MeknesSituated in Northern Morocco, Meknes is a grand imperial city with an exciting modern atmosphere. Overlooked by many tourists that travel to Morocco, this imperial city makes for a relaxing, laidback look at vibrant Moroccan culture and lifestyle. It is also one of the more budget-friendly cities in Morocco.
Meknes was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its pristine preservation of 17th century Islamic and European architecture. Well-known for its astonishing royal palace and historical sites, Meknes is also home to amazing restaurants, fun nightlife, a beautiful medina and more. It is certainly a place worth visiting on a trip to Morocco.
What to Do
The medina, or old town, is the most popular place to visit in Meknes. Surrounded by the original walls from the 17th century, the beautiful area is a bustling, exciting shopping centre. Explore the souks, traverse the winding streets, and revel in the low prices of goods while you shop the wonderful handmade goods offered here.
Within the medina is the Museum of Moroccan Art. The building, Dar Jamai, was once a lavish Moroccan home built in 1882 before being converted to the museum in 1920. You will see beautiful traditional artwork, wood and metal carving, and a peaceful, colourful garden.
Place Hedim is the main square in the medina, right in front of Bab al-Mansour. The square is the perfect place to sit down and relax at a cafe while people-watching.
In the heart of Meknes lies the imposing and beautiful gates of Bab al-Mansour. This impressive structure is the gateway between the medina and the Imperial City. Built during Sultan Moulay Ismail’s reign, the gate is filled with intricate details worth a second look while passing between these two areas of Meknes.
Sultan Moulay Ismail reigned during the 17th century and made Meknes the imperial capital. Though the capital has now been transferred to Marrakech, the Sultan holds great honour in Meknes with the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail located in the Imperial City. It is lavishly decorated with intricate detail. Though the mosque itself is only open to Muslims, you can walk around the outer complex and get a great view of the interior from the entrance.
Next to the mausoleum you will find the Sultan’s palace, Dar el-Kebir. The ruins of this palace are just one of the many interesting and original buildings to explore in the Imperial City.
Take a trip out of the city and visit the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis. This vast site of Roman architecture, with its crumbling stone and standing pillars atop the rolling hills, is an impressive look at imagining the luxury of a rich Roman lifestyle. it is a great way to spend half a day outside the city walls.
Where to Stay
Meknes has a great mix of western accommodations like classy hotels and resorts along with more traditional accommodations. If you want to experience Moroccan culture and immerse yourself, a riad is the best choice. These lovely homes, like those at Riad Anne de Meknes, Riad Safir, and Riad Idrissi, are converted to bed and breakfast type accommodations, making it a peaceful retreat from the bustling city with many including breakfast. There are also hostels and camping sites for budget travellers.
What to Eat
The new city, villa nouvelle, offers the best and most diverse eating in Meknes. Walk along Rue Antsirape or Rue Ghana for a wide mix of great Moroccan eats. You’ll find the national dish of tagine, couscous dishes, stews and experimental fusion dishes for the adventurous eater.
The shops in the medina are the perfect place to grab a quick snack and there are stalls all over that sell fresh olives, sweets, and more.
For getting back and forth over longer distances, petit taxis painted blue are the main mode of transportation. There is also a cheap and reliable bus system, but it is usually quite crowded and designed for locals rather than tourists.
The medina and the new city are both small and easy to get around on foot. This is also a great way for you to explore the little corners and winding alleys of the streets, “getting lost” and discovering new and exciting parts of Meknes you may not have seen otherwise.
Best Time to Visit
Meknes is beautiful year round, and receives nice seasonal temperatures throughout the year. For visitors to the city, the best times to visit Meknes are in the spring and fall months, April through June, September, and October. The weather is warm and mild, and the city is never too full of tourists. Temperatures peak in the summer months, and there is little rainfall making the heat it unpleasant for some.
If you are looking for a relaxed, authentic piece of Morocco you will find it in Meknes. A perfect combination of modern touches and historical wonders, this city will give you a true appreciation for Moroccan lifestyle and traditional culture.