Meknes (مكناس) is a city in the Middle Atlas region of Morocco.
Fez driving you nuts? Nearby Meknes is a vibrant, modern city bustling with nightlife, restaurants and an impressive royal palace. Since it's relatively ignored by most tourists, it's also free of the usual hassles (touts, faux guides, etc) that plague the other tourist centers.
While Meknes is an imperial city with a lot of historical monuments and natural sites; It is also the nearest city to the Roman ruins of Volubilis (Oualili). The prices in Meknes are among the most reasonable in Morocco and the people are much more polite and nicer than in the other cities.
There are two train stations, the smaller train station called El-Emir Abdelkader is more centrally located in the new town (ville nouvelle), while the other is a bit further east.
Meknes is connected by train to most major cities like Marrakech (6½h, 184 Dh), Tangier (3½–4½h, 90 Dh), Rabat (2¼h, 69Dh), Casablanca (3h 1/4, 95 Dh), Fes (50min, 22 Dh) or Oujda (6h, 137 Dh). Specific times and prices can be found on the website of the Moroccan National Office for Railways (www.oncf.ma).
The main bus station (Gare Routière) is west of the medina, colocated with the main grand taxi station, while CTM has its own, brand new station, near Meknes train station (east of the new town).
For trips to Marrakesh be advised, that while seemingly shorter on the map, the mountain route via Beni Millal takes at least 2 hours more than on the highway via Rabat and Casa, going there by train is the most comfortable option, although buses might be slightly quicker.
By grand taxi
Grand taxis arrive and leave from several places, the most popular being El-Amir Abdelkader train station and to the left of the main bus station. Opposite the road of the Institute Francais is also a quite large taxi rank.
Petit taxis (small blue cars of Fiat Uno or Peugeot 205 brands) abound, as well as an efficient and comprehensive, if cramped local bus service. The minimum cost for a petit taxi is 7 dirhams(the price is calculated based on 1.40dhs + 0.20dhs/100m but you should expect a surcharge of 50% after 20:00), while the bus is slightly cheaper. Buses are, however, quite difficult to navigate because they are, in the majority of cases, very crowded and operates to transport people between agglomerations and the ville nouvelle and Medina.
The ville nouvelle (new town), which is known as Hamrya in Arabic, is easily navigated on foot, as is the medina. The two sides of town are connected by a bridge over the dry Oued Boufekrane (river), with a McDonald's placed conveniently in between for weary (or wary!) travelers.
Hamrya is a new town with all entertainment facilities, You can find all what you need there, but there is no monuments or things to see except if you like to chat with people. Medina is the other side is the ancient Meknes and it contains all the monuments of this wonderful city.
- Bab Mansour: Bab means "gate" or "door" in Arabic, and Bab Mansour is the largest and most striking of Meknes' many gates (27 gates). It's directly across from Place Hedim, the medina's main square.
- Place Hedim: Recently redone with new brickwork, this square once rivaled Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech but is now significantly less exciting (though there are a few nice cafes and snack spots in which to people-watch).
- Heri es-Souani: You can catch a glimpse of the grandeur of Moulay Ismail at these granaries, and sit beside the enormous Agdal Basin.
- Meknes Royal Golf Course: This place is absolutely marvellous. The gardens are beautifully kept and it is entirely surrounded by palace walls. They have opened it to the public since September 2007 so now it's possible to slip in to have a peek. There is also a public cafe on the grounds. It's possible to eat on the terrace overlooking the course but you need to book in advance.
- Medersa Bou Inania: A beautiful Qur'anic school.
- Dar Jamai: Now a museum (Musèe Dar Jamai in French), this old palace is located at the back of Place Hedim. It now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts, which is currently exhibiting artifacts, jewels, and old copies of the Qur'an. Dar Jamai is a gorgeous museum with exqusite gardens on the outside. Lovely museum! A must visit place for
- Habs Qara: A huge underground prison where Moulay Ismail allegedly kept prisoners.
- Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail : Although non-Muslims are not permitted to enter, they can view the tombs, which hold the body of Moulay Ismail and other relatives, from the entrance.
- Al masjid AlAdam: Meknes' largest and oldest standing mosque (note: Non-Muslims are not permitted entry).
- Medina of Meknes Mosque: A mosque that is built near a Qur'an school, which was built in 1350.
- Savor Morocco Cooking School, 27 Quartiere Berrada (across the valley from McDonalds), ☎ 06220.127.116.11, . 9AM-7PM. With your own hands, you will prepare several dishes with the aid of our national teacher. 450 MAD per person. edit
Meknes isn't a shopper's paradise, but it's certainly cheaper than nearby Fez! The medina is chock full of traditional Moroccan clothing and rugs, as well as the popular Moroccan shoe, bilgha.. it's also known for it's iron made articles; the local artisanal speciality. The best way to enter the medina is at the back of Place Hedim, next to Dar Jamai. Herein you can find many shops catering to tourists. If you sojourn a bit deeper into the medina, you'll find plenty of unique shops selling jewelry, household goods, and other treasures.
Meknes is the only city in Morocco preserving the art of damasquinerie, an artisanal technique that consists of embedding silver on a surface of metal, before making a decorative product. Originally developed by Jewish craftsmen in Toledo, the technique was brought to Meknes following the expulsion of Muslim and Jews from Spain. Only a handful of mualems – master craftsmen – today have the skills and patience to decorate metal, hammer in the silver thread, put the piece in a furnace which blackens the object then polish it. No two pieces are ever alike. You can buy damaskini in a number of tourist shops but they take advantage of the few remaining artisans. To see authentic damasquinerie being made , and to buy it more cheaply, visit the workshop of Abdelhak Ezzouak, number 86, Souk Sraira near Bab Jadid. Tel. 0621764497.
When shopping in Meknes be sure to bargain! Don't accept the shopkeeper's first offer - not only does it ruin it for tourists who come after you, but it also goes against Moroccan custom. The easiest way to bargain, particularly without knowledge of French or Arabic, is to offer exactly half of the given price (or 75% for expensive or large-scale items). From there, the shopkeeper will go down a bit; you are expected to raise your price slowly until you come to an agreement.
If you can't agree on a price, try walking out of the store - this will generally lower the price significantly. And try not to be too stingy - the value of an item is your appreciation of it, not its ticket price.
There are dozens of restaurants and snack bars lining the main road, Rue Antsirape offering the staples of harira, tagine, cous cous and of course rotisserie chicken. A few restaurants on Rue Ghana, just off Rue Antsirabi, are popular with travellers and offer Dh 40 set menus.
- Le Pub, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until midnight. Excellent, if slightly experimental, takes on French cuisine. Reliable pizza and alcohol license. 50dh-120dh.
- Athenos, Avenue Mohammed V. Open for lunch only. Delicious Moroccan staples, such as tajine, as well as fabulous desserts. 25dh-70dh.
- Mo Di Niro, Rue Antsirabé. Open daily until midnight. Popular with Meknassi teenagers, this restaurant serves good American-style burgers, pizza and pasta dishes. 20-100dh.
- La Fine Bouche, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until 10:00. Translating as "The good mouth," this hole-in-the-wall serves up delicious chawarma and other specialties. 15-50dh.
- Ibis Hotel. Open daily until midnight. This chain hotel has a decent French-inspired menu, but the real draw is that they serve alcohol. 50-150dh.
- Label' Gallery. Restaurants vary; some open past midnight. The closest thing Meknes has to a shopping mall, this food court is the only place to find international cuisine, with Mexican, American, Thai, and Lebanese all on the menu. Prices vary greatly.
- Restaurant Marhaba: the most popular Meknassi restaurant, offers local menu of Ma'aqouda and Harira.
- Les Colliers de Colombe, 67 Rue Driba (Follow the signs; it's located behind Place Lalla Aouda near the medina). Open daily. Delicious Moroccan staples, including the must-try pastilla. Prices vary (Most dishes are over 100dh).
- The market near the main place in the medina (at the Bab El-Mansur) has incredible fresh products. Lots of different kinds of olives, sweets, pickles, etc.
- The restaurants on the main square of the Médina aim for tourists and provide bad quality for inflated prices. They tell you that a free drink is included - in the end they will charge you if it’s something other than tea. So be warned.. They also won‘t tell you that ‚service‘ is not included and try to keep your change (they even got quite aggressive...).
Those looking to find a watering hole in Meknes have come to the right place - in Morocco, anyway. For some strange reason, Meknes seems to have more bars than people. Only a few are suitable for the average traveler, however.
- Le Pub, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until midnight. One of the only places in Meknes where women will feel comfortable finding a drink, this lively pub has two floors; the bottom is where the music and "scene" happens. 15-45dh bottle beers only, 50dh cocktails (Try the local wines; Guerrouane and Amazir are particularly tasty. Shisha (hookah tobacco) costs 50dh).
- Novelty, Top of Rue de Paris. Open daily until midnight. This recently renovated pub is rumored to be owned by Italians, which would explain the lovely wood decor. It's also the only place in Meknes to drink draught beer. 15dh-45dh draft/bottle beers, 50dh cocktails (Wine is served by the bottle only).
- Hotel Zaki, See restaurant listing, . Open late. The only place to drink outdoors in Meknes - 'nuff said. 17dh-50dh, 50dh-100dh cocktails.
Most budget hotels are located along Rue Rouamzine, just before the medina. Hotel Maroc (Q1/2014 100 DH single; shared bathroom) and Hotel Regina (Q1/2014, 80DH single shared bathroom) sare two such choices. Keep in mind that Hotel Regina is very dirty and stinky, but very cheap.
- The HI-affiliated and very friendly youth hostel (dorms from Dh 65/8-no-bulk-Bed (Q1/2014), 120dh for a double room w/ shared bathroom, midnight curfew) is wedged between the medina and ville nouvelle, just two doors down from the much swankier and well known Hotel Transatlantique. Opposite is Restaurant (Le Pelais de Paris). If you enjoy feeling the day-to-day life in the medina, this place is not for you: it's like 1.5 km from the closest gate. You can take a taxi (8dh) but it's not the same. Grand Taxi to Moulay Idriss leaves at Institut Francais de Meknes half way between Hi Hostel and Medina. Local Bus Station is on the the other side of the Medina. You have to walk a lot in any way.
- Camping Agdal This is the choice if you're on a budget or brought your own transport/ camper. The campsite itself is quite nice. It even has grass! It is located about 1.3 miles (about 20-30 minutes on foot) from the city centre right next to the Agdal basin and Heri es-Souani. For two people, with one tent, it cost 44 dh a night (Summer 2004 price). If you don't feel like walking; taxies to/ from the medina shouldn't cost more than between 5 and 10 dirhams and about 15 to 20 to the el-Emir Abdelkader railwaystation. If you arrive by train, it's more convenient to stay in the town centre (ville nouvelle or medina). Though if you're near the El-Emir Abdelkader railwaystation you're about as far off from the Medina as you would be if at the campsite.
- Hotel Majestic, 19 Avenue Mohammed V, +212-035522035 (Fax: +212-035527427). Recently renovated, the Majestic offers a lovely garden as well as clean and nice rooms overlooking the most busy avenue in Meknes. 180dh-210dh including a simple breakfast. Continue straight ahead when you exit the train station, and the hotel will be on your left hand side after approximately 100 metres. You will see a sign directing to the hotel after less than 50 metres. But wacht out! Clients have complained about theft in this hotel.
- Riad Atika Phone/Fax: (+212) 535 535 487  Guest House in the old Medina with 14 rooms (330dh - 825dh breakfast included) and a beautiful terrace, 11, Derb Elkatib, Kabet Souk, Touta.
- Riad Hiba (+212) 535 460 109 / Fax : (+212) 535 535 153  beautiful riad or Guest House in the old city (Medina) with 7 rooms (385dh - 649dh breakfast included), idealy placed near the Place Lehdim, 20 Rue Lalla Aicha Adouya.
- Riad Idrissi (+212) 535 531 418  Guest House in the old Medina with 12 rooms (440dh - 605dh breakfast included) a beautiful terrace, 20 db Lalla Sti Hennou.
- Palais Didi, (+212) 55 558 590, . A restored old palace/riad located in the medina right by a palace wall. Maison d'hotes - Restaurant.
- Riad d'Or, 17, Derb ain el anboub et Derb Lalla Aicha Adouia - Quartier Hammam Jdid, +212 (0).18.104.22.1685, . A very nice Guest House - Maison d'hotes - Bed & Brekfast - Restaurant. A traditional restored old palace/riad in the old medina.
- Ryad Bahia, 4 Tiberbarine (signs lead the way from Place Hedim, if unsure ask for directions outside of the medina), 035554541 ([email protected]), . The first riad to open in Meknes, its owners, and most of the staff, speak English and are extraordinarily helpful in arranging tours and the like. 650dh per single or double. The roof terrace overlooks Place Hedim and the restaurant is open for non-guests as well.
- Hotel Malta, 3 Rue Cherif Al Idrissi, +212-55515020 ([email protected]), . Open daily. This recently renovated hotel offers a restaurant, nightclub and English-style bar. 360dh-580dh.
- Riad Felloussia, Bab Aissi, 035530840 or 076987717 ([email protected]), . Open daily. A traditional home in the heart of the medina. Great view of El-Hedim square. 600dh for large suites with private bathroom (breakfast included).
- Riad Lahboul, 6 Derb Ain Sefli, +212 535559878 or +212 675 71 69 17, . This beautifully restored riad is on the edge of the medina (overlooks the magnificent "Lahboul Gardens"). Run by an English and Moroccan couple, this family guest house serves delicious home-made food.
- Zaki Hotel, Boulevard Al Massira (simply tell a taxi driver to take you to Zaki Hotel), +212-55514146, . Open daily. Meknes' most beautiful hotel includes a nightclub, bar, restaurant and conference center, as well as a gorgeous swimming pool. 880dh-1180dh.
- Roman ruins of Volubilis (Oualili in Arabic and Berber, entrace = 10dh [enter next to the restaurant and you might sneak in;)]): This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a short trip from Meknes. It is possible to go cheaply by grand taxi (via the town of Moulay Idriss, also worth a visit, grand taxi depart very frequently from the Institute Francais stop), a visit should be around 300-350dh with the (private) driver waiting while you peruse the site. Alternatively, a grand taxi just to Moulay Idriss is 10 dh (or red bus (#15) for 7dh), from Moulay Idriss you can walk (3-4 km) to the ruins or catch a taxi for 40 dh (go there and back. It actually is a scam - one way should be 10dh. If you walk down to the main road from Moulay Idriss you can easily hitchhike to the road that leads to Volubilis. This way you just have to walk ~1.5km downhill in total). There is hardly any shade so bring a hat and water since it can get very hot. A large archeological museum is being constructed on the site (slated to open in 2011, but still in progress October 2013) to house the finds which are currently on display in Rabat.
- Moulay Idriss Zerhoun: 14km from Meknes and just next to Volubilis, the small city on a hill was founded by Moulay Idriss I (around 769) and is an Islamic holy site. A moussem is held here each year. Only Muslims can enter the Mausoleum, but you can walk up the village/hill and make a nice photo.
- Chefchaouen: A beautiful blue and white city in the mountains of northeastern Morocco. Chefchaouen is accessible by bus from the Gare Routière for 50 dirhams per person. Busses leave Meknes at 5:00, 12:00, and 24:00. The 5:00 bus is direct while the other two busses stop in Dardara, about 8 km away from the city, so you have to take a petit taxi to Chefchaouen from there. The trip by bus takes approximately 4 hours. There are also grand taxis outside of the bus station that will get you to Chefchaouen by way of Ouezzane. The taxi from Meknes to Ouezzane takes about 2 hours and costs 50 dirhams per person in a full taxi (6 passengers). It takes about 2 hours from Ouezzane to Chefchaouen and costs 35 dirhams per person in a full taxi. It's possible to travel with fewer than 6 people, though you'll have to pay the full fare for 6 people. These taxi drivers do not seem interested in overcharging tourists, and without negotiation you should be able to pay the standard fare that Moroccan passengers pay.