Moulay Idriss: The Most Sacred Town in Morocco!
Moulay Idriss, 4.5 kilometres from Volubilis, takes its name from its founder, Morocco’s most revered saint and the creator of its first dynasty. The tomb of this great grand son of Prophet Mohammed lies in the middle of town, the main reason for its sacred status.
The picturesque town, nestled in the cradle of verdant mountains, is the object of constant pilgrimage and an important summer festival (moussem) in the second week of August. Although shrines and mosques are off-limit to non-Muslims, the town itself is open for all. The best day to visit is Saturday – when Moulay Idriss holds its weekly market in a lively and pleasant atmosphere.
Sights in Moulay Idriss
When arriving in Moulay Idriss, most buses and grand taxis will drop you at a main road at the heart of town. From here, head uphill and bear right to another square lined with cafes and food stalls – a great place to absorb the local atmosphere. Almost directly ahead of you is the main point of interest: the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, the object of constant pilgrimage and the country’s greatest annual festival in August.
The green-tiled pyramids of the shrine and tomb of Moulay Idriss stand between two hills, namely the Khiber and Tasga quarters. Khiber, the taller hill, is lined with souks selling a variety of religious artefacts to pilgrims from the local nougat to plain white candles to light at the shrine.
The entrance to Moulay Idriss Mausoleum is through a three-arched gateway at the top of some steps. Not far inside is a low, wooden barrier to keep non-Muslims out. To get a good panoramic view of the mausoleum and the town as a whole, try to climb your way to a couple of vantage points on each quarter. It’s not easy to venture up on your own as most streets end in blind alleys, so you might need to enlist the help of local guides.
As you climb up, take the road signposted to the Municipalité. Near the top of the hill, take the cobbled streets and view the unusual minaret of the Idriss Medersa, now a Koranic school. The medersa has a modern cylindrical minaret built in 1939, the only one of its kind in Morocco. The green mosaics spell out a verse of the Koran in Kufic script. At the top, ask for the grande terrasseor petite terrasse. These terraces provide high vantage points above the mausoleum and most of Moulay Idriss.