Moulay Idriss, Morocco | Truly Getting Lost in the Pastel Coloured Alleys

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Exploring Morocco’s Colourful Villages

Moroccan villages tend to seamlessly blend into the surrounding countryside.  Earth, mud and clay hues prevail largely due to the natural materials used to build the huts and dwellings.  On our journeys throughout the country, we have encountered communities that have painted their houses with colour and this can attract growing numbers of tourists. Chefchaouen, the blue pearl, is possibly the most famous town, meanwhile the candy tinted Mellah in Fes and the pastel toned Moulay Idris are yet to be found on the list of most globetrotters.

Not Yet to be Found in Guidebooks

Moulay Idriss had been described as the most beautiful village of Morocco by our lovely host in Salem and luckily, the small hillside town, an hours drive from Fez, was easily combined with our visit to the ancient Roman ruins at nearby Volubilis. There is little to be found in the guidebooks about the sherbet shaded town, and even Google maps only seemed to show a selected few restaurants and a couple of riads.

Stepping Into the Heart of the Village

However, I still wanted to take a wander through the pretty alleys of Moulay Idriss and thought it might be the ideal spot for lunch.  Roadside parking was easy and with the guidance of our online map we were soon taking flights of steps into the heart of the village. The alleyways were narrow and steep at times with tunnels guiding the way underneath the houses a common sight.

Truly Getting Lost

The colours of the walls reminiscent of the ice cream displays of an Italian gelateria were a delight, especially against the deep azure skies.  Moulay Idriss was still void of any touristy shops and pushy salesmen, apart from a few near the main square and mosque entrance. We met many friendly locals, children and donkeys en route through the maze of passages. And a maze it was! I always like to advise other travellers to explore at random to get the true essence and feel for a place but I have to admit in Moulay Idriss we did get lost and even Google Maps could not help us find a way out.  Our way had mounted the hill on which the town is built and the passages had led us ever further from the place we had parked.

Finding Our Way Through the Maze of Alleys

The hungry boys got angry with me having led them deep into the town in the first place rather than to the first or nearest eatery, I think empty tummies fuelled their mood.  Using our general sense of directions and the sun as a guide we headed towards the main square, yet there were many lanes and paths that abruptly ended in front of someone’s front door or in a dead end.  No signposts or monuments could aid our predicament.  Eventually, after taking many wrong turns and somewhat hungrier we saw a sign to one of the riad restaurants I had marked as a possible spot to eat … but even on finding that after two or three alleys through the maze it was closed!  Luckily after that we ended up near the back of the main mosque. From there it was easy to head to the main square, leaving the pastel coloured backstreets behind.

Peeking Into the Impressive Mosque

The buzzing square could have been anywhere in Morocco, a selection of typical shops and restaurants vying for customers both tourists and locals alike, not really the setting we had imagined for lunch when we set out. None of the restaurants looked appealing and we decided to go back to a tiny bakery we had seen on a corner, near our car, but not without taking a brief peek into the impressive mosque at Moulay Idriss.

Pastries For Lunch

With an array of delicious pastries and breads (possibly the cheapest lunch ever) we drove towards Volubilis and sat among a nearby olive grove to savour our lunch with views over the valley.

An Unexpected Adventure

I was somewhat disappointed by our slightly failed visit to the pretty town of Moulay Idriss, looking back we must have just taken a wrong turn too many to get that lost. The pastel coloured houses will probably linger longer in our minds and now that time has passed we are able to laugh about our unexpected adventure.  


Where we stayed:

The traditional, boutique style Riad Dar Gnaoua


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3 thoughts on “Moulay Idriss, Morocco | Truly Getting Lost in the Pastel Coloured Alleys

  1. I only saw this town from Volubllis and wished we could have visited. We were told that if you visited twice it was the same as a visit to Mecca…(I have not verified this though). We did a tour of Morocco and the things we missed out on are mounting up…grr

    1. Ah that’s such a shame you missed Moulay Idriss! Maybe one for next time, there are always places we wish we would have seen or spent more time at. Where else do you think you should have visited during your tour?

      1. we didnt get up as far as Chefchouen, but we had an extended stay in Essaouira, which we loved. I also learned that group tours are not for us, too much time spent in stores, no time to explore… next time we will do it ourselves. It was February, and very cold in some spots. thanks for your posts, you did a great trip. Your Marrakech host sounds a little off putting though. lol

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