Located near to the city of Fes in northern Morocco, Meknes is known as the “City of a Hundred Minarets” for its abundance of monuments, mosques, palaces and pavilions. Founded by a Berber tribe in the 9th century, Meknes rose to eminence during the 11th century as a fortified town. In the 1700s, the Sultan of Morocco Moulay Ismail made Meknes the country’s imperial capital and added to the city’s construction. It’s the city’s former prestige and glory that distinguishes it from other towns in Morocco. Few other places offer visitors such an intimate look at Morocco’s golden past.
The Dar Jamai palace, located in a well-tended garden, includes a museum with exhibits of imperial clothing and jewels. The Sultan’s sumptuous palace, Dar El Makhzen, and mausoleum are worth a visit as well. Among the multiple monument gates in Meknes, the Bab Mansour is perhaps the most famous. The 11th-century gate cost its architect, El Mansour, his life. When the architect admitted that he felt he could have done better, the Sultan had him executed on the spot. Featuring elegant cobalt blue tile mosaics and marble columns confiscated from Roman ruins, the striking gate now bears the architect’s name.
Despite the wealth of historical sites throughout the city, Meknes has a laid-back atmosphere, primarily due to its large student population. Market places are animated with jugglers, musicians and fire-swallowers as well as with friendly easy-going merchants. Situated on the fertile plains below the Atlas Mountains, the city is supported by a vibrant agricultural industry. Whether feasting on locally produced olives and citrus, touring an 11th century subterranean prison or strolling through the site of an ancient palace, Meknes is filled with can’t-miss experiences to surprise and please every visitor.