Y esterday I was among the Erg Chebbi dunes of the Moroccan Sahara and today I’m in a city, that city being Meknes, one of Morocco’s 4 imperial capitals (the others being Marrakesh, Fes, my next stop, & Rabat, the present-day capital).
Meknes Day 1
I had read that Meknes was the most laid-back of the 4. I’ve only been here a few hours but the city certainly has been a breeze thus far & the city’s residents seem even friendlier than your average friendly Moroccan – the guy who served me brochettes (small pieces of meat on a skewer) in a roadside café for dinner really eared his 15 dirham (€1.33) tip (& he was genuinely grateful for it too) while the guy who photobombed my efforts to capture the city’s landmark gate, Bab Mansour, was good fun, his questionable fashion sense aside.
Moulay Ismail, the brother of the founder of the Alaouite dynasty, the dynasty that still rules Morocco today, founded his capital here in Meknes in 1672. Over the next 55 of his rule the city was endowed with over 45 kilometres of huge walls housing some 20 monumental gates and enclosing about 50 place complexes. Meknes fell into decline after Ismail died in 1727 and not long after the capital was moved to Marrakesh. The passing of time hasn’t been kind to the city but it was awarded UNESCO World Heritage listing in 1996 and in recent years a serious effort has been made to restore & revive the city in the hopes of attracting the tourist dollar.
– UNESCO’s introduction the The Historic City of Meknes
Meknes is a pretty city, the monuments from the city’s imperial past the highlight of any visit. I only took a quick, relaxed stroll around this afternoon to get my bearings. I’ll take a more in-depth look at the city tomorrow including delving into its many souks (markets). A souk is always an assault on all fronts but seemingly the souks here are less work than souks elsewhere in Morocco, something I can now well believe.
Meknes Day 2
’T was overcast today in Meknes, a perfect indoorsy kind of day. I spent it moseying from one city highlight to another, taking a few pictures as I went. Zellij (a mosaic arranged in a decorative pattern) tile work, pointed horseshoe arches & wide-angle grandeur were (again) the order of the day, day 28 of my Moroccan odyssey. At this stage it’s all getting a bit repetitive, just like the oh-so pretty zellij patterns themselves, but still thoroughly enjoyable.
Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
— davidMbyrne.com (@ByrneDavidM) May 23, 2014
Medersa Bou Inania
I stopped by the 12th century Medersa Bou Inania, a medersa being a religious school for Islamic studies. This medersa was smaller & slightly less photogenic than the first medersa I visited some time ago now, the Ali ben Youssef Medersa in Marrakesh, but I did have this medersa all to myself – there are not too many fellow tourists here in Meknes as nearby Fes seems to siphon them all off. I paid a visit to the medersa roof from where the views of the minaret of the neighbouring Grand Mosque were pretty cool (I uploaded a picture of the minaret to my Instrgram account here) and from where I captured the following picture of a man surveying the view over the top of a section of the UNESCO-listed Meknes medina.
Tomorrow I’ll be leaving Meknes but only for the day (I’ll leave the city for good the day after). I’ll be visiting a few sites about 30 kilometres outside the city, one of which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the best preserved archaeological site in the country. Yes, the Romans were here in the past and tomorrow I’ll be taking a look at what has been left behind of what they left behind.