune is unique in that owner Rose, an engineer from New Zealand, is the first foreign woman to own property in Moulay. As an engineer, she’s made sure the wifi is fast, the water is hot, and the rooms quiet and comfortable. As a host, she’s made sure that the included breakfast is delicious, that lunch and dinner on the balcony overlooking Moulay and Volubilis are relaxing and delicious, and that you have all the information and services you’d want to enjoy lovely Moulay Idriss.

The author and Hajiba at the Dar Zerhoune baking class. Low-res photo by Rose Button

Hajiba teaching me how to bake Moroccan style; photo by Rose Button.

If you have time, ask to take Hajiba’s baking class to learn how to bake Moroccan specialties. After making everything,  you’ll bring your treats down the street to the communal oven, and then devour them with afternoon tea on Dar Zerhoune’s welcoming rooftop terrace. (Morocco’s communal ovens are fascinating, learn more in my article for Paste Magazine).

While the bustling activity of Morocco’s big cities are part of their charm, make sure you plan some downtime in one of Morocco’s smaller towns too.

You’ll want to read my advice about how to survive the big medinas of Morocco before you go.


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