Meknes: The Imperial City of Moulay Ismail

Traversed in the middle by the river valley of the Oued Boukefrane, Meknes is a prosperous, sprawling city. Like Fes, this is an imperial city of the lost ages that gives the enduring impression of a series of endless walls.

Meknes is the creation of Moulay Ismail, the most tyrannical of all Moroccan sultans. He built it from the ground up, from a mere provincial centre to a spectacular capital – the so called Ville Imperiale. There are twenty gates, over 45 grand palaces, gardens, barracks and stables. To make the most of these spectacular monuments, you need at least a full day’s of rumbling exploration.

Meknes is also famous for its varied and hassle-free souks. These are a joy to explore and browse, from the carpenters and craftsworkers workshop to the famous spice and sweet stalls.

There is also the appealing attraction of Volubilis, the most important of Roman sites in Morocco. The nearby town of Moulay Idriss is the object for constant pilgrimage an important summer moussem (festival).

A word of advice: visit Meknes first before heading to Fes. This will give you a better grasp of Meknes’s monuments and souks and prepare you for the drama of its more illustrious (and bigger) neighbour. You will also appreciate the price and quality for crafts shopping.