Meknes, Morocco: Top Things to Do & See in 2021

By: Fatima O.

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Meknes is one of those Moroccan cities that has had good times and bad times, over the years. It is regarded as one of the 4 major imperial cities in Morocco. It first became famous when the Almoravids made it a strong military installation in the 11th century. Thereafter, it lost prominence until the 17th century when it became the capital of the Alaouite Dynasty.

More recently, Meknes has seen a new revival as a small but interesting city that boasts loads of history from different periods and a unique tourist experience.

Best Things to Do & See in Meknes

1. Meknes Old Medina

Like many cities in Morocco, Meknes Medina is a maze of narrow streets hiding years of history. Medina is not so crowded and busy. You will enjoy walking around in the calm and just after you pass 2-3 streets from Lahdim Square, you will no longer see tourists or shops for tourism, only locals.

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Meknes morocco

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2. The Historical Gates and Walls of Meknes

Ever since its historic foundation, Meknes was originally built from the ground up as a military city. One that was designed to keep people out. Therefore, the city is beautifully decorated with the most elegant gates and doors. Lucky for us, Meknes has now opened its beautiful doors to everyone, and we can confirm with certainty that what lies behind the huge doors of Meknes is even more beautiful and special.

3. The Grand Mosque of Meknes

One of the highlights of the old Median has to be the Grand Mosque of Meknes. This is the oldest and most important mosque in Meknes. Regionally, it is regarded as one of the early mosques of the Almoravid period (it was established in the 12th century). This mega-mosque of 3500 meters has since been renovated many times but still remains the most religiously and historically significant mosque in Meknes.

4. Madrassa Bou Inania

meknes morocco madrasa bou anania

Founded in the 14th century by Abu Inan Faris, Madrassa Bou Inania is one of the most remarkable places in Meknes. In case you’re wondering what a Madrassa is, it’s a Quranic and Islamic school, usually a part of the Mosque that serves to teach kids reading, writing, and also the Holy Quran. Bou Inania Madrasa in Meknes is one of Morocco’s ancient Islamic law colleges.

It was the first historic Madrassa I’ve ever visited in Morocco. I was surprised at the stunning architecture, the mosaic tiles of the walls of the courtyard, the carved wooden doors and windows, the geometric patterns, and Islamic calligraphy. Everything about the Madrassa was just stunning. If you find yourself in the beautiful city of Meknes, be sure to make a stop at Bou Anania Madrassa.

5. Bab Mansour

meknes morocco bab mansour

Bab Mansour or Bab Mansour el-Aleuj is one of Meknes city gates (Bab means door or gate in Arabic). Located not far from Lahdim Square, The monumental gate, probably the most delightful of all in Meknes, can’t be missed. Bab Mansour was built in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and it was the main entrance to the Kasbah of Sultan Moulay Ismail. Today, it is one of the most famous and admired landmarks in Meknes city. Bab Mansour is living proof of the amazing Moroccan heritage, easily seen on the elaborate Arabic inscriptions painted on the tiles and the heavy decorations of Zlej (Mosaic tile work).

6. Lahdim Square

meknes morocco lehdim square

Lahdim Square, also called El Hedim Square in English, is situated between Bab Mansour and Meknes Medina. It’s one of my favorite places in Meknes. This vast square has several restaurants and cafes, my favorite one is a rooftop cafe nearby the square giving an amazing view of the whole area. Lahdim Square has a nearby Souq as well where you can go for an authentic shopping experience. At night, Lahdim Square is magically transformed into a mini Jemaa El Fena with all the vibrant light, sounds, and delicious Moroccan street food.

7. Kara Prison

meknes morocco kara prison

Kara Prison or Prison de Kara is an underground prison in Meknes. It was constructed in the early 18th century by a Portuguese prisoner in exchange for his freedom. Kara Prison is probably one of the most unusual and bizarre prisons in you have ever seen.

The prison was designed in the form of a maze, with no doors or bars to lock the prisoners in. Some say that it can accommodate up to 40 000 prisoners and that no prisoner had ever escaped. The entrance is located in Ismaili Qasba, but the labyrinth-like tunnel and halls go on for miles. Some say that it’s around the size of the entire city, while others believe it extends all the way to the city of Taza, over a hundred miles away from Meknes.

According to legend, a group of French explorers once entered the prison and attempted to discover the vastness of the prison. However, they went in and never came out. Elders that live nearby claim that sometimes, late at night, they can still hear their desperate cries, echoing from inside the prison walls. Okay, I made that last bit up but it felt like a great way to end off with a creepy myth.

Apparently, there were holes through which they would throw prisoners in. I still have so many questions. How were they fed, if at all? How were they monitored? Were they ever found again? Why did they stop using this prison, if it was so effective? Perhaps it was a life in prison thing. Like a Hotel California.

Today, only a small part of the prison is open to tourists. Kara Prison is really worth your while but be careful not to get lost.

8. Heri Es Souani

meknes morocco heri essouani

Meknes Heri Souani, an old monument of Meknes, certainly deserves a visit. The huge granaries of Meknes were constructed in the 17th century during the rule of Moulay Ismail. They are divided into various 4 meter thick rooms to allow them to maintain a cool temperature in order to preserve food.

The granaries are also equipped with small wells which used to serve for water supplies and the leveling of Souani’s pond. Heri Es Souani monument is a little bit far from other attractions but it is easily accessed either by taxi or walking. This historical place was used to film some scenes from “The Last Temptation of the Christ” and “Jesus of Nazareth” movies.

9. Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail

meknes morocco Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail

The Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail in Meknes is a historic Islamic funerary complex. It contains the tomb of Sultan Moulay Ismail, who ruled Morocco from 1672 until his death in 1727.

It is a major historic and religious site in the city and it is open to the public. When I visited Meknes back in 2018, I wasn’t lucky enough to visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail because it was under renovation. But if you go to Meknes make sure to visit this magnificent tomb.

Where to Stay in Meknes

where to stay in meknes morocco

It depends on what type of accommodation you prefer to stay in but there are 2 options: Stay in the new city in a conventional hotel or opt for a more traditional and authentic option that I would choose to stay in.

  • Riad Hiba is an ideal option for low budgets. With just $30 you can get a decent double bedroom. The Riad is located at the entrance of the Medina and a is a great deal for this price.
  • Riad Hiba is an ideal option for low budgets. With just $30 you can get a decent double bedroom. The Riad is located at the entrance of the Medina and a is a great deal forthis price.
  • Riad Hiba is an ideal option for low budgets. With just $30 you can get a decent double bedroom. The Riad is located at the entrance of the Medina and a is a great deal for this price.

About Fatima O.

Fatima, born and raised along the foothills of the Atlas mountains, in the heartland of the indigenous Amazigh peoples. She loves Moroccan tea and travel. Now, she travels and writes about the beauty of her homeland.

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