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.
The main bus station is west of the medina, while CTM has its own, brand new station, near Meknes train station (east of the new town). The smaller train station called El-Amir Abdelkader is more centrally located in the new town.
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.
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 5 dirhams(the price is calculated based on 1.40dhs + 0.20dhs/100m but you should predict a an exceed 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. 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 peak. 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:An huge underground prison where Moulay Ismail allegedly kept Christian 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.
- Roman ruins of Volubilis (Oualili in Arabic and Berber): 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).
- Moulay Idriss Zerhoun: 14km from Meknes and just next to Volubilis, the small city on a hill was founded by Moulay Idriss II and is an Islamic holy site. A moussem is held here each year.
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. 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.
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 Zankat. 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.
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.
For those on a budget, the HI-affiliated and very friendly youth hostel (dorms from Dh 40, 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. 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 closer gate. You can take a taxi (8dh) but it's not the same. For the same price, Hostel Maroc is better.
This is the choice if you're feeling insane. The campsite itself is quite nice. It even has grass! The problem is it is located several miles away from the city centre, on the other side of the palace.
For two people, with one tent, it cost 44 dh a night (Summer 2004 price)
The sensible thing to do is to stay in the town centre, at the hostel, so you can avoid the long walk to and from the campsite. On the other hand it is sometimes a relief to escape to the quiet campsite after the busy town.
Most budget hotels are located along Rue Rouamzine, just before the medina. Hotel Maroc and Hotel Regina are two such choices.
- 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. 120dh-160dh 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.
- "PALAIS DIDI", A luxuriously restored old palace/riad located in the medina right by a palace wall. Maison d'hotes - Restaurant - web site http://www.palaisdidi.com/ (+212) 55 558 590.
- "RIAD D'OR", very nice Maison d'hotes - Bed & Brekfast - Restaurant - web site http://www.riaddor.com 00212.063.17.357. A traditional old palace riad in the medina.
- Ryad Bahia, 4 Tiberbarine (ask for directions outside of the medina), 035554541 ([email protected]), . The first riad to open in Meknes, its owners both speak English and are extraordinarily helpful in arranging tours and the like. 650dh per single or double.
- 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.
- 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.
Meknes is connected by train to Marrakech, Tangier, and Fes and points east. Specific times and prices can be found on the website of the Moroccan National Office for Railways (ONCF).