Thursday, April 05, 2012

Cave-dwelling in Morocco

Are you planning to visit the Fes-Boulmane region and want to stay somewhere with a difference? Spend a few nights living in a cave, writes Suzanna Clarke.

Located about half an hour's drive from Fez, at the foot of the mountain Jebel Kandar, the village of Bhalil offers an unusual attraction - about 40 families from the village's 1500 inhabitants live in dwellings hewn out of the rocks.

Legend has it that Roman soldiers who decided they did not want to return to Rome when their legion pulled out in 285 AD decamped to the area, and some of the people who live and come from there are their descendants.

Now based in Montpellier, France, Moussa Chouaf owns two caves in Bhalil, which he rents out to tourists. His daughter Aurelie says, "My father was born in Bhalil in one of the most ancient families. He was the first born of a family of eight children. His family is one of the oldest in Fez, and they originally came from Volubilis. Their name was Chkounda, which means "secondi" in Latin."

When Moussa was 11 years old, his family moved to France. "He is really attached to his origins and to his family, especially his grandmother (his mother's mother) who left this world in 2004," says Aurelie. "She raised him and taught him a lot about life."

Moussa's grandmother used to live in a cave dwelling in Bhalil until she passed away. "My father decided to buy two caves in her memory and in memory of his childhood there. He renovated them and installed some European comforts, to be able to create a kind of a guest house for everybody to discover Bhalil, its people, its wonderful surroundings and share a bit of his story with them."

The caves Moussa rents out are about 45m2, and furnished in an attractive and comfortable but uncluttered way. They have modern bathrooms and a patio which has a view over the center of the village. It's possible to purchase half or full board and Moroccan cooking lessons are on offer.

During the heat of summer the caves are an appealing place to stay, as they are extremely well insulated and several degrees below ambient air temperature.

Bhalil offers a good base from which to explore the region, with the imperial cities of Fez and Meknes not far away, as well as the archeological site of Volubilis and the natural beauty of the lake near Ifrane. You can fly into Fes-Saiss airport, which is about 30 kilometers away. The laid-back town itself is also an attraction, with many artisans who produce traditional crafts.

If you would like to find out more about staying at one of Moussa's caves, CLICK HERE. 


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Long time ago, I have seen in Immouzzer center on the way to Ifrane, many caves where families were living .I don't know if this kind of housing is still in use today in this village-People were very friendly and offered us mint tea
Inside their caves - they were cool even in august -