City of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun
This small town occupies a picturesque position and is divided into two main districts: Khiber and Tazga. On the space that separates them is the marabout of Moulay Idriss, descendant of the prophet by his grandson El Hassan. He succeeded in escaping from the Abbasids whom his family fiercely opposed by contesting their accession to power. Refugee in Morocco, Moulay Idriss manages to obtain the adhesion of the Amazigh. All the important tribes of the country follow each other to make him allegiance. The Abbasids, worried by his success, ended by assassinating him. The zaouia of Moulay Idriss is at the origin of the sanctity of Zerhoune. That is why it is the first destination for every new king after his accession to the throne. The city is home to a one-month-old large moussem (late August-late September) commemorating the anniversary of the founder of the first Muslim dynasty in Morocco. It is a spiritual festival that attracts pilgrims from different parts of the country and ensures cultural animation (song, dance, parade of brotherhoods, offerings, sacrifices, fantasia, prayer, litanies …), economic activities (commerce, transportation) and touristic flow (influx of a considerable number of Moroccan and foreign tourists) in this small town. The city has a very important material and immaterial heritage:
El hamma, Roman basin, mausoleum of Moulay Idriss, mausoleum of his freedman Rached and his barber Moulay Abdellah El Hajjam buried in Khiber, public fountains, aqueduct, Sentissi minaret, traditional houses, mosques, marabouts, panoramic views of the medina and Volubilis, ancestral know-how (gastronomy, prefabric pottery, embroidery, woolen clothes …)
Bab El Hjer
Mausoleumde Moulay Idris
Dating from the Almoravid period, it presents the general appearance of a fortified camp situated on a hillside on a rocky spur called Djebel Neçrani (1031m-1077m) which itself constitutes the extreme east point of the Zerhoun massif.
Thus, hung on the slopes of the mountain, steep eminence and hardly accessible, the position of the Kasbah struck all observers. One is especially seduced by the immensity of the views that one discovers there. We see Fez, Meknes, the mountains of Middle Atlas and those of the Prerif.
The kasbah offers an irregular polygonal plan formed by an enclosure wall flanked by defensive bastions and guard turrets. The latters are located at high points with a good view of the surrounding terrain and with effective defensive possibilities for the structure.
The approximate area of the polygon is 4.5 ha. The thickness of the enclosure walls is 2m and their average height inside is 5m. The shape of the bastions is rectangular. The enclosure walls, like all the rest of the work, are constructed of masonry of unformed stones, but of equal size, in well-horizontal rows.
In the present state, there is the absence of any trace of any construction having to serve as a dwelling (properly so called) inside the camp.
Not far from the Kasbah, a sacred grotto named “Kef El Moujahidîn” seems to be, according to tradition, the first refuge of Idriss when he arrived in the country.
The village of Moussaoua bore the name of Houara. It existed long before Sidi Moussa the founder of the present Moussaoua, who died in 1577. He was a disciple of Sidi Abdellah El Khayat, both from the maraboutic movement of the 16th and 17th centuries, era of European companies on the coasts of the Maghreb.
The son of Sidi Moussa named Mohamed is better known by his surname Sidi Haraq el Heri “the one who burns the sultan’s shop” … He is buried in a mausoleum bearing his name and built by Sultan Moulay Ismail. He entered the history of holiness through the following event:
“One day Sultan Moulay Ismail invited all the wise men of the region for consultation to his royal palace of Meknes. Among them, there was Mohamed (son of Sidi Moussa) riding a donkey, who presented himself with a look of a poor man, for which he was forbidden to enter the palace, and as he went out through the gates, a fire suddenly broke out in the palace shop, and the guards attributed the origin of the fire to Mohamed. To extinguish the fire, Mohammed proposed to throw sand on it, which was done immediately and the fire was extinguished. The sultan saw in Mohamed a mark of wisdom and holiness and to thank him, he assigned the surname of Sidi Harraq el Heri “the one who burns the store” and at his death he was buried in a mausoleum built by the sultan.
This village, perched on the southern flank of Zerhoune like Mghaçyine, hamrawa, Sidi Ali, offers a panoramic and impregnable view of the vast expanse of the plain of Saïs and in the background the mountains of the Middle Atlas. This small mountainous rural agglomeration still retains its medieval fortification in the form of Kasbah. Visitors can also see oil presses, lime kilns, charcoal burners, soap makers, weavers, tanners, religious schools, etc.
Douar Mghaçiyine, marabout Sidi Mohamed Al Arbi, Douar Hamrawa and marabout Sidi Lamine
Like Douar Moussaoua, these two douars are located in a natural and spiritual frame that is characteristic of the entire Zerhoune massif. They shelter the mausoleums of two saints and offer incessantly wonderful views over the whole area. The inhabitants cultivate terraces and raise goats and ovids.
Marabout Sidi Moulay Ali Chrif and marabout Sidi Ahmed Dghoughi
On the south side of the Zerhoun massif and 16km from Volubilis, there is a small village called Sidi Ali. It is Abu El Hassan Ben Hamdouch who lived in Fez and gave his sessions near the door of the mosque El Quaraouiyyin, he ranks among the sheikhs possessing the mystical tradition, in which the ecstatic delirium is powerful. Having gone to Zerhoun, he died there about 1135 of the Hegira. One of the miracles of Sidi Ali that deserves to be mentioned is the following: one of the slaves of Moulay Ismail, wishing to have a son, went one day to Beni Rached to ask for the blessing of the great saint. But as she was afraid of returning too late to her master, Sidi Ali said to her: “Go and do not forget to say at your arrival: continue your journey, O sun, by the power of God! “She left, the sun stopped in her course until she repeated the holy word. Since that time, Sidi Ali is called “Quaïd ec-chems” the master of the sun. In his memory, a big moussem is organized every year. The festivities are often organized with the participation of neighboring villages (Beni Rached, Beni Ouarad and the town of Moulay Idriss). During this moussem, several religious and artistic events are organized such as: the visit of the marabout Sidi Ahmed Dghoughi (born in Beni Ourad de Zerhoune), the procession of the troops of Hmadcha and the Dghoughiyyin with scenes of flogging and breaking of jars, and visits to sacred places such as the source called Lalla Aicha, to which animal sacrifices are brought (black chickens, black goats …).
This moussem is considered today among the main religious manifestations of the whole country.
Lake Lakhnadq( Douar Lakhnadq )
Not far from Douar Lakhnadq, west of Douar Beni Ammar and near the main road 306, linking Moulay Idriss Zerhoune to Nzalat Beni Ammar, is located Douar Lakhnadq which contains ruins including a minaret probably dating back to the Merinid period XIV century . To the south of this agglomeration, there is a hydraulic structure (a lake) which can be a point of attraction for tourists especially in spring. The surroundings of this lake have a multitude of picturesque sites, aim of the most varied excursions.
Douar Kermat Ben Salem
During the visit of this douar, we propose to see exclusively an eco-museum in the form of a garden of a considerable area devoted to the bionatural culture. This project is the fruit of a cooperation between a local association (Al Hadaf) and a French one.
The visitor will also be able to acquire the traditional couscous prepared with semolina of wheat by women of the douar.
Douar Beni Ammar
The name of this village is explained according to a tradition that goes back to Idriss II, who crossed Zerhoun while traveling from Oualila to Fez. At one point in the region, he planted his traveling stick and said to his companions: “This is the place where a great village called Amara will be established”. Removing his stick from the ground, a gushing spring was already spreading its waters around. Today, this village in the eastern part of the Zerhoun massif contains a restored monumental gate and houses a cultural and artistic festival organized in the last week of July by the alumni association of Béni Ammar Zerhoune in collaboration with the ministry Of culture and a French association of RME “Déferlante”. This event presents various activities: poetry reading sessions, theatrical presentations, evenings of modern music, folklore and heritage, youth camps, tourist visits in the region, sports competitions including the donkey race (douar tradition). ..
Natural sites and forests of Zerhoun (Bab Rmila at 1084-1104 m of altitude and Ayn Chtiwa at 899 m above sea level).
The natural setting of this region has a very important potential and is well appreciated by the inhabitants as well as domestic and foreign tourists. This natural wealth consists first of the massif which bears the same name of the region, whose peaks reach a maximum altitude of 1104m, allowing to admire the varieties of landscapes and views. The slopes of this massif are well watered by the rains, which favors the richness of the fauna and the flora of the region. The forests of holm oaks and pines are very developed as well as the implantation of fruit trees (olive trees, fig trees, almond trees, pomegranates, vines, carob trees, etc.)
The resort of Aïn Chtiwa served, a few years ago, as a starting point for sports (hang-gliding) practitioners. Similarly, the vast forests of the region remain a favorite destination for hunters.