Africa

Make a day trip from your drive from Fes to Rabat

The second day of our trip in Morocco was the start of our roadtrip. We would leave the vibrant city of Fes behind us and head to Morocco’s capital: Rabat.

It only takes about two hours and fifteen minutes to drive from Fes to Rabat, yet it would have been a shame to not make a few detours for some amazing sights along the way.

We left Fes around 9:30am and arrived in Rabat around 6pm. What we did in between, you can now read below!

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After filling our bellies with the delicious breakfast at our riad, we immediately hit the road. Our plan was to leave a bit earlier but due to our unexpected morning exploration of Fes, we were running a bit late. No regrets though. That morning in Fes was more than worth it.

Our first destination of the day was Meknes, a city about an hour outside of Fes. Originally we had planned to save this for last and first make the detour to Moulay Idriss and Volubilis, but since we had left Fes later and Meknes seemed like the most important sight, we went there first. After hitting the sights there we then would decide whether we still had time for the extra detour.

To our surprise we quickly found a safe place to park our car close to the Bab el-Mansour, one of the sights on our list. After admiring the beautiful gate for a while – not too long as the rain was still accompanying us as well – we hit the medina. Time to get lost again; yay! Fortunately we immediately stumbled upon the Bou Inania Madrasa. Most of these madrasas may seem the same at first sight, but it’s the detail that makes them all unique and so beautiful.

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And then the next half hour was spent trying to find our way back through the medina to the Bab el-Mansour and the Place el-Hedim. From that square you can also spot the lovely green-blue roof of the Dar Jamai Museum. Unfortunately due to renovation the place was closed until late 2018. Quite a bummer as there are apparently some really nice rooms in which the collections are displayed. (You know by now that objects don’t interest me much but I’m more of an architecture person). Not being able to visit the museum certainly saved us some time and we already knew that the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail was closed for renovation as well, so that made two majors sights out of our reach.

Between the Bab el-Mansour and the Mausoleum, you can also find the Koubbat as-Sufara. This place used to be the reception hall for foreign ambassadors. We hadn’t planned on visiting that site but since it was only around 10:30am by the time we walked past, we decided to take a quick look around. It was only 10 dirhams anyway. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was still nice to see. If we would have had a bit more background info it might have been more interesting.

As you can see we didn’t have to worry about not having enough time to see all of Meknes in a day. One morning was definitely enough, but that was also due to the renovation of both the museum and the mausoleum. So instead of already heading to Rabat, we made the – now even bigger – detour to Moulay Idriss.

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Moulay Idriss is the holy town of Morocco and hence one of the most important pelgrimage sites. Muslims that can’t make it to Mecca are also allowed to visit Moulay Idriss. It’s a small town forty-five minutes from Meknes and one hour fifteen minutes from Fes. The town itself isn’t all that special in my opinion – mostly because as a non-muslim you can’t visit the mosque -, but with it being spread over two hills at the base of Mount Zerhoun, the views on the town are stunning.

When leaving the town, we ended up taking a wrong turn and drove on some beautiful back roads through the hills. Eventually we had to turn back as the road was blocked by rocks but the views were worth it.

Our last sight for the day could be found about ten minutes from Moulay Idriss: Volubilis. This partly excavated Roman city used to be the Mauritanian capital in the third century BC and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. It is one of the best-preserved archaeological sity in Morocco.

We spend about forty-five minutes on the site taking in the history of it. It was nice to see but compared to the sites I had already seen on previous trips (such as the My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam), it wasn’t all that special. Still I’m happy we were able to make the detour because now I’ll never have to worry whether I would have missed out on something or not.

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And then we had the biggest part of the road for that day ahead of us. From Moulay Idriss to Rabat, it’s about two hours twenty minutes but that is if you take the toll road. That cost us 34 dirham, but saves a detour of about twenty minutes.

It was 6pm by the time we made it to Salé (a city a bit outside of Rabat). Perfect timing to try and find our riad in the medina, which once again proved to be difficult.

Summary

Sights along the way:

  • Meknes
    • Bab el-Mansour
    • Medina
    • Bou Inania Madrasa
    • Dar Jamai Museum (closed for renovation in 2018)
    • Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss (closed for renovation in 2018)
    • Koubbat as-Sufara
  • Moulay Idriss
    • Mostly just the view on the city
    • View on the mosque
  • Volubilis

Tips:

  • Visit Meknes first. This city is the most important sight on your way from Fes to Rabat. It may be an extra detour then to still visit Moulay Idriss and Volubilis, but at least then you won’t have to rush through Meknes.
  • In Meknes, park your car close to the Bab Mansour. There is a small guarded car park a bit further on the right (when looking at it) of the gate.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a wrong turn around Moulay Idriss. You might end up on a beautiful backroad with amazing views.

 

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