The history of Meknes city dates back to the 11th century. It was a military settlement of Almoravids and it would know the successions of many dynasties.
Many historians state that Meknes’ glory and golden age were reached in the reign of Moulay Ismail, the third king of the Alaouite dynasty, in the 17th century since it was the capital of Morocco. Meknes is considered as one of the imperial cities in Morocco and a significant historical monument. In 1996, it was inscribed as a world heritage site.
Meknes has many great monuments and places for tourists to visit: ramparts, gates, museums, mausoleums, the old medina, the new city (Hamria) and other places in and around the city.
Bab Al-Mansour is one of the most remarkable gates in Morocco and even in North Africa. It was built in the reign of Moulay Ismail by a Christian engineer who had converted to Islam. It was decorated by Moulay Abdllah (the son of Moulay Ismail).
Hedim Square is a large square located in the heart of the old Meknes medina. It was established by Moulay Ismail for the exposition of his army. It has seen many changes and it has become now a place for cultural activities animated by story tellers to entertain tourists.
The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail displays a panoramic view of the art of architecture ranging from different inscriptions and trappings to mosaics surrounded by Quranic and poetic words written in beautiful Arabic hand-writing. What is more attractive in the Mausolem is the dome in which there is the the tomb of Moulay Ismail and his kin.
The prison of Qara is a huge underground prison built in the reign of Moulay Ismail by a Portuguese architect, Cara, who gained his freedom after constructing it. Such an immense prison was reserved for violators law and opponents of the kingdom. Recently, it’s known many reforms and they are cherished by many visitors. Near the prison of Qara there is the dome of ambassadors that was a place for receiving foreign ambassadors by Moulay Ismail.
Sahrij Souani is a cistern that measures 300 ×148 meters with a depth of more than 3 meters. It is surrounded with a great ancient granary used for storing grains in the reign of Moulay Ismail. Though the later was affected by the earthquake that struck Meknes in 1755, it is still maintains its impressive architectural landmarks.
The Museum Dar AlJamai was built in 1882 during the reign of Moulay Alhasan I and it was the residence of his minister Mohamed Ben Al Arabi Al Jamai. It exhibits a collection of fascinating arts that mark the diversity of the local culture.
Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, 20 km from Meknes,was the capital of Moulay Idriss I the founder of the Idrissid’s state. It is surrounded by mountains. Such glorious city was established on two hills and fought against the Roman invasion and won. Its history and attractive landscapes mesmerize visitors.
Walili (Volubilis): (About 23 km from Meknes and near Moulay Idriss Zerhoun)
Its history goes back to 40 A.D. It is an amazing tourist site that invites countless visitors yearly. Really, it is a great memorial of the Roman civilization.
The old medina in Meknes is a lively museum for tourists since it incarnates the major historical landmarks of the city.
What is appealing while visiting the old medina are its crafts. They are symbolic capital of the city that epitomize its originality and specificity. Souks (markets) are popular in the old medina and they are a target for buying traditional clothes and jewelry. They are distinct by their narrowness and most of times overcrowded. In the centre of the old medina there is the Medrasa Bou Anania, a stunning quranic school that goes back to the 14th century. The latter is located near Jamaa Lakbir (the big mosque) which adds a pinch of spirituality to the old medina.
The New city (Hamria)
The planning of the New city was done by the architect Henri Prost in 1914 during the French occupation. It was reserved as a residence for the French and the European settlers, designed with the European architectural criteria. Hamria displays the landmarks of the modern city: hotels, restaurants, night life, cinema, theatre, cafes, cultural clubs, etc. It is the embodiment of the process of modernization that Moroccan society is trying.