What to See in Meknes and Fes (Morocco)
The city of Meknes is located in the northern part of Morocco on a plateau in the foothills of the middle Atlas. It is located 60 km northwest of Fes. Meknes was founded in the 11th century, and at the end of the 17th century, Mula Ismail declared it the capital of the state and his residence. It was at this time that the city flourished.
Like all other ancient cities of Morocco, Meknes is divided into Old (medina) and New parts. Even under Mula Ismail, who wanted to protect the city from Berber attacks as much as possible, the medina was surrounded by a 10-kilometer wall with the Bab Mansour El Alj Gate entrance gate, which is the most beautiful in Morocco.
In 1996, the Old Town of Meknes was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO due to the peculiar combination of Islamic and European traditions in the local architecture. The main square of the medina is El Khdim, where there are several cafes, musicians, snake trainers and fakirs constantly sit on the square. Nearby is the Palace of the Sultans. It is believed that Sultan Mula Ismail conceived the idea of building a palace that would be superior to that of Versailles after a French princess refused him an offer to marry him. The palace contains two mosques and more than twenty pavilions.
On the small square of Lalla Aouda stands the Mausoleum of Mul Ismail. The inner courtyard of the mausoleum is decorated with mosaics, fountains, engraved marble, carved cedar ceiling, and the floor of the mausoleum is covered with luxurious carpets. Only Muslims are allowed into the room with the remains of the Sultan. From the mausoleum begins the highway that leads to the Sultan’s granary. Now this tower is being reconstructed, but you can still visit it. The walls of the tower are 3 m thick in order to keep food supplies longer. From the terrace of the granary, you can see a 4-hectare pool that was used to store water.
The markets of Meknes are very interesting, where you will find all kinds of souvenirs. There are many restaurants in the New part of the city, the Royal Golf Club with 9 fields was opened here.
Interesting Museum of Moroccan Art. Its exposition is devoted to the art of the Meknes region, it exhibits metalwork, wooden sculptures, woven and leather items and multi-colored embroidery.
From Meknes you can go to the ancient Roman city of Volubilis. Its area is 4 hectares. In the 1st century A.D. it was one of the main cities of Mauritania. The remains of the forum, the capitol, the basilica, the market square, the triumphal arch and the oil presses have been preserved here. 5 km away is the village of Moulay Idriss, where the sanctuary of the founder of the first Arab dynasty, Idrisid, is located. Pilgrims come to the sanctuary every year in August and September. An unusual cylindrical minaret lined with green ceramics is of particular interest here.
According to Simply Yellow Pages, Fez is considered the pearl of Arab culture, the religious and cultural center of Morocco. The city was founded almost 1200 years ago by the great Moroccan saint Moulay Idris I. According to legend, he drew a line with a golden shovel, which became the city walls. It became the first capital of Morocco. In the XIII century. Fes was one of the most significant cities in the world.
Like all Moroccan cities, Fez divided into two parts – the old Fes el Bali and the new Fes el Jedid. The old city of Fes el Bali or the medina is somewhat isolated: behind its walls there are numerous ancient cemeteries, so the new quarters of the city were built away from the medina. It’s easy to get lost in it. They say it has about 9400 streets and lanes. He retained his appearance almost unchanged. Fes el Bali lasts in turn into separate quarters, each of which specializes in its own kind of craft.
The best way to enter the medina is through the old Bab Bonjeloud gate. Once they were intended for solemn trips of the Sultan, and now under the magnificent central arch, decorated with rich ornaments, a noisy crowd flows in a motley stream. The main attraction of Fes el Bali is the Karaouine Mosque, which is also one of the oldest universities in the world. The architecture of the Karahuin mosque in its present form, with the exception of some additions and changes in decor, was formed mainly in the 9th – 12th centuries. No less interesting is the Bu Inania Madrasah (1357) with folding doors trimmed with bronze, an onyx and faience staircase, the finest decorative arabesques, and a dome with wooden trim. The courtyard of the madrasah is also decorated with onyx, marble and precious woods. In this part of the city is the Dar Batha Museum, which displays Arabic art. The mausoleum of the founder of the city is located in the Zawiya quarter. A memorial plaque with a hole is embedded in the wall of the mausoleum, into which devout Muslims put their hand: this ceremony symbolizes their communion with the soul of the saint. The medina is surrounded by 25 km long city walls, which contain many interesting gates. In Fes el-Jedid, it is worth seeing the Great Mosque (XIII – XIV centuries), the Daral-Makhzen Palace, the construction of which lasted from the end of the XIII to the XVIII centuries.
The best souvenir from Fez are leather goods. Leather has been made here for more than 1000 years, and during all this time, more than 40 generations of tanners have passed on the secrets of tanning, finishing and coloring the skin to the younger ones. Fez artisans process leather according to old recipes – without the use of acids, alkalis and other “chemistry”.