Meknes: A Journey Through History and Heritage

Compared to neighboring Fes, the imperial city of Meknes receives lesser footfalls, but that doesn’t take away the shine from this historic neighborhood, once home to the Moroccan sultanate.

Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes went on to become Morocco’s capital under the reign of Sultan MoulayIsmaïl.

Visiting Morocco without previous knowledge about its history and culture might lead you to miss out on some of the amazing ancient sites to which Morocco is home.

Following this guide will help you understand some of the most significant events in the imperial cities of Morocco and help you come closer to Morocco’s culture and heritage, which will lead you to a more enriching and unforgettable adventure.

Meknes City

Getting To Know Meknes Morocco’s Imperial City

In this section, we will take a look at Meknes from a bird’s eye view talking about its history, its location, how is the weather, and what makes it special. Let’s dive!

Meknes City Overview

Situated about 140 kilometers east of Rabat, Meknes is one of the Moroccan imperial cities. The name Meknes is intimately bound to Moulay Ismail, the Alaouite sultan. But the city’s origins go back to the 10th century when the Meknassa tribe settled on the banks of the Oued Boufkrane founding Meknassa Zeitouna and Meknassa Taza.

This historical city has considerably influenced the development of civil and military architecture (the kasbah) and works of art. Founded in 1061 A.D. by the Almoravids as a military stronghold, its name originates from the great Berber tribe Meknassa who dominated eastern Morocco as far back as the Tafilalet in the 8th century.

Geographically, it is remarkably located in the Saïss Plain between the Middle Atlas and the pre-rifan massif of Zerhoun. It contains Medina’s vestiges that witness ancient socio-economic fabric and the imperial city created by Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672-1727).

The city served as the capital of Morocco starting from the mid of 18th century, and in 1996, UNESCO put the Historic center on its list of World Heritage sites.

Today’s presence of this historic city containing rare remains and important monuments within a rapidly changing urban environment gives this heritage its universal value.

In addition to its architectural interest of being built in the Hispano-Moorish style, Meknes is of particular interest as it represents the first great work of the Alaouite dynasty, reflecting the grandeur of its creator. It also provides a unique approach to urban design, integrating elements of Islamic and European architecture and town planning.

Today, Meknes rises at the center of a vibrant region characterized by flourishing agriculture. Its landscape is covered with olive groves and by Oued Boufekrane, which separates the city into two distinct parts: the old city (medina) to the west and the new city to the east.

Dance, music, artworks, and colorful festivals form an important part of the cultural customs of this City. Islamic festivals are widely celebrated throughout the city, with religious leaders orchestrating the ceremony from start to end.

Other carnivals and festivals are celebrated to display the city’s customs proudly. Crafts and artwork made by talented artists are displayed and showcased during these festivals, allowing tourists to appreciate these artistic marvels.

How is the weather in Meknes?

Like the other imperial cities, Meknes in Morocco has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mildly cold winters. Over the year, the temperature typically varies from 42°F to 93°F and is rarely below 36°F or above 103°F. This climate is similar to that of southern Portugal and Spain. The temperature in these regions shifts from a cool climate in winter to a much warmer one in the summer months.

Where is Meknes Located?

Meknes in Morocco is located on the highland plateau of North-central about 60km west of Fez city. At the southeast of Meknes are the beautiful rich cedar forests and the Atlas Mountains, while to the west are the two largest metropolitan areas of Morocco: Rabat and Casablanca. To the north of Meknes lie the cities of Tangier and Tetouan.

Experience the Charm of Meknes: A Traveler’s Guide (Explained)

Meknes Travel Guide

Now that you have got an idea about the city. Let’s move to the travel guide where you will learn everything to plan your next trip to Meknes.

Is Meknes safe?

Meknes is mostly a safe city. Regardless, there is still the concern of pickpockets at times.

Crime in Morocco is a serious concern, particularly in the major cities and tourist areas such as Meknes. Aggressive panhandling, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, theft from occupied vehicles stopped in traffic, and harassment of women are the most frequently reported issues.

These have occurred at any time of day or night, not only in isolated places or areas less frequented by visitors but in crowded areas. It is always best to have a travel companion and utilize taxis from point to point, particularly at night and when moving about unfamiliar areas.

Solo travelers, especially women walking alone in certain cities and rural areas, are particularly vulnerable to assault by men. Women are advised to travel with a companion or in a group when possible and to ignore any harassment. Responding to verbal harassment can escalate the situation.

The best action is not to respond or make eye contact with the harasser. Travelers should avoid soccer stadiums and environs on days of scheduled matches as large groups of team supporters have been known to become unruly and harass and even assault bystanders.

Joggers should be mindful of traffic and remain in more heavily populated areas. It is always best to have a jogging companion and avoid isolated areas or jogging at night. The use of headphones while jogging is discouraged for personal safety reasons.

Lastly, do not buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. The bootlegs are illegal in Meknes city, and you might also be breaking local law.

How to get to Meknes?

International Travelers cannot fly into Meknes; instead, they can fly into Fes or Rabat. The easiest way to get to Meknes is from either of these cities via railroad. Fez is one hour from Meknes, while Rabat is three hours.

The trains themselves are reliable and safe. In addition, they are fast and cheap, and most can ride in an air-conditioned cart. The Moroccan national train service is called the ONCF. There are two train stations in Meknes, one in the eastern half of Meknes while the other bus station and the taxi station are in the western half.

Some buses run in all directions from Rabat, Casa, Tangier, Rissani, and Fes). The three main bus companies are the Supratours and CTM. One should search for tourist guides or hotel opinions of the best route and company.

There are two bus stations in Meknes where buses leave: one in the Ville Nouvelle and one in the old city. A final option is to rent a car and drive to Meknes.

However, this option can prove to be very expensive. Another option is to drive one’s car from Europe (if one is coming from there). One should be warned that the roads are treacherous outside of Meknes.

Getting Around Meknes

The best way to get around Meknes is on foot. One will enjoy strolling through the old Medina and getting lost and then found repeatedly. However, to get to locations outside of Meknes, one will have to use another form of transportation: taxi, bus, or train. One will have to take a cab for some of the popular monuments located on the city’s outskirts.

There are several options for taxis in Meknes. There are “big taxis” (grand taxis) and “small taxis” (petit taxis). The difference is that the grand taxis are shared and will cover longer distances. Meanwhile, the petit taxis work like regular taxis everywhere. One should assume there will be a meter in the taxi. If the meter needs to be fixed, one should negotiate one far in advance.

It is harder to drive around Meknes. There are options to rent a car in bigger cities like Fez or Rabat and, from there, drive through and around Meknes. However, most of the inner city is pedestrian-only, and it is only sometimes guaranteed to find safe parking. In other words, bringing one’s car may be more of a liability than anything else.

How Many Days Do You Need in Meknes?

One of Morocco’s old imperial cities, Meknes, is an under-visited gem. While there are many things to enjoy in the city, you can get a good overview of Meknes in a relatively short period.

Upon arrival at the airport, we advise you to do a couple of things before leaving the terminal.

Firstly, if you haven’t got any Moroccan Dirham, you can get some at the airport as you’ll need it. You can either use the currency exchange booths (they can exchange foreign cash or you can use a credit/debit card) or, if you have a zero-fee debit or credit card, use an ATM. There are plenty available in the terminal.

Once you have claimed your baggage and made sure you have plenty of cash, consider getting a sim card for your mobile phone. Beyond baggage reclaim in the arrivals hall is a small kiosk that sells newspapers, magazines, tobacco, and sim cards.

You will likely pay more than you should, but staff in the shop will set the sim up for you on the spot, and the sim will be working almost instantly. You can buy a sim from a dedicated mobile operator shop further into your trip, in which case you might save a little money.

After that, have a rest and start exploring the main attractions the next day. keep reading because I will be showing you some amazing things to do while visiting the city.

What’s the Best Time To Visit Meknes?

Spring is the best time to visit if your trip includes this city in northern Morocco. However, in Meknes, there is both a Mediterranean and continental climate. This means it is fairly hot during the summer, with an average of 38ºC, while in winter, it is quite cold.

In winter in Meknes, the average temperature is around 2ºC to 7ºC, and the rain falls mostly in autumn and winter. Therefore, if you do not want it to be too hot or too cold, the best time to visit Meknes is spring.

Now you know when to travel to Morocco, all you need to do is pack your bags.

What To Pack When Traveling To Meknes?

When packing for a trip to this gorgeous city, it’s important to keep the country’s culture and climate in mind, as the weather can vary greatly, depending on the time of year and the region you’re visiting. Check out the packing list so you arrive well-prepared!

Here is what to pack when traveling to Meknes Morocco:

For Women Traveler:

  • A sarong (a supremely versatile item – use it to cover shoulders, since Meknes is a conservative city, and use it on the beach when you fancy a dip in the sea)
  • A selection of simple tops (the simpler, the better, as you’ll get away with wearing the same thing over and over again)
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 1 cozy jumper or fleece
  • 2 long skirts, dresses, or jumpsuits – (jumpsuits are a personal fave here as you get both movement and modesty)
  • 1 nice dress (for when you’re feeling fancy)
  • 1 pair of leggings (perfect for sports and the plane)
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • 7 pairs of underwear (one for each day of the week)
  • 1 pair of hiking boots
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 1 pair of trainers / lightweight shoes
  • 1 waterproof jacket
  • 1 swimming costume
  • Sunglasses
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body wash
  • Moisturiser
  • Face wash
  • Dry shampoo
  • Hand sanitizer (for times when there’s no bathroom in sight)
  • Travel first aid kit – antihistamines, diarrhea tablets, safety pins, painkillers, etc.
  • Insect repellent
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Make-up (minimal if you’re going in the summer when the weather is too hot)
  • Eye mask (critical for blocking out light on those overnight journeys)
  • Hairbrush
  • Earplugs (a hosteller’s must-have)
  • Toiletry bag
  • Microfibre towel (lightweight, fast-drying, and compact – don’t leave without one!)
  • Padlock (preferably one with a combination lock rather than a key)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Ziplock bags (handy for dirty laundry and for separating toiletries)
  • Personal safety alarm
  • Passport
  • Travel visas (get these sorted as early as possible!)
  • Extra passport photo (in case of any visa issues)
  • Headlamp
  • Camera
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Local currency (even a small amount will help you get off to a good start once you touchdown)
  • Plug adapter
  • Books or a kindle
  • Portable Speakers

For Men Traveler:

  • Several t-shirts, long sleeve shirts, and polo shirts – a combination of these shirts are perfect.
  • Chino pants or other lightweight fabric. Black, gray, and khaki are good, easy to wash, and can be dressed up or down.
  • Jeans – a good pair of jeans is a must.
  • Long sleeve, button-up shirts. Pack one that is nicer to wear for a nice evening out. One or two others that can be worn alone, under a sweater, or jacket are good.
  • A jacket. Yes, you should bring a blazer and a light to medium-weight jacket to wear out.
  • 1 medium-weight sweater and 1 heavier-weight sweater.
  • For shoes, a good pair of walking shoes is a must.
  • Another pair of shoes to pack is functional boot shoes that can go from day to evening. They also should be comfortable to walk in.
  • Warm socks are a must.
  • Headphone.
  • Camera.
  • Personal care products such as razors, cologne, and shave gel.
  • A good bag or backpack to carry.
  • Sunglasses
  • Scarf: it is an essential item to add to your Meknes packing list. This simple fabric is incredibly versatile and will be helpful throughout your trip. You can throw it over your shoulders or hair for more modesty when entering mosques or religious sites, use it to keep sand out of your face in the desert, wrap it around yourself for extra warmth in the cold air conditioning or cold desert nights, dip it in water and wrap it around your neck to cool down in the heat, or even use it as a fashion accessory to dress up an outfit.
  • Sun protection: You’ll always need to add sun protection to your Meknes packing list, no matter the season you’re traveling. Be sure to bring a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and plenty of high-SPF sunscreens. You should also bring good insect repellent.
  • Reusable water bottle: It’s crucial to stay hydrated in Meknes damp climate, and you’ll find yourself guzzling tons of water. Rather than contribute to plastic waste by buying bottled water, bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill again and again. Remember, the tap water, and most times, is unsafe to drink in Meknes, so be sure to only refill your bottle with filtered water (often available at hotels) or bring a reusable water bottle with an in-built filter.
  • Tissues or toilet paper: Many public toilets in Meknes don’t have toilet paper. Be prepared and bring some with you on your daily adventures. A pack of tissues may be the best thing you ever brought on your trip.
  • Ear plugs: Meknes city is home to some of the biggest and most stunning mosques in Morocco, and you’ll hear the moving Call to Prayer playing out over loudspeakers five times a day. While you might appreciate the sound during the day, you may not feel the same at four in the morning, so bring some earplugs to help you get a good night’s rest.
  • Travel umbrella: If you plan on visiting Meknes during the rainy season, you should come prepared with a sturdy travel umbrella or a raincoat. An umbrella will be the perfect companion for the rest of the year to block out the sweltering sun rays.
  • Moroccan phrasebook: While you may hear everything from English to French to Spanish spoken in Morocco, the official language is Arabic, with Moroccan Arabic spoken as the local dialect. Learning a few Arabic phrases is beneficial before arriving in Meknes city.
  • Camera and extra memory cards: You’ll want to take hundreds of pictures when traveling the beautiful landscapes of Meknes, especially if you are traveling with your family, so don’t forget to bring a camera (whether a phone camera or some more serious equipment) and extra memory cards, so you never run out of space. You should also bring a waterproof case for your devices to protect them from the rain and sand.
  • Portable charger: This is one of the handiest things to add to your Meknes packing list. We often use our smartphones for everything from navigation and translation to photos and music, so you won’t want to find you’ve run out of battery at an unfortunate time. Bring a small portable charger in your day bag, and you’ll have your phone ready to go all day.

For Children:

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shorts/skirts
  • Long pants
  • Shirts
  • Good pants/skirt and top or a dress (for dinner)
  • Runners
  • Thongs/flipflops
  • All-terrain shoes/sandals
  • Swimsuit
  • Ski gear
  • Books and Toys
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hairbrush and comb
  • Nail clippers and or nail file
  • Shower gel or soap
  • Deodorant
  • Sanitary items for girls – even if your girl is yet to start, it may be wise to have a small pack just in case.
  • Prescription medication
  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen

Important Notes

Remember that while the major cities may be a little more lenient on the modest Moroccan dress code, this does not extend to the rural areas. For example, while long shorts for men may be okay in some cities, the same shorts would be considered underwear in many rural areas.

Mind you, packing for your kids for a vacation doesn’t have to be extra tricky. It’s just a few extra age-appropriate items to include in your general trip packing list, plus choosing activities that suit your kids.

Remember, while the conservative dress standards are more relaxed at the beach, men and women should still choose a modest swimsuit and cover-up before leaving the beach.

11 Fascinating Attractions & Things To Do in Meknes (Explained)

Meknes Travel Guide

There are a lot of places of architectural and historical significance all over the Meknes in Morocco. Since the city is also a holy city, people who love religious structures will also find a lot of large and beautiful mosques built in the 17th century.

It doesn’t matter where you go in this city, and you’ll find plenty of things to do in Meknes. The wonderful places you can visit and the beautiful things to do in this city are listed below.

1. Meknes Old Medina

You can’t miss the narrow and gloriously traffic-free streets of the ancient Meknes medina. It’s filled with 17th-century gates, mosques, colorful buildings, an abundance of souks with everything from spices to clothing, and historical landmarks portraying impressive Islamic architecture.

Many of the must-see historical landmarks listed above can be found within the labyrinthine streets of the Meknes medina. Admire the architecture of the Bab Mansour gate, explore the Bou Inania Madrasa, and discover the tranquil courtyards of the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail.

Visit the Royal Stables with its enormous adjacent granary, admire the local arts and crafts at the Museum of Moroccan Art, and soak up the charming hubbub of El Hedim Square. But best of all, the medina is perfect for people-watching!

So, find a rooftop café, pour yourself a steaming cup of Moroccan mint tea, and enjoy the show.

For more details and in-depth information, I recommend you read my previous article about the best old medinas in Morocco.

2. Bab Mansour Laalej Gate

Meknes has over 20 gates surrounding its medina, but Bab Mansour Gate is the most iconic. A striking example of Almohad architecture, the gate is carved with Arabic calligraphy that translates to ‘I am the most beautiful gate in Morocco. I’m like the moon in the sky. Property and wealth are written on my front.’

And beautiful Bab Mansour certainly is. The last important monument to be built during Sultan Moulay Ismail’s reign, who had it built as a homage to himself, it’s covered in white and green zellige tiles and carved with Koranic panels.

To remove all evidence of the dynasty before him, the gate was built with materials stolen from other Moroccan monuments (the two marble columns came from the ruins of Volubilis, while the two Corinthian columns once stood in Marrakech’s El Badi Palace).

Mansour Laalej designed Bab Mansour Gate, and a Christian-Islam converted architect, was partly named after him (Mansour means ‘victorious’ in Arabic). While this wooden gate isn’t used today, visitors can use a smaller side door to enter the medina.

3. Lahdim Square

Also known as Place El Hedim (the square of demolition), it is a famous square that forms the heart of the Meknes medina. It was built between 1672 and 1674 by Moulay Ismail, who demolished a large part of the old city for this square and his palace, marked by the glamorous Mansour Gate.

Historically, the square was used for public executions, royal announcements, and as a storage area. Today, it’s the perfect spot for people-watching.

It gets hectic at night when the locals come together to enjoy a stroll, have a meal at one of the cafes, play football, and listen to musicians and Arabic storytellers.

4. Bou Inania Madrasa

The Bou Inania Madrasa is an Islamic learning center opposite the Grande Mosquée in Meknes. Founded by Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Othman in 1341, it was built as a theological college and a congregational mosque.

While the Bou Inania Madrasa is somewhat overshadowed by the madrasa of the same name in Fes, it remains one of the best examples of Merinid architecture in Morocco. It boasts some spectacular zellige tiles, geometric-patterned stucco, and carved cedar wood ceilings.

Tourists (even non-Muslims) can explore the student rooms and the school’s hammam and enjoy the rooftop views of the Grande Mosquée minaret.

5. Royal Stables (The Prison Of Habs Qara)

One of Meknes’ most impressive historical landmarks, the Royal Stables is an absolute must-see. Built by Moulay Ismail to house his 12,000 royal horses, its architecture is truly remarkable. You may recognize it from the Jewel of the Nile and Ishtar movies.

The building itself was designed with the horse’s well-being in mind, mainly to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer. A clever system of water chambers fed by a canal kept them well-watered.

Each horse had a dedicated groom and enslaved person, and an enormous granary – Heri Es-Souani – was erected next door to store their food – so big that it could store enough grain for 20 years!

Visitors can explore this amazing dedication to Moulay Ismail’s horses. As the 1755 Lisbon earthquake left them mostly in ruins, they’re believed to have been seven times the size in their heyday.

6. Moulay Idriss Zerhoun

Spread across two scenic hilltops, Moulay Idriss Zerhoun is a famous pilgrimage site for Islamic followers. This attractive town was built on Mount Zerhoun in the 8th century by Moulay Idriss I, who founded Morocco’s first dynasty.

Moulay Idriss Zerhoun is a sacred place for Muslims, and the town, with its narrow streets, is worth wandering. There’s the Mausoleum of Idriss I (no entry for non-Muslims) and another mosque that boasts the only round minaret in Morocco.

Visitors come here to enjoy the incredible views of the ruined city of Volubilis and the Saiss Valley, as well as to hike the olive-grove-dotted countryside.

7. Volubilis (Roman Ruins)

Volubilis is one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. These crumbling ruins can be found about an hour from Meknes and offer an impressive display of columns, mosaics, and abandoned buildings.

Founded in the 3rd century BC, Volubilis was once the capital of the Kingdom of Mauretania. Taken over by local tribes around 285, the Romans never reclaimed it because of its exposed and remote location. Instead, it served as the seat of Idris ibn Abdallah in the 8th century before being abandoned in the 11th century.

Volubilis remained mostly intact until an earthquake brought it to ruins in the mid-18th century. As excavations and restorations began in the 19th century, much of the capital’s history can be discovered today.

Landmarks include a basilica, a triumphal arch, a series of bathhouses, and an ancient aqueduct. But the mosaic-floored townhouses are the real highlight, particularly the House of Orpheus.

8. Sahrij Swani

Sahrij Swani, which means ‘Basin of the Norias,’ is a giant lake in Meknes. Built by Moulay Ismail during the 17th century, it was once believed it was constructed purely for entertainment purposes. Later accounts suggest it was more likely intended as a reliable water source for the city.

The lake was filled from ten wells dug near the Sahrij and from the Wadi Bufekrane, which runs down from the Middle Atlas Mountains. Only the ruined foundations remain today – the result of an 18th-century earthquake.

Other highlights include the Royal Stables and a bronze statue of a man holding a water jug (which has since been stolen). Today, the lake is a popular hangout for swimming and boating, particularly in the summer months.

9. Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail

The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is the final resting place of Morocco’s Warrior King. Built during his reign in the 18th century, the sultan chose the location because it once contained the city’s courthouse, and he wished to be judged by his people.

Granted, the mausoleum doesn’t look like much from the outside; many visitors don’t even notice it. But step inside, and the several interconnected courtyards enthrall you with their elaborate mosaics, marble columns, carved plasterwork, and tinkling fountain.

The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is one of the only landmarks in Morocco open to non-Muslims, except the tomb itself. It’s said that visiting the mausoleum will bring good luck.

10. Dar Jamai Museum

Built-in 1882 as the stately home of the Jamaï family, Dar Jamaï Museum served as a military hospital and court in 1912. But since 1920, it’s housed a striking display of 14th-century ceramics, jewelry, textiles, traditional costumes, and impressive cedar wood crafts.

The museum also features the personal belongings of Sultan Moulay Ismail, the second ruler of the Alaouite Dynasty – known infamously as ‘the Warrior King.’ Items include his period clothing, a cookery set, and a traditional sauna.

It may be over a century old, but the Dar Jamaï Museum still boasts most of its original features, including painted windows, wood carvings, Moroccan mosaics, and an Andalusian garden with cypress trees and fountains.

11. Explore the Architecture of the Imperial City

Meknes, and the rest of Morocco, have many places of architectural interest to discover and appreciate on a visit to the historic and peaceful city.

And the best way to explore this part of Meknes is via foot or horse carriage, but as distances are quite long, it might be too hot to walk comfortably. Prepare yourself for the extraordinary experience of riding a proper fairy-tale princess carriage! And as always, discuss and fix a price before getting on.

Grand Mosque

Dating back to the 12th century, the Grand Mosque was built during the Almoravid period. Located at the heart of the medina, the mosque’s green roof can be seen from some distance away.

A sweeping sunken courtyard features white, grey, black, and blue tiles, and a decorative ablutions fountain sits at the center. Numerous curved archways with ornate wooden fittings lead through the gleaming white walls surrounding the open-air courtyard.

The mosque is, however, closed to non-Muslims. Visitors can admire the tall square-shaped minaret with its blue tiles and plasterwork.

Borj Belkari Tower

Constructed in the 17th century as part of the walls erected during Sultan Moulay Ismail’s reign, the rectangular Borj Belkari Tower is made more eye-catching by its rather plain appearance.

Not as tall as typical towers, the squat tower is crenelated at the top and has small slits inside wider arched recesses in the walls. The sandy-colored building houses a pottery museum today.

Sahrij Swani

The huge and impressive remains of Heri es-Souani were once the city’s main stables and granaries. Within the grounds of the palace’s ruins, the imposing building was a major engineering feat for its time.

Visitors cannot help but be in awe of the mammoth size of the former storage area; it was designed to house 12,000 horses at any given time and store enormous amounts of grain. Partially restored, the roof collapsed during an 18th-century earthquake.

The nearby reservoir of the Agdal Basin is another impressive sight.

What Can You Buy In Meknes?

While Meknes doesn’t have the same huge number of stalls and goods as larger Moroccan cities like Marrakech and Fez, there are still plenty of gifts and souvenirs.

Here are some of the items to buy and take home from Meknes City:

1. Woodwork

Along with Essaouira, Tetouan, and Sale, Meknes is one of the top cities in Morocco for producing exquisite woodwork. A wide array of carved items makes lovely souvenirs, with small trinket boxes, keychains, ornaments, bowls, picture frames, and furniture.

Marquetry is another type of woodwork common in Meknes. Different types of wood are woven together, or a veneer is applied to create furniture, decorative items, pictures, and other attractive pieces.

You can arrange for larger items to be sent home if you cannot transport them yourself.

2. Carpets

Woven Moroccan carpets are everywhere in Morocco, and Meknes is no exception.

Rug shops are plentiful in the souks and, with lower prices than other more visited cities, Meknes is an ideal place to purchase a colorful and detailed Moroccan carpet.

However, do haggle to ensure that you receive the best price. Rug shops are especially plentiful in Souk Joutiya es Zerabi, with items from collectives in the Middle Atlas region.

3. Balgha

Balgha – referred to by their French name babouches sometimes – are traditional Moroccan slipper-like shoes. Although not unique to Meknes, hand-made balgha is usually good here, and the prices are often lower than in other cities.

The style is often more similar to those produced in nearby Fez, with a toe that is more pointed than found on slippers produced in southern parts of the nation.

4. Artwork

Large and small canvases show beautiful still scenes of local life and landmarks, all hand-painted by local artists. The paintings of nearby Volubilis are beautiful and could make a handsome addition to a room or hallway of your home and a special gift.

5. Pottery and Ceramics

As with many of Morocco’s major cities and towns, many artisans make beautiful pottery in Meknes. The stalls by El Hedim Square have a large selection of traditional Moroccan pottery, including tagine pots in various sizes, dip pots, dishes, and vases. There are lots of other pottery stalls throughout the souks too.

6. Damascene

The ancient damascene technique is a specialty in Meknes, the only Moroccan city where artisans still produce exceptional metal items.

Thin pieces of precious metal, often silver, are embedded onto another metal to create eye-catching decorative items. Look at the damascene workshops in Meknes and buy something unique to the city while supporting local artisans simultaneously.

Read The Next Guide:

Marrakech CityChefchaouen City
Casablanca CityEssaouira City
Fes (Fez) CityRabat City
Agadir CityTangier City
El Jadida CityTetouan City
Kenitra CityIfrane City
Ouarzazate CityMerzouga City

The Bottom Line

It may not be as well-known as nearby Fes, but Meknes is still a worthy addition to any Moroccan bucket list.

Most people stop in the city to travel to Volubilis, Morocco’s most famous Roman site. But those who decide to linger on in the city will be rewarded. Sightseeing in Meknes has a charm all of its own, with a bustling medina of locals and a more flexible approach than in Marrakesh or Fes.

Meknes has few hotels, and most of its accommodation is in the mid-range bracket. The most interesting accommodation options are the riads (guesthouses in traditional Moroccan houses) found within the medina.

Quieter and smaller than its grand neighbor Fez, Meknes feels rather overshadowed and receives fewer visitors than it should. It’s more laid-back with less hassle, yet still has all the winding narrow medina streets and grand buildings that it warrants as an imperial city and former home of the Moroccan sultanate.

Visit, and you won’t leave disappointed.


Which is better, Fes or Meknes?

Meknes is that city has a more touristy feel than Fes. Its massive souk around the main square is packed with souvenirs, and activities like snake charming are abundant.

When comparing the travel costs between Meknes and Fes, we can see that Fes is more expensive. However, the two cities are relatively comparable in price, as the difference is minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each city.

Are people from Meknes Amazigh?

Initially inhabited by a largely Berber (Amazigh) population, Meknes was founded in the 10th century by the Zanātah tribe of the Meknassa Imazighen (Berber, self-name Amazigh, plural Imazighen) as Meknassa al-Zaytūn (“Meknès of the Olives”), a group of villages among olive groves.

How old is Meknes?

Founded in 1061 A.D., Meknes is 961 years old.

What language is spoken in Meknes?

According to a 2000–2002 survey done by Moha Ennaji, author of Multilingualism, Cultural Identity, and Education in Morocco, there is a general agreement that Moroccan Arabic and Berber are the official languages in Meknes city.

Is Meknes better than Volubilis?

Sitting in the middle of a fertile plain, the ruined Roman city of Volubilis is the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco. Its most amazing features are the many beautiful mosaics preserved in situ, and it was declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, while Meknes is a city that is mainly famous for its historical sites. Another thing that is quite appealing about Meknes is that it receives fewer tourists than other cities like Marrakesh and Fez.

Is Meknes Expensive?

Meknes is not an expensive city. The amount of money you’ll spend here depends on your area, rental rates, and the general cost of living at that particular moment.

The cost of basic utilities, including heating, water, cooling, and electricity in a normal-size apartment in Meknes, is less than 40$, which is reasonable for anyone traveling to Morocco from Western countries. Yet, it’s pretty high for their average salaries. High-speed internet is somewhat expensive, costing over 30$ a month.

Is Meknes Hot?

The climate of Meknes is subtropical, with mild, quite rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. The climate is quite similar to that of Marrakesh. However, it’s a bit cooler (on average, the temperature is lower by around 2 degrees Celsius in winter and 3/4 °C in summer) and rainier because of the more northern position.

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The Editorial Team

Optimos Travel is a travel blog to help you travel the world, and explore different lifestyles, traditions, foods, and everything in between.