Once home to Morocco’s largest Jewish community, a stroll through this little Berber village today provides insight into local life. Wandering through the medina, expect to hear weavers preparing blankets on traditional looms, haberdasheries bustling with locals purchasing accessories for their djellabas and unassuming cafes serving the sweetest mint tea. Join Culture Vultures for a half-day artisanal tour where you will not only learn about the traditional crafts and trades of the medina but also meet the artists in their workshops and see the tools of the trade. In June, the town comes alive during the annual cherry festival, celebrating the local harvest.
Known as the Little Switzerland of Morocco, Ifrane was built during the French protectorate era as a ski resort for nearby residents of the Imperial Cities. Today, it still has its charm as a small town, popular in both winter months when snow hits the ground and in summer months when the temperatures in the cities climb. Hiking trails start at the edge of the village and while the trails are unmarked, the level of difficulty is minimal. While the sights to see are minimal, with the stone Atlas lion the most popular attraction, the trout tajine is a popular dish to try in nearby restaurants given the fish is sourced locally.
Surrounded by nature and little villages, a break in Azrou is ideal for those who prefer a slower pace. The weekly market on Tuesday is an ideal time to visit as locals descend from surrounding villages to do their weekly shop (it is also when the public transport to this area is much more manageable). Wandering through the nearby cedar forests, you may be lucky enough to spot a family of Barbary apes. Travellers driving around the region can follow signposts to the various waterfalls located nearby.
An easy 40-minute train journey from Fez, Meknes is worthy of a day in itself. Wandering around Meknes, you can visit the impressive sites of Place Lalla Aouda, where Moulay Ismail inspected soldiers belonging to the Black Guard, the granaries known as Heri es-Souani where 12,000 houses once existed, the Agdal basin and even the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail provide insight into this once-regal town. Snap a photo with Giacometti’s waterseller sculpture next to the Agdal Basin or enjoy a mint tea or coffee nous nous on Place el Hadim and admire the street performers and the turquoise and green Bab Mansour across the square.
Perhaps the most well-known day trip from Fez, visiting Volubilis is best done in the morning before the afternoon sun shines down on the open ruins. Grab a guide at the entrance to provide local knowledge as the sight lacks explanation or signage, although the walking tours provided in many guidebooks are quite comprehensive. The vast expanse includes a forum, hammams, residential areas where up to 20,000 people are believed to have lived, olive presses and a triumphal arch. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the UNESCO World Heritage Site are the mosaics that, despite being open to the elements, are perfectly in tact depicting various scenes. A coffee or fresh bottle of water are available at the shaded café on site.
The hillside town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoune, visible in the distance from the Roman ruins of Volubilis, is a food-lover’s paradise. The grills serving kefta (ground beef) and grilled vegetables are divine. The local olive oil has a unique taste and is available at the most unassuming corner stores. The nougat for sale in the central square is tasty and available in a variety of flavours off the carts. Coffee in the square watching the world go by provides a glimpse into local life where the main attraction here is the Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, the founder of Morocco. While the central mosque is off-limits to non-Muslims, wandering up to the panoramic viewpoint affords views of the surrounding rolling hills filled with olive groves.