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MEKNES, Known as the “Versailles of Morocco”, the beautiful city of Meknes is home to extravagant,palaces, terraced parks, and decorated mosques that overlook the surrounding countryside. It stands in a landscape of outstanding natural and historic beauty that includes the Middle Atlas Mountains and the Roman city of Volubilis. Meknes was founded on the site of a small Kasbah by the Meknassa Berber tribe around the tenth century. It was later, in the 17th century; the Alaouite Sultan Moulay Ismail brought the town to prominence as a monumental capital city of palaces. The once imperial city of Meknes lies around 130 km inland from the present capital, Rabat. A UNESCO world heritage site, Meknes offers a wealth of visitor attractions. The city revolves around the Ville imperiale with its exquisite palace, the Dar el Makhzen, and government buildings, which are set within extensive walled parkland. Then there is the Grand Mosque, which was built by the Almoravids in the 11th century, as well as stunning monuments such as the Koubba el Khayatine, the Agdal pond, and the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. Gates surround many parts of the city. One of the most stunning is the Bab Mansour between the imperial city and the medina, with its elaborate carvings and blue Zellij tile work.

The city is famous for many things, not least the Haras de Meknes, a huge stable complex and national stud farm that is home to hundreds of the country’s finest racehorses. Keen golfers can take in a round at the Meknes Royal Golf Club in sultan Moulay Ismail’s city grounds, while delicious olives, fine wine, and Oulmès sparkling mineral water provide the sustenance needed after a long day exploring all the attractions Meknes has to offer.Nearby lies the site of the early Roman city of Volubilis-the capital of the Mauretania Tingitana kingdom-which: was one of the most important cities in ancient Morocco, dating back to the time of the Mauritanians in the fourth and third centuries BC Today the site is the best preserved example of a Roman town in Morocco, and one of the best preserved in the whole of North Africa The nearby town of Moulay Idriss is the holiest site in the country, home to the tomb of Idriss I, founder of the state of Morocco and great-grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The region also includes the provinces around the popular winter sports city of Ifrane, the towns of Khenifra and Errachidia.The heavily forested Tizgui Valley; home to endangered Barbary macaques; and the majestic mountains, that makes up the Middle Atlas range. Its location near the Atlas Mountains gives Meknes a climate with distinct seasons. Spring sees pleasantly warm days when the forests and countryside burst into colors with wildflowers and the rivers fill with crystal-clear snow-melt. This is an ideal time to explore the city center the archaeological wonders of Volubilis. In the summer, the days are too hot, with average temperatures rising to around (33°C) As soon as the sun sets, however, the temperature drops significantly, and the evenings and nights tend to be much cooler. In the fall, the trees change colors and temperatures drop to bearable levels again, making this time of the year popular with tourists keen to explore the city’s many attractions or enjoy activities in the mountainous regions. In winter, the temperature plummets to well below zero in the hills, and the heavy snowfall makes the ski slopes around Ifrane a magnet for skiers.

Central Meknes

Central Meknes is full of fabulous palaces and architectural marvels, reflecting a history that spans more than ten centuries. But the Ville nouvelle (new town) district of modern hotels, residences, and open parkland blends in seamlessly with the past, making Meknes one of the imperial cities that simply has to be explored.

The area around Meknes has been inhabited since prehistoric times, although little evidence remains. The Phoenicians and Byzantines kept to the coastal areas of Morocco and did not venture as far inland as Meknes, while Berber tribes concentrated in the southerly Anti Atlas and High Atlas mountain ranges. Around the eighth century AD, Meknès was probably just a small community, whose people lived in dwellings lining the maze- like streets of a walled medina. These first inhabitants built their medina on top of a hill.

A Millennium of History

Around the late ninth or early tenth century, a Berber tribe called the Meknassa settled and is credited with founding the city of Meknès. Later, the Almoravids, followed by the Almohads, the Marinids, the Wattasids, and then the Saadians, all enjoyed periods of power and continued to develop the city. Things really changed in the 17th century, when Meknès captivated the heart and soul of Ismail ibn Sharif (ca. 1645-1727), who went on to become Sultan Moulay Ismail-probably the greatest of all the rulers of the Alaouite dynasty.


  • Exploring the monuments, palaces, and dramatic ruins of Moulay Ismail’s Ville Imperiale.
  • Massive Bab Mansour, the finest decorated gate in Morocco.
  • Walking through manicured grounds of Meknès Royal Golf Club on a hot summer’s day.
  • Admiring the fascinating exhibits in the beautiful Dar Jamai.
  • Taking in the panoramic view of the city and the medina from the top of the Bouanania Medersa.
  • Taking to the slopes at the Middle Atlas’s most exclusive ski resort, Ifrane.
  • The evocative ruins of Roman Volubilis 178-181


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