Have you always wanted to live like an empire? Meknes is then definitely the place to go. Located in the north of Morocco, Meknes was named one of the four Imperial cities in the country. The town is smaller than its neighboring city Fez but equally as charming. UNESCO has given their stamp of approval, but if you need a little more convincing, this article will tell you why you need to include Meknes when you plan your Morocco holiday.
The old part of town is referred to as ‘the medina’ and is exactly what you picture when thinking of Morocco. Historic cobblestone streets are filled with vendors selling everything from fabrics to knock-off sneakers. For more shopping, pay a visit to the markets, where you can find local delicacies, carpets, and everyday appliances. Meknes is relatively safe compared to the rest of the country, and locals are usually more than happy to help you find your way through the maze of streets.
Just for reference: Meknes also has a newer part of town, called the ‘ville nouvelle’. Although this is a perfectly nice area – think big houses and modern stores – the real action is in the rest of the city.
The medina and the Imperial district are divided by the Bab al-Mansour, which is considered the greatest Imperial gate in all of Morocco. It is a huge structure, decorated with green and white tiles and marble columns. The gate doesn’t open nowadays, but you can admire its beauty by entering through a nearby gate.
Bab al-Mansour is located at the main square, the Place el-Hedim. You can absolutely ‘waste’ an afternoon here: Not only is the plaza surrounded by restaurants, but you can spend time listening to street musicians and people-watching.
The Dar Jamai is the museum of Moroccan Art. It was originally built as a residence for the Jamai family in 1882, but since 1920 the palace has been filled with traditional arts and crafts. Some rooms are set to look like rooms in the 19th century, so you can get a feel of old-fashioned, wealthy life. Jewelry, carpets, ceramics are laid out through the halls. The Andalusian-style garden and the courtyard outside are peaceful places to sit and rest.
Mausoleum of Mouley Ismail
The Mausoleum of Mouley Ismail is home to the tomb that is responsible for Meknes’ Imperial status. The walls and ceilings are decorated elaborately according to Moroccan religion and tradition. Non-Muslim is welcome to admire the halls, but not the mosque itself.
Do note: The mausoleum is closed for construction until 2018.
Meknes itself offers plenty to do, but there are some great attractions less than an hour away. UNESCO site Volubilis is a popular tourist destination, and for a good reason. The remains of the Roman city are an impressive site, as a lot is still recognizable. Parts of villas are still intact, and show what life was like as a rich Roman. Olive presses ruins of temples and columns can also be explored.
Close to Volubilis is the city of Mouley Idriss. It is named after the saint and is also the home to his mausoleum. Built on steep hills, you’ll have amazing views of this religious town.
Two festivals take place in Meknes every year. First off, Fantasia. Basically, it consists out of hundreds of horsemen and -women, dressed in traditional outfits. It is considered a martial art form, where the riders try to gallop in perfect synchronization (while firing gunshots!). Inspired by historical fights, when the act is pulled off correctly, it is truly spectacular.
The other fest is the Meknes-Volubilis festival. Every September, Meknes pays homage to the former Roman city (described above). You can learn about the history of Volubilis, and enjoy music performances as well.
Why you should include Meknes when you plan your Morocco holiday
In short – Meknes is the perfect holiday destination: charming, safe and with lots to do.
Getting around is easy, as this is a highly walkable city. There, however, is a bus service and small and large taxis are a cheap way to travel.
Although Meknes is not the food Walhalla that other cities are, there are enough places to eat for every price range. You might be able to find a slice of pizza, but traditional Moroccan cuisine and mint tea take the reign here.
Riads – guesthouses – are in abundance. Usually, the hosts are local families, which will make your stay more hospitable, comfortable and friendly. If you are looking for a more upscale overnight, Meknes has a bunch of great hotels, many with an added spa or nightclub.
Finally, Meknes is not as big of a tourist hub as other Moroccan cities yet. That is bound to change sooner rather than later, so book a ticket now, and enjoy true Moroccan charm at its finest!
W| By Lena Hart Via #InspireLSTravel