The best things to do in Meknes and Volubilis, Most travelers stop in Meknes merely to visit Volubilis, Morocco’s most famous Roman-era site and one of the country’s top historic tourist attractions.
Those who stay in the city after seeing the ruins will be rewarded. Meknes, one of Morocco’s Imperial Cities, provides a more relaxed medina experience than Marrakesh and Fes.
Meknes’ laidback character makes it one of the ideal places to come and base yourself if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Fes. Because of the short (and frequent) rail connection between Meknes and Fes, it is feasible to visit Fes fully on day excursions from here.
The architecture of the medina, the majestic entrance of Bab el-Mansour, and the brilliant Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail are three of the main attractions in Meknes. This is also the nearest base to Moulay Idriss, a hilltop pilgrimage town and one of the most picturesque towns in the region.
More sightseeing options may be found in our list of the top attractions and things to do in Meknes.
1 Take a stroll through the Volubilis Roman Ruins.
The historic Roman remains of Volubilis, located about 29 kilometers from Meknes, are the city’s primary tourist attraction.
For good cause, this is Morocco’s most well-known Roman relic. The remaining columns and temple remains of Volubilis are a magnificent and strongly evocative sight, sitting atop a hill with the landscape stretching out below.
Although most of what has been discovered here are now on exhibit at Rabat’s Archaeology Museum, many of the beautiful and complex floor mosaics of Volubilis’ large Roman villas have been preserved, giving you a taste of affluent Roman life.
The city was at its peak from AD 24-285 when it served as the seat of the Roman province, and the majority of the remains originate from this time.
The House of Orpheus, the House of the Athlete, and the House of Hercules’ Labors, with their exceptionally well-preserved mosaics, are particularly noteworthy.
Volubilis is located 32 kilometers north of Meknes.
Photograph Moulay Idriss’ Pastel-Painted Alleys
The holy city of Moulay Idriss, founded in AD 788, is named after the country’s most renowned saint and the Prophet Muhammed’s great-great-grandson, who created the first Moroccan kingdom.
The city is situated on the rocky spurs of the Khyber and Tazga hills, some 29 kilometers north of Meknes, with houses spectacularly falling down the hillsides.
This is an important pilgrimage site for the faithful, and an annual religious celebration in August draws thousands of people who pitch their tents across the town.
Since non-Muslims are not permitted to visit the town’s shrines, you may go up through the medina (old town), with its small alleyways all bathed in pastel colors, to the hillside trails above and enjoy spectacular rooftop views of the entire community.
Moulay Idriss is located on the same road as Volubilis and may be visited on the route to or from the ruins.
3. Admire the Artistry of Bab al-Mansour
The major gate connecting Meknes’ medina and Imperial City districts are Bab al-Mansour.
It’s a massive and intricately designed building that many architectural experts consider to be one of the best examples of surviving gates in North Africa. It was constructed in 1732 by Sultan Moulay Ismail (though completed after his reign).
The gateway’s exquisite architectural design includes extravagant use of zellige tiling and stone carving work.
The gate isn’t open right now. Instead, you enter and depart between the medina and the Imperial City via a much smaller side gate. This allows you to completely appreciate Bab al-craftsmanship Mansour’s without being distracted by traffic.
Address: Place el-Hedim, Meknes.
4. View the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail
This lavishly adorned mausoleum was erected to contain Sultan Moulay Ismail’s grave. Who made Meknes his imperial capital in the 17th century.
Moulay Ismail is a well-known Moroccan ruler. Morocco as we know it now was born under his reign since he was able to reclaim land from both the British and the Spanish.
With exquisite tilework, stucco ornamentation, and carved masonry, the tomb’s interior exemplifies the wonderful exuberance of Moroccan religious decorating.
Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque itself, although they are permitted to explore the complex’s exterior areas and the tomb hall, which is the building’s main feature.
When entering, remove your shoes, dress modestly, and remember to tip the gatekeeper.
Imperial City district, Meknes.
5. Get Lost amid Meknes Medina
The medina (Old Town) of Meknes is a vibrant, busy location filled with local retail souks and winding alleyways.
Place el-Him, a smaller and less hectic counterpart of Marrakesh’s Djemaa el-Fna, serves as the primary entrance.
This is an excellent hunting ground for ardent shoppers, with Souk Najarine offering a plethora of textile booths and Souk Sebbat housing a plethora of traditional Moroccan artisan shops, as well as clothes and Morocco’s famed slippers.
For handicrafts, you should be able to find better pricing here than in Marrakesh.
The 12th-century Grand Mosque, with its characteristic green-tiled roof, is located right in the heart of the medina, making it simple to navigate.
The medina is still surrounded by decaying walls, some of which are still entirely intact. They were constructed during Sultan Moulay Ismail’s reign when he made Meknes his capital.
Location: Place el-Hedim, Meknes, main entrance.
6 Investigate the Imperial City’s Architecture
The Imperial City neighborhood of Meknes contains many intriguing historical ruins to visit. Most of which date from the era of Sultan Moulay Ismail when Meknes was Morocco’s capital.
Most people come to view Moulay Ismail’s Mausoleum, but if you have time, it’s worth spending more time here.
Place Lalla Aouda is the main square after passing through the grand gate of Bab el-Mansour. It’s a short walk from here to the Koubat Al Khayatine. This is the city’s former ambassador building, and a portion of it is available to the public now, with a modest photography exhibit about Meknes.
The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail is just around the corner. Dar el-Kebir, Moulay Ismail’s destroyed 17th-century palace, is located next to the tomb.
Location: Place el-Hedim, Meknes, main entrance.
7. Visit the Museum of Moroccan Art (Dar Jamai)
The Dar Jamai was constructed in 1882 as the home of the famous Jamai family and was turned into the Museum of Moroccan Art in 1920.
The museum preserves the rich traditional décor of painted wood and carved plaster, which were popular interior flourishes for Moroccan upper-classes in the nineteenth century. Outside, there is a beautiful Andalusian-style garden.
The museum is dedicated to regional arts and crafts, and there are beautiful examples of wrought ironwork and wood carving.
One of rooms is done up as a typical late-nineteenth-century Moroccan reception room, giving you a sense of how the wealthy of Meknes lived during this time period.
Location: Place el-Hedim, Meknes
8. Climb to the Roof of Bou Inania Medersa
This lovely Medersa (Islamic institution of study) lies buried among the souk alleys of Meknes in the heart of the medina. It was established in the 14th century.
The architecture and interior artistry of the Medersa have been carefully conserved, with most of the exquisite zellige tile ornamentation still in place.
The students who studied theology here used to live in the tiny, austere cells that circle the central courtyard.
After you’ve seen the interior, don’t forget to hike up to the green-tiled rooftop. From here, one can see the entire Meknes medina area and the Ville Nouvelle (new town) beyond.
Address: Medina, Souk Sebbat
9. Visit Heri es-Souani
The Heri es-Souani structures, which previously functioned as the Imperial City’s storage granaries and horse stables, are a two-kilometer dusty walk from Meknes’ Imperial City area.
Originally, up to 12,000 horses were stabled here, and the structure was much larger than the arrangement you see now.
The complex has only been partly repaired and lacks a roof, but its arched entrances and vaults remain.
The Heri es-Souani structure sees far fewer tourists than the attractions in central Meknes, and you may be the only one there, making it a wonderfully atmospheric location to explore.
10. Stroll the Souani Basin
El Souani Basin (also named the Agdal Basin) is a man-made lake that used to supply water to Sultan Moulay Ismail’s gardens and was part of the sultan’s magnificent aqueduct system that carried water into the city.
The Heri es-massive Souani’s outer walls surround the lake’s southwest side, offering a magnificent background. If you wish to see both, go to Heri es-Souani first and then to the Souani Basin at sunset.
Today, the lake comes alive after twilight, when local families gather here to let their children run about, eat, and promenade the lake’s pathway.
Sultan Moulay Ismail, one of the first kings of Morocco’s Alawite dynasty, established this imperial metropolis (the Moroccan Versailles) as the Moroccan capital on a rich plain north of the Middle Atlas, near Fez.
Moulay Ismail ascended to power at the age of 26 in 1672 and ruled for 55 years. When a French princess declined to marry him, the young Sultan vowed to create a royal town to match Versailles in magnificence. He enlisted the help of 50,000 workmen to construct a succession of palaces, mile after mile of walls, battlements, and ramparts, as well as a large marketplace.
Moulay Ismail’s son Moulay Abdallah (1727-1757) and his grandson Sidi Mohamed ben Abdallah finished the imperial metropolis (1757-1790).
When Meknes lost its status as an imperial capital in the early nineteenth century, it fell into disuse. Meknes was not restored and revitalized until the reign of Moulay Hassan towards the end of the century.
Where to Stay for Sightseeing in Meknes
Meknes doesn’t have a lot of hotels, and the most of them are in the mid-range price category. The most fascinating places to stay in the medina are the riads (guesthouses in typical Moroccan houses). Please contact us. A one-of-a-kind Morocco desert tours for More information.
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