Often overlooked by tourists in their hurry to reach Fés, Meknès is a perfect introduction to Morocco. The historic medina is of a manageable size and scale; the few remains of the imperial city are dramatic, often lovely, and generally well-preserved; and the city’s setting is lovely.
Our schedule only allowed for a couple partial days in Meknès anyway, but flight delays and pouring rain delayed our arrival. In the end, we only had a few hours to explore here.
- A Glimpse of Meknès
- The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
Although used as a military settlement as early as the 11th century, Meknès became an imperial city under Moulay Ismail in 1672. He ruled from here for 55 years, turning it into what UNESCO describes as an impressive city in Spanish-Moorish style, surrounded by high walls with great doors, with the harmonious blending of the Islamic and European styles of the 17th century Maghreb.
Highlights within the imperial city include:
The gate of Bab el-Mansour is said to be the most elaborate in all of Morocco.
The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is an active shrine, but open to non-Muslims in recognition of the sultan’s important role in Morocco’s history.
Heri es-Souani includes the imperial granaries and stables built to accommodate a herd of 12,000 horses.
The city’s medina is also part of the UNESCO designation. I didn’t get much of a chance to explore it, but the view from above and along the edges certainly looked inviting!
I didn’t get to visit the Dar Jamaí Museum either, but it looks really wonderful, both architecturally and artistically.
There are lots of riads in Meknès. We were expecting to stay at the Riad Yacout, which looks lovely, but didn’t seem to have a reservation for us.
Instead, we were directed into the medina to the Riad d’Or.
We were pleased with the Riad d’Or and recommend it. The riad has beautiful public spaces and our room was large and comfortable. A large fresh breakfast is served in a pleasant rooftop dining area in the morning and dinner is available in a cozy, if sometimes smoky, main floor dining room.