The imperial cities of Morocco are the ancient capitals of the empires and historical dynasties that reigned over the kingdom for long centuries and made it an enchanting destination to visit. Above the Atlas Mountains, lies the smallest and most laid-back imperial city, Meknes.
Meknes is known for its authentic doors, Moorish architecture and medieval walls. Founded in the early 11th century as a military colony, it became a capital during the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl in the 17th century. The sultan transformed Meknes into an impressive city with the creation of vast gardens, numerous buildings, mosques and monuments, as well as 40 kilometers of thick walls and monumental gates lining the city. The 18th century was unfortunately the end of the flourishing reign of Meknes after the death of Sultan Ismail and a catastrophic earthquake in 1755 that destroyed parts of the city. In 1996, the city of Meknes became the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites because of its outstanding design comprising “elements of Islamic and European design and planning”. for the future. Many vestiges of Sultan Ismail’s reign are still relevant.
If you visit the region of “Meknès-Tafilalt”, your trip should start at Bab el-Mansour, the largest gate of Meknes. Made from massive marble columns from the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis, the door is very well preserved with “zellij” mosaics and inscriptions at the top. The mausoleum of Moulay Ismael is the last home of the sultan who created this impressive city. As Ismail is recognized as one of the greatest leaders in Morocco, non-Muslim visitors are allowed to enter the sanctuary, although they are not allowed to approach the grave. Visitors enter the tomb and its courtyards before entering the sumptuous and highly decorated tomb room.
Another must-see site, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, is just outside Meknes. The ruins are the best preserved archaeological site in Morocco. The site contains more than 30 beautiful, perfectly preserved mosaics that tell stories of the ancient Roman Empire. Visit the ruins of VolubilisVolubilis is an easy day trip from Meknes and can be combined with an excursion to Moulay Idriss, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Morocco.
Although Meknes does not have the lively atmosphere and the many shops like Marrakech and Fez, the more relaxed atmosphere makes Meknes the ideal place to discover ceramics, baskets, embroidery, pottery and silk threads. vibrant colors. The government-run Artisanal Center is a good place to check products and prices before venturing into the souks, the open-air markets where haggling is commonplace. Surrounded by the fertile plains below the Middle Atlas Mountains, Meknes feeds on an abundance of agricultural products such as olives, cereals, citrus fruits and wine. These plains can lead to another amazing Berber town in the region, called Ouazzane, where you can spend the day tasting locally grown wines and olive oil in ancient groves and vineyards. Meknes, Ouazzane and Volubilis are easily accessible from Casablanca, Rabat or Fez; it is located on the A2 motorway between the two cities and is also accessible by train. Once in Meknes, it is easy to get around by bus, taxi or horse-drawn carriage, a horse drawn cart.
Want to have a Trip to the imperial cities of Morocco ? Check out some our great Morocco itineraries that include trips to Meknes. You’re sure to have an unforgettable experience! Feel free to send us message to ask about anything!