Meknes in Morocco today considered an old provincial town, although relics of its former splendour can still be seen. Furthermore, many regard this town as the “Versailles of Morocco” or “Little Paris,” despite being a haven of peace and quiet.
Where exactly is Meknes?
Meknes in Morocco, located 60 kilometers from Fez and 150 kilometers from Rabat, is frequently disregarded by travelers. Those who decide to visit only remain for one or two days. This is a tremendous error considering Meknes has so much to offer. Anyone who decides to remain here for a while will be delighted by its charm and atmosphere. Walking tours of the city can help you explore and learn about the history of not only Morocco’s historic capital, but the entire country.
Historic images from the city
Meknes in Morocco has a long and interesting history. It is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities. The history of this location began in the early 10th century, when the Berber tribe of Meknassa moved from the Middle Atlas mountains to the Sais plateau (Sas).
The fertile land and easy availability to water made this area ideal for settlement. However, it should be mentioned that the first fortified village was established here in the 8th century.
The city grew during the Almohad and Merynid kingdoms (12th-15th centuries), when they built a medina and spectacular defensive walls that are currently the oldest in Morocco.
Meknes experienced significant transformation after Mulay Ismail established it as the country’s capital in 1672, a position it held until 1727. The most brutal monarch in Moroccan history spared no expense in expanding and beautifying his capital.
According to tradition, if Ismail was dissatisfied with the laborers’ work, he would violently murder them and have their blood mixed with cement for future construction. Furthermore, part of the materials utilized in the construction came from plundering in Volubilis and Marrakech.
One of this leader’s grandiose plans is an unfinished massive palace structure. On his commands, a plethora of lesser palaces and palaces, libraries, hospitals, hospitals, and mosques were also created. Cookies are used on this website. By continuing to use it, you consent to the usage of cookies. Click here to learn more. Okay, I get it.
Meknes, like Agadir, was severely devastated by an earthquake. It happened in 1755, and it sadly halted Meknes’ progress and stripped it of political prominence.
Unfortunately, the city’s fate remained dismal. It was chosen as the major headquarters of the occupying French army at the beginning of the twentieth century, and as a result, it became the site of numerous terrible conflicts between Moroccans and French.
Meknes in Morocco regained official favor only after Morocco regained independence in 1956. At the time, the city was undergoing extensive restoration and redevelopment.
Medina of Meknes in Morocco
The Medina is Meknes’ pride and joy, having been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Its stormy history has resulted in a unique blend of architectural styles. Arabic decorating traditions are combined with French components to create a beautiful ensemble.
The interesting tangle of narrow streets, alleys, and little squares can be explored indefinitely. Discovering their mysteries fully captivates travelers.
Attractions of Meknes in Morocco
- The center of the old city is located to the west of the mellah, or Jewish quarter. It is accessible by the Mansura Gate (Bab el-Mansour), a spectacular monument in its own right. The gate is named after its designer. The edifice was finished in 1732, five years after Ismail, the man who commissioned it, died. The exquisite mosaic embellishments are magnificent and give the impression that the massive gate is a delicate, openwork construction. Furthermore, the gate is adorned with ancient Volubilis columns.
- Plac Lalla Aouda: After going through the gate, we shall stand in Lalla Aouda Square, which was once used as a meshwar, or area for parades and reviews of the Sultan’s army. The Sultan’s Black Guard was made up of 16 thousand black slaves during the capital’s peak. The square was once part of the Dar el-Kebir royal palace complex. Originally, it was divided into 24 different framed portions with gardens and mosques; however, Mulay Ismail’s son opted to demolish the majority of them.
- Ismail’s Tomb: The tomb of Ismail is presently located behind the representative pavilion of Kubbat el-Khiyatin. Despite the ruler’s poor reputation, this mausoleum draws pilgrims from all across the country. They most likely come not only for the beauty of the location and the desire to pay their respects to the past monarch, but also – or primarily – for the barakah, or blessing. At the end of the harvest, annual mussems are held here (usually on the last Thursday of August). The celebration includes singing, dancing, fairs, and fancy dress. Tourists are not permitted to enter the temple, and Muslims are not permitted to enter the tomb.
- The Grand Mosque is located in the centre of the medina. Unfortunately, the minaret, which was covered with green mosaics, collapsed on February 19, 2010.
- The destructive consequences of severe rains were most likely the cause of the calamity. The fall of the minaret and a portion of the roof killed 41 people and injured more than 80. By continuing to use it, you consent to the usage of cookies. Click here to learn more. Okay, I understand Sultan structures.
- The royal gardens, which remain closed to the public, the vast granaries with an air conditioning system that was unique for the time, and the stables for 12,000 horses all add to the Sultan’s buildings’ magnificence (unfortunately, the stables are now in ruins).
- Medresa: The Medresa Bu Inania, founded by Abou Hassan Marini, is the medina’s crown treasure (1331-1351). This Koranic school is regarded as a work of art in Arabic architecture. Its walls are made of majolica, which is a type of ceramic with an opaque lead-tin glaze and extraordinarily vivid hues. Furthermore, the stucco, arabesques, and sculptures made of olive wood are outstanding. Mulay Idris madrasa is well worth a visit, owing to its distinctive minaret in the shape of a cylinder.
- Other attractions include the museum Dar Jama, which holds, among other things, a collection of Berber kilims and ceramics, and the Andalusian garden-museum, where you may unwind after a full trip.
- Every year, on the day before Mohammed’s birthday, one of Morocco’s major mussems takes held in the marabout of Sidi ben Aissy. Unfortunately, non-Muslim tourists are not permitted to access the tomb.
- The ville nouvelle, or new town, was created on the opposite bank of the Bu Fekran River during the French protectorate. It is a well-kept neighborhood filled with exquisite villas and sophisticated mansions. Banks, upscale stores, elegant restaurants, and cafes sprout among the tropical foliage. The aroma of cardamom and cinnamon, which is added to the coffee served in huge cups and known as qahwa bil-halib, attracts people from far and wide. Coffee goes nicely with almond pastries or exotic mango sorbet.
- Meknes in Morocco well-known not just for its monuments, but also for its olives and wine. The surrounding hills are favorable for the development of these grapes. Of course, the French pioneered the sector, but Moroccan producers have continued to thrive. The ville nouvelle is the finest spot to go shopping for local wine.
- The following red wines are highly recommended: Les Coteaux de l’Atlas, Beni M’Tir Larroque Cabernet Sauvignon, and Comtesse de Lacourtabalise. White wines worth considering are Beauvallon Chardonnay and Medaillon Cabernet Sauvignon. Although these wines are not inexpensive, they are worth trying. After all, Morocco is an Islamic country, and the existence of local wineries is rare if only for this reason.
- Suki or fair: Of course, Meknes, like other Moroccan cities, has many souks. There is a jewelry market outside Bab Berrima’s western gate, a carpet market at Dar Jamai’s palace, and a spice and nut market traveling north from it. These are just a few examples of what local vendors have to offer.