Meknes (Arabic: مكناس‎, romanizedMəknas; Berber languages: ⴰⵎⴽⵏⴰⵙ, romanized: Amknas; French: Meknès, pronounced [mɛknɛs]) is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, located in northern central Morocco and the sixth largest city by population in the kingdom. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became the capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl (1672–1727), son of the founder of the Alaouite dynasty. Moulay Ismaïl created a massive imperial palace complex and endowed the city with extensive fortifications and monumental gates.[7] The city recorded a population of 632,079 in the 2014 Moroccan census.[6] It is the seat of Meknès Prefecture and an important economic pole in the region of Fès-Meknès.

Meknes

مكناس
ⴰⵎⴽⵏⴰⵙ
City
Meknes-Medina.jpg
Medina, Meknes, Morocco - panoramio (9).jpg
Bab El Khemis.jpg
Meknes, Morocco - panoramio (2).jpg
Sidi Amar Hassini, Meknes, Morocco - panoramio (5).jpg
Clockwise from top: Bab Mansour, Bab El Khemis, Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Heri es-Swani, Bou Inania Madrasa
Official seal of Meknes
Seal
Nickname(s): 

العاصمة الاسماعيلية
مكناسة الزيتون
The Ismaïlian Capital
The médina with 100 minarets.
Meknes is located in Morocco
Meknes
Meknes
Location in Morocco
Coordinates: 33°53′42″N 5°33′17″W / 33.89500°N 5.55472°W / 33.89500; -5.55472Coordinates: 33°53′42″N 5°33′17″W / 33.89500°N 5.55472°W / 33.89500; -5.55472
Country Morocco
RegionFès-Meknès
PrefectureMeknes
Government
 • MayorAbdellah Bouanou[1]
 • PrefectAbdelghani Sebbar[2]
Area
 • Total370 km2 (140 sq mi)
Elevation546 m (1,792 ft)
Population
 (September 2014)[6]
 • Total632,079
 • Rank6th in Morocco[6]
 • Density1,700/km2 (4,400/sq mi)
 • Municipality
520,428[4][5]
 [a][4]
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)WEST (UTC+01:00)
Postal code
50000
Websitewww.meknes.ma
Historic City of Meknes
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Bab Mansour.jpg
CriteriaCultural: iv
Reference793
Inscription1996 (20th session)
  1. ^ In the 2014 census, the High Commission for Planning gave the legal population of the city of Meknes as 632,079,[6] which corresponds to the combined population of the municipalities of Meknes, Al Machouar – Stinia, Toulal and Ouislane.[5] The municipality of Meknes proper recorded a population of 520,428 in the 2014 census.[5]

EtymologyEdit

Meknes is named after a Berber tribe which, was known as Miknasa (native Berber name: Imeknasen) in the medieval North African documents.[7]

HistoryEdit

 
Skyline of the old city (medina) of Meknes

Early history (8th-16th centuries)Edit

Volubilis, a major Roman-era settlement in Morocco and one of its early urban centres, is located near the site of the current city of Meknes. The current city and its name, however, originate with a Berber tribe called the Miknasa, originally from the Tunisian south, who dominated this region and much of eastern Morocco as early as the 8th century.[7] Some sources attribute the effective founding of a settlement here to a group of small Miknasa villages known as miknāsat al-zaytūn in the 10th century.[8] In 1061 the Almoravids founded a fortress or fortified settlement just south of these villages after conquering the area.[7][8] Some sources attribute the effective founding of the city of Meknes to this Almoravid foundation.[7] The city's first main mosque (the current Grand Mosque of Meknes) is in turn believed to have been first built by the Almoravids in the 12th century.[9][10] The Nejjarine Mosque, often reputed to be the oldest mosque in the city, also dates back to the Almoravid period.[11]:212–213

The fortress resisted the military advance of the Almohads, who destroyed the city after a long siege in the 12th century.[12][8] However, at the beginning of the 13th century the Almohad caliph Muhammad al-Nasir (ruled 1199–1213) rebuilt the city and its fortifications, as well as its Grand Mosque.[12][8][13] The city enjoyed relative prosperity in this period, before being conquered again by the new Marinid dynasty in 1244.[8] The first kasbah (citadel or governor's district) of Meknes was created afterwards by the sultan Abu Yusuf Ya'qub in 1276 CE; the same year that the citadel of Fes el-Jdid was built in nearby Fes as the new capital of the Marinid empire.[14][8] During this period, Meknes was frequently the residence of Marinid princes (appointed there as governors) and especially of viziers.[15][16]:55 The Mosque of the Kasbah (the later Mosque of Lalla Aouda) was also founded and first built in 1276.[14][17] The Marinids also carried out major restorations to the Grand Mosque in the 14th century and built the major madrasas of the city nearby. These included the Bou Inania Madrasa (built in 1336) and two other madrasas, Madrasa al-Qadi and Madrasa Shuhud, all built by Sultan Abu el-Hassan.[13]

After the end of the Marinid and Wattasid periods, however, Meknes suffered from neglect as the new Saadian dynasty (16th and early 17th century) focused their attention on their capital at Marrakesh and neglected the old northern cities of Morocco.[16]

Early Alaouite period: the reign of Moulay Isma'il (17th-18th centuries)Edit

 
The Mausoleum of Moulay Isma'il

It wasn't until the Alaouite dynasty in the second half of the 17th century that Meknes received renewed attention. Under Moulay Rashid (ruled 1666-1672), the first Alaouite sultan to unite Morocco under his rule, Fes became the capital once more and his brother, Moulay Isma'il ibn Sharif, governed Meknes.[16][18] Upon Rashid's death in 1672, Moulay Isma'il became sultan and chose Meknes as his new capital. In addition to his possible attachment to the city as a governor, a number of reasons may have favoured this choice.[16]:129 One may have been the fact that Ismail had to fight hard to reconquer both Fes and Marrakesh from his rival nephew (Ahmad al-Mahriz, son of Moulay Rashid) during the first years of his reign, which may have rendered him skeptical towards both cities as possible centers of power.[16][18]:467–468 Moreover, Moulay Rashid had garrisoned much of Fes with his own contingents from the Tafilalt and eastern Morocco while Moulay Isma'il was forming his own personal royal guard composed of Black slaves ('abid) from Sub-Saharan Africa, and there may have been concerns that not all these contingents could be garrisoned simultaneously in Fes. The ulema (religious scholars) of Fes were also particularly disapproving of his ways, including his use of slaves (many of whom were of Muslim background), and maintained tense relations with him throughout his reign.[19][16][20] Choosing Meknes thus removed him from the influence of traditional elites and allowed him to build a fresh base from which he hoped to exercise absolute power.[19] The threat of Ottoman attacks from the east (from Algeria) and the increasing insecurity in central Morocco due to tribal migrations from the Atlas and Sahara regions may have also persuaded Ismail that Meknes, situated further west, was more defensible than Fes.[19]:234[16]:129, 138

Whatever the reasons, Ismail made Meknes the center of Morocco in his time and he embarked on the construction of a new monumental palace-city on the south side of the old city. Its construction continued throughout the 55 years of his reign, beginning immediately after his accession to the throne in 1672.[20][13][21][22] Existing structures dating from the earlier medieval kasbah of the city were demolished to make way; the name of the large public square in front of the Kasbah today, el-Hedim (or Place el-Hedim), means "the rubble" and came from the masses of rubble and debris which were piled here during the demolition.[23][14][13] Labour was carried out by paid workers as well as by contingents of slaves, particularly Christian prisoners of war.[13] Estimates on the total number of workers involved range from 25,000 and 55,000.[20][13] Nonetheless, frequently-told stories about the tens of thousands of Christian slaves used for labour and the large underground dungeons where they were kept are somewhat exaggerated and originate from the accounts of European ambassadors who visited Isma'il's court (often to negotiate the release of prisoners from their countries).[24] In reality, the number of Christian slaves was likely closer to a few thousand at most and the chambers popularly called "prisons" were actually storage rooms for grain and supplies.[24]:106[8]:267

It was also in Moulay Ismail's reign that the Jewish inhabitants of the city were moved to a new Mellah or Jewish district to the west, near the Kasbah, not unlike the Mellah of Fes or that of Marrakesh.[19]:234 Moulay Isma'il also undertook works throughout the old city too. He refortified the walls and built new monumental city gates such as Bab Berda'in and Bab Khemis.[25][16] He also built several other kasbahs or garrison forts throughout the city to house his 'abid troops and help protect (and control) the rest of the town, such as the Kasbah Hadrash and the Kasbah Tizimi.[16]:142 He carried out renovations to the Grand Mosque and the nearby Madrasa al-Qadi (which he devotes to students from the Tafilalt),[9][13] and founded the Zitouna Mosque.[16] Khnata bent Bakkar, one of his wives who was vizier (minister) under him (and briefly became de facto ruler of Morocco in 1728 after his death), was responsible for founding the Bab Berda'in Mosque, completed in 1709.[26][27][28][11]

 
View of Bab Berda'in gate and the minaret of the Bab Barda'in Mosque (photograph from 1881)

One of the last constructions before his death, carried out between 1721 and 1725, was the Heri al-Mansur, a palace on the far southern edge of the kasbah which included vast stables.[20] The monumental gate known as Bab al-Mansur al-'Alj, overlooking Place al-Hedim, was only finished in 1732 by his son Moulay Abdallah.[12] His son and brief successor, Moulay Ahmad ad-Dhahabi , carried out modifications to his father's mausoleum during his two brief reigns (in 1727–28 and 1728–29) and was himself buried here in 1729.[13]

Later Alaouite period (18th-20th centuries)Edit

Following Moulay Isma'il's death, however, the political situation in Morocco degenerated into relative anarchy as his sons competed for power. Meknes lost its status as capital and suffered damage in the 1755 earthquake.[20] The city was neglected and many parts of the enormous imperial kasbah fell into disrepair. The site received only occasional royal attention in the following centuries. Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah, who ruled between 1757 and 1790, built a number of projects in the city. He added the Dar al-Bayda Palace in the Agdal garden to the southeast of the main palace complex, which was later turned into a royal military academy.[20] He constructed the Er-Roua Mosque in the southern part of Moulay Isma'il's Kasbah, which became the largest mosque in Meknes.[29][30]:391 He also renovated and added a qubba over the tomb of Sidi Mohammed ben Aissa (just outside the city walls) and built the current minarets of the Grand Mosque and the Nejjarine Mosque in the old city.[9][16] The Dar al-Kebira, however, was abandoned and progressively transformed into a residential neighbourhood where the inhabitants constructed their houses within and between the former palace structures of Isma'il's time.[31] In the early 19th century, Sultan Moulay Abd ar-Rahman added a loggia structure in front of Bab al-Mansur which served as a meeting place for ceremonies and the governor's tribunal, though this structure was later removed.[13]

Recent history (20th-21st centuries)Edit

 
A main street in the Ville Nouvelle (new city)

After the installation of French colonial rule in Morocco in 1912, the French administration created a new city (Ville Nouvelle) on a nearby plateau across the valley on the northeast side of the old city. The capital of Morocco was moved from Fes to Rabat, further marginalizing cities like Meknes (which is near Fes). Some traditional Muslim authorities and officials were retained, but Meknes was reorganized under a new French municipal and military regime.[16] This also leads to a greater influence of the cities over their surrounding countryside and growing urbanization. The city became a transportation hub for people and goods traveling from east to west or from north to south across the country, in addition to hosting extensive military barracks. The population of Meknes grew from 25,000 at the beginning of the century to over 140,000 by the mid-20th century.[16]:191–192 Some roads in the old city were widened to accommodate greater circulation, but most of the new development took place in the Ville Nouvelle. The new French authorities took interest in the conservation of historic monuments in the old city; the madrasas, for example, were restored in 1922.[16]:199 During this period Meknes also became a center of agriculture and viniculture, led mainly by French colonists who appropriated large amounts of land nearby.[8][16]

Nonetheless, Meknes, like other cities, also hosts resistance to French authority. In 1937, a particularly serious and violent revolt erupts following attempts to divert the local river to benefit the French settler population during a time of food shortages for the native Moroccan population. A violent suppression of protests takes place in the city which results in 13 dead and more injured.[16][32][33]:63 Following Morocco's independence in 1956, the changes which began or accelerated under French rule still continue to run their course. Large scale rural migration increases the population of the city and intensifies the urbanization process (as elsewhere in the country). Industries develop around the city's perimeter, but at the same time the old elites and bourgeois families move away to the coastal cities like Casablanca and Rabat.[16]

These changes have also contributed to the relative neglect of the old city. According to the ICOMOS Heritage at Risk report of 2000, the historic city of Meknes contains insufficient drainage systems, and as a result, suffers from inundation and leakage in certain areas.[34] Still, some conservation and restoration efforts have taken place in recent years, motivated in part by the revenues of tourism.[16]:222

GeographyEdit

Meknes is located in a strategic position in the heart of Morocco. To its south and south-east are the rich cedar forests and mountains of the Middle Atlas mountains with the cities Ifrane and Azrou; and more to the south are the rich oases of Tafilalt. To the west are the two largest metropolitan areas of Morocco: Casablanca and Rabat. To the north is the mountainous north of Morocco with the cities of Tangier and Tétouan. Oujda and Fes lie east of Meknes.

ClimateEdit

Meknes has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa) with continental influences. Its climate is similar to inland southern Portugal (such as Beja or Évora) and some areas of southern Spain. The temperatures shifts from cool in winter to hot days in the summer months of June–September. Afternoon temperatures generally rise 10–14 °C above the low on most days. The winter highs typically reach only 15.5 °C (59.9 °F) in December–January, whereas night temperatures average 5 °C (41 °F). (see weather-table below).

It rarely snows in Meknes.

Climate data for Meknes (1961–1990, extremes 1919–1993)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 26.9
(80.4)
28.7
(83.7)
32.6
(90.7)
36.4
(97.5)
40.4
(104.7)
43.9
(111.0)
45.2
(113.4)
46.2
(115.2)
43.0
(109.4)
37.7
(99.9)
36.4
(97.5)
27.1
(80.8)
46.2
(115.2)
Average high °C (°F) 15.3
(59.5)
16.6
(61.9)
18.6
(65.5)
20.0
(68.0)
23.8
(74.8)
27.8
(82.0)
32.7
(90.9)
32.6
(90.7)
29.6
(85.3)
24.5
(76.1)
19.3
(66.7)
15.6
(60.1)
23.0
(73.4)
Daily mean °C (°F) 10.2
(50.4)
11.5
(52.7)
12.9
(55.2)
14.4
(57.9)
17.7
(63.9)
21.2
(70.2)
25.2
(77.4)
25.3
(77.5)
22.9
(73.2)
18.7
(65.7)
14.2
(57.6)
10.7
(51.3)
17.1
(62.8)
Average low °C (°F) 5.2
(41.4)
6.3
(43.3)
7.2
(45.0)
8.8
(47.8)
11.5
(52.7)
14.6
(58.3)
17.7
(63.9)
17.9
(64.2)
16.2
(61.2)
12.8
(55.0)
9.1
(48.4)
5.8
(42.4)
11.1
(52.0)
Record low °C (°F) −4.2
(24.4)
−2.6
(27.3)
−0.8
(30.6)
0.5
(32.9)
0.4
(32.7)
5.2
(41.4)
7.2
(45.0)
9.0
(48.2)
5.0
(41.0)
2.2
(36.0)
0.0
(32.0)
−3.0
(26.6)
−4.2
(24.4)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 89.4
(3.52)
84.4
(3.32)
78.4
(3.09)
74.3
(2.93)
42.6
(1.68)
12.5
(0.49)
2.1
(0.08)
1.9
(0.07)
14.1
(0.56)
47.4
(1.87)
79.6
(3.13)
81.2
(3.20)
607.9
(23.93)
Average precipitation days 10.5 10.1 9.9 10.3 7.3 3.5 0.9 1.4 3.4 7.6 9.8 9.6 84.3
Average relative humidity (%) 75 78 76 75 72 68 57 57 62 70 72 77 70
Mean monthly sunshine hours 174.3 176.2 226.6 236.9 283.4 305.5 347.8 328.4 264.4 227.7 176.5 165.8 2,913.5
Source 1: NOAA[35]
Source 2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (extremes and humidity)[36]

Districts - Quartiers (in French)Edit

  • Agdal
  • Al Bassatine
  • Ancienne Médina
  • Bassatine
  • Bab El Khmiss
  • Bel Air
  • Belle Vue (1, 2 et 3)
  • Berrima
  • Bni-Mhmmed
  • Borj Meshqoq
  • Borj Moulay Omar
  • Kamilia
  • Belle vue 3
  • Diour Salam
  • El Hedim Place
  • El Malah Lakdim
  • El Manar
  • El Mansour (1, 2, 3 et 4)
  • El Menzeh
  • Ennasre
  • Hamria (new city district)
  • Hay Salam
  • Hacienda
  • Hay El Fakharin
  • Kasbat Hadress
  • Marjane
  • Mellah
  • Neejarine
  • Ouislane (municipality)
  • Place d'Armes
  • Plaisance
  • Riad
  • Roua
  • Rouamzine
  • Sbata
  • Sidi Amar
  • Sidi Baba
  • Sidi Bouzekri
  • Sidi Said
  • Touargua
  • Toulal (municipality)
  • Volubilis
  • Wjeh Arouss
  • Zerhounia
  • Zehoua
  • Zitoune

PrefectureEdit

Meknes is the seat of the prefecture of Meknès, which consists of 6 municipalities (including the city Meknes) and 15 rural communes.[37]

Historic monuments and landmarksEdit

 
Aerial view of the northern part of the old medina of Meknes, near Bab Berda'in

The main historic monuments of the city are concentrated in the medina (old city) and the vast former Kasbah of Moulay Ismail to the south. The most notable monuments are listed below.

Place el-HedimEdit

 
Crowds gathering in el-Hedim Square at the end of the day

Often compared to the Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakesh, el-Hedim Square (Place el-Hedim) is a vast plaza at the southern end of the old city, before the main gates of Moulay Isma'il's former royal palace complex. The square's name, el-Hedim, means "the rubble/debris" and refers to the demolitions which Moulay Isma'il carried out here during the construction of his palaces. He left this open space as a public square to separate his palace from the rest of the city.[23][14] Since then, the square has become the focus of various activities including evening entertainers such as storytellers, acrobats, and musicians.[38]

Mosques and madrasasEdit

  • Grand mosque of Meknes: The old city's most important mosque and one of its oldest, covering about 3,500 square meters and was founded in the 12th century by the Almoravids, although renovated multiple times since.[13]
  • Madrasa Bou Inania: The city's most famous madrasa (school for higher learning in Islamic sciences) was established by the Marinid sultan Abu al-Hasan in 1335-36 but is now named after his son Abu Inan (who may have later restored it).[13] Open to tourists today, it is one of the most richly decorated buildings in the city.[16][13][24]
  • Nejjarine Mosque: Often reputed to be the oldest in the city, this mosque also dates back to the Almoravid period, though it has been modified multiple times.[11]:212–213
  • Lalla Aouda Mosque: The main mosque of the city's former kasbah and of Moulay Isma'il's palaces, it was first founded in the Marinid era but completely rebuilt by Moulay Isma'il between 1672 and 1678.[39] Its prominent minaret is visible from the adjoining Place Lalla Aouda (Lalla Awda Square).
  • Bab Berda'in Mosque: The mosque, located near the northern gate of the medina (Bab Berda'in) was completed in 1709[11] on the orders of Morocco's first female minister, Khnata bent Bakkar.[26][27][28] The mosque was the site of a tragedy in 2010 when its historic minaret collapsed, killing 41 people. The mosque has since been repaired and its minaret rebuilt.[40][41][38]
  • Ar-Roua Mosque: The largest mosque in Meknes, it was built by Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah between 1757 and 1790. It is located near the Heri al-Mansur palace in the southern part of the Kasbah of Moulay Isma'il.[25][24][16]
  • Zitouna Mosque: A large mosque founded by Sultan Moulay Isma'il around 1687.[16][16]:244
  • Zawiya of Sidi Mohammed Ben Aissa‎: An important mausoleum and religious complex (zawiya) just outside the city walls to the northwest, originally dating from the late 18th century but modified later.[16]:65 Mohamed ben 'Aissa, founder of the Aissawiya, a major Sufi brotherhood in Morocco, is buried here. He is considered the patron saint of Meknes, and his annual moussem (festival) is one of the most intense and was historically known for its displays of self-mutilation.[42][38]
  • Zawiya of Sidi Kaddour el-Alami‎: A richly-decorated mosque and religious complex honoring the tomb of Sidi Kaddour el-Alami, a famous Moroccan poet who died in 1850.[16]:179

Fortifications and city gatesEdit

  • Bab Mansur al-'Alj: The most famous gateway of the city (also known as Bab Mansour or Bab el-Mansur), this gate overlooks the southern end of Place el-Hedim and acted as the ceremonial grand entrance to the Kasbah of Moulay Isma'il. It was begun in the later years of Moulay Isma'il's reign and finished in 1732 by his son Moulay Abdallah.[12][13] Its name comes from the architect and designer of the gate, Mansour al-'Alj (the "Victorious Apostate"), a former Christian slave who converted to Islam.[25][13][43] It is notable for its size and its rich decoration consisting of darj-wa-ktaf motifs carved into brick, filled with colourful zellij (mosaic tilework), and topped by a long and elaborate Arabic inscription painted on tile.[13]
  • Bab el-Khemis: A monumental western gate of the city, near the former Mellah, built by Moulay Isma'il in the early 18th century and richly decorated with motifs and zellij similar to Bab al-Mansur.[13]
  • Bab Berda'in: The monumental northern gate of the city, also built by Moulay Isma'il in 1720 and richly decorated.[16]
  • Borj Belkari: A bastion tower built in the 17th century as a part of the defensive walls of the Kasbah of Sultan Moulay Ismail in Meknes, Morocco.[44] Since 2003 it holds a pottery museum.[45][46]

Imperial Palaces of Moulay Isma'ilEdit

 
Map of the Kasbah of Moulay Ismail with its major areas indicated

The palace complex or "imperial city" of Sultan Moulay Isma'il was constructed over his entire 55-year reign from 1672 to 1727 (with some elements finished or remodeled shortly after). It occupies the site of the city's former medieval kasbah (citadel), and stretches over an area approximately four times larger than the old city itself. It was composed of several autonomous palaces along with vast gardens, religious buildings, and other amenities. The complex was also notable for its impressive infrastructure, which included a water supply system with hydraulic system of wells, norias (water extraction mechanism powered by wheel), canals, and underground pipes which distributed water to the royal city's many buildings. It also contained numerous monumental granaries and underground warehouses which stockpiled supplies that could allegedly sustain the city for a siege of ten years. Below is a list of some of its main areas and monuments.[25][23][47][13][12][20]

  • Place Lalla Aouda: A vast open square which stands behind (southeast of) Bab al-Mansur, which served as the former mechouar of the palace. It precedes the former Dar al-Kebira palace and gives access to the Lalla Aouda Mosque.[14]
  • Dar el-Kebira: The oldest palace in the kasbah, finished in 1679 and itself composed of multiple palaces. Its name means "the Great House". It was the private residence of the sultan and his family, connected directly to the Lalla Aouda Mosque and the later royal mausoleum. The palace fell into ruin after Moulay Isma'il's death (and after the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake), and has since become a residential neighbourhood where common people built their houses amidst the remains of Isma'il's massive palace walls, still visible in various places.[24]
  • Mausoleum of Moulay Isma'il: The royal mausoleum and funerary complex of Moulay Isma'il and some of his family members and successors. It was built under his reign but significantly modified by Ahmad ad-Dhahabi between 1727 and 1729. The funerary complex was originally entered from the dar al-Kebira to the north, but is nowadays entered by a 20th-century gate to the south. Still considered a religious site today, it is also open to tourists. It is composed of relatively austere courtyards leading to a richly-decorated indoor patio chamber, which in turn grants access to the tomb chamber of the sultan.[13][24]
  • Qubbat al-Khayyatin and the Qara Prison: The Qubbat al-Khayyatin is a standalone audience chamber or throne room where Moulay Isma'il once received foreign ambassadors. Underground, right next to it, is a large subterranean vaulted space known as the Qara Prison or Habs Qara. Although frequently described as a prison for Christian slaves, scholars agree that it was in fact a storage area and granary, one of many such structures throughout the royal city.[24][13][12]
  • Dar al-Makhzen: This vast walled enclosure, much larger and more rationally organized than the Dar el-Kebira, contained extensive gardens and two more main palaces in Moulay Isma'il's time, some of which have been restored or adapted for current use as one of the royal residences of the King of Morocco. The enclosure, generally known as the Dar al-Makhzen (not to be confused with the royal palaces of the same name in Fez and elsewhere), was divided into two sections. The western section was mostly occupied by the Bahrawiya Gardens but also contained a long narrow palace on its northern edge known as the Dar al-Madrasa ("House of the School"), most likely another private palace of the sultan. The eastern section, which is still entered via an ornate royal gate on its eastern perimeter (north of Heri es-Swani), was mostly occupied by the Qasr al-Muhannasha ("Palace of the Labyrinth"). This palace consisted of roughly eight different coutyards or garden enclosures and acted as both a reception palace and an administrative palace.[20][23][12]
  • Heri as-Swani and the Sahrij (Agdal Basin): The Sahrij or Agdal Basin is an enormous water basin or artificial lake south of the Dar al-Makhzen, which was originally a part of the royal city's water supply system. It measures 148.75 by 319 meters and is, on average, 1.2 meters deep.[13] Next to it, on its eastern side, is an enormous structure composed of two parts: the "House of the Ten Norias" (or Dar al-Ma) and the Heri as-Swani (or Heri es-Souani). The first of these is a monumental building of vaulted passages and domed chambers which contained a number of norias or wheel-powered hydraulic mechanisms which drew water from the phreatic table underground to the surface, from which it was delivered into the Sahrij or redistributed to the city. The second part, the Heri as-Swani, is attached to the south side of this building and is made up of 22 rows of monumental arches which once held up a vaulted roof (which has since collapsed). Although frequently misidentified as the "royal stables" of the palace, this structure was, once again, a massive granary and storehouse. Grain was originally delivered to the building by mules who climbed onto a roof terrace and dropped the grain directly into holes pierced above each vaulted chamber.[13][23][20][48]
  • Heri al-Mansur: One of the last constructions of Moulay Isma'il's reign, built between 1721 and 1725, its name means "Granary/silo of Victory", but it was also known as Dar al-Mansur[49] or Qasr al-Mansur[50] ("Palace of Victory"). It is located on the far southern perimeter of the Kasbah and consists of a massive building which seems to have served as a palace, fortress, and storehouse. The basement was taken up by storage rooms while the upper floor held reception rooms for the palace with views over the surrounding area. Located next to it were the Royal Stables of Moulay Isma'il (often misidentified with the Heri as-Swani today), which were reputed to be one of his palace city's most impressive features. It consisted of horse stalls sheltered under two parallel arcades (rows of arches) which stretched for 1200 meters on either side of a water canal which provided water for the horses. Unfortunately, the stables have not been preserved and very little remains of them today.[20][23][24][25]:396

MuseumsEdit

  • Dar Jamaï Museum: The best-known museum in Meknes, housing a number of artifacts and art objects from the city and other regions in Morocco. It is housed in a late 19th-century palace with gardens and ornate rooms built in 1882 by Mokhtar ben Larbi Jamai, who served as Grand Vizier under Sultan Moulay Hassan (ruled 1873–1894).[51][38] His family also built the Jamai Palace in Fes.
  • Musée de Meknès (Meknes Museum): A small museum housed in a structure just northeast of Bab al-Mansur, exhibiting artifacts from all over Morocco.[38]

Outlying sitesEdit

The ruins of the Roman town of Volubilis (Oualili), another UNESCO World Heritage Site, are about half an hour to the north, as is the village and important pilgrimage site of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun.[38]

EconomyEdit

 
A traditional market street in the center of the medina (old city)

Meknes is an economic centre in Morocco with various products from three sectors (agriculture, industry and services), which makes the city economically competitive and attractive for investment.

CompetitivenessEdit

A December 2015 World Bank report classified Meknes as one of the three most competitive cities in Africa.[52] Two of those three competitive African cities are Moroccan: Meknes and Tangier.

AgricultureEdit

Meknes is considered to be the capital of agriculture in Morocco. And the Saïss plain is one of the most fertile and rich plains in Morocco and Meknes is the centre of this plain. [53]

 
This image shows the geographical structure of the Saïss plain around Meknes area in Morocco.

Each year Meknes holds the International Agriculture Show in Morocco(French: Salon International de l'Agriculture au Maroc) since April 2006. This agriculture show has an area of more than 250000 square meters, with more than 60 countries participating, and more than 1200 exhibitors.[54] The lands around Meknes area are known to be fertile and productive. The high elevation, fertility and the fresh water of those lands favor the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, most notably: peaches, nectarines, prunes, apples, potatoes, onions and garlic. Meknes is also known for its olives and olive oil. Livestock raising, particularly sheep and cattle, is widespread. Meknes has large industrial units for milk and dairy production that fulfill the most of the needs of the region.

IndustryEdit

Industry in Meknes is of light type, most of it is related to food processing especially in the Commune of Mejjat, and chemical and para-chemical industry in other industrial zones like the Agropolis industrial and agribusiness zone. Add to those the textile and metallic manufacturing which are old industries in the city. The year 2016 marks a new era of new industry in the city of Meknes, it includes electrical wire, embedded systems, and automotive parts production companies.

Major CompaniesEdit

Name Year
Yazaki March 2016
Delphi Automotive 2016
Lafarge Holcim
Salidor 1993
Yura Corporation 2016

Meknes AgropolisEdit

Agropolis is Morocco's first competitive. cluster dedicated to agribusiness. Its unique geographical location in central Morocco, together with its agricultural potential, makes it an attractive, rapidly developing platform. Agropolis welcomes investors in a first-class environment offering infrastructure that meets international norms as well as a wide range of real estate services, notably equipped plots of land and delegated management possibilities at competitive rates. Meknes Agropolis is the ideal ecosystem to implement a project focused on agribusiness, logistical activities and marketing, packaging units, tertiary activities, training and R&D.[55]

The first phase of the project has a land surface of 130 ha. The Agropolis Zone is 12 km from Meknes and 2.5 hours drive from Casablanca. Casablanca Port is 246 km far from Agropolis and Tanger-Med Port is 382 km away.

ServicesEdit

Many of the services products in Meknes are related to tourism due to the attractions of the old city district (the medina).

TransportEdit

 
Meknès Ville train station

RoadEdit

The geographical location of the city of Meknes makes it one of the important transport hubs in Morocco. The city is accessed via the A2 expressway with two exits, one to the east of the city and another to the west.

RailEdit

Two train stations are located in the new city district (French: Ville Nouvelle) of Meknes, with trains each hour to the east, west, and north of Morocco. Operated by ONCF, the following table lists destinations reachable via Meknes railway stations (round-trips):

Direction Route Frequency
West Fez - Meknes - Kenitra - Rabat - Casa Voyageurs Every 2 hours
West and South West Fez - Meknes - Sidi Kacem - Sidi Slimane - Kenitra - Salé - Rabat - Mohammedia - Casa Ain-Sebaa - Casa Voyageurs - Casa Oasis - Berrechid - Settat - Ben Guerir - Marrakesh Every 2 hours
North Fez - Meknes - Sidi Kacem - Ksar el-Kebir - Tangier - Ksar es-Seghir 6 trains a day
East Casa Voyageurs - Casa Ain-Sebaa - Mohammedia - Rabat - Salé - Kenitra - Sidi Slimane - Sidi Kacem - Meknes - Fez - Taza - Guercif - Taourirt - Oujda Two trains a day
West Meknes - Sidi Kacem - Sidi Slimane - Kenitra - Salé - Rabat - Mohammedia - Casa Ain-Sebaa - Casa Port 3 trains every Sunday PM

As mentioned above, Meknes city has two train stations, and their names are: Meknes Railway Station (French: Gare de Meknès) and Meknes Amir Abdul Qadir Railway Station (French: Gare de Meknès Amir Abdelkader). All the mentioned trains cited in the previous table stop by the former station; and except the first row of the table, all the remaining trains stop by the latter station.

AirEdit

The nearest airport is Fes-Saïss Airport (IATA: FEZ, ICAO: GMFF) accessible only by road transport.

Otherwise, Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, with more international flights and destinations, is conveniently accessible by train.

Public TransportEdit

Public transport in Meknes is managed by the urban commune and it consists of:

  • A large network of buses that cover all the area of the prefecture, and even outside of the prefecture like the line 16 to El Hajeb.
  • Taxis in the city exist in two types: small taxis with 3 places Max that work with fares system; and bigger taxis with 6 places Max that have a predetermined trajectory and fixed prices.

EducationEdit

Meknes is home to the public Moulay Ismail University, with actually the following faculties, schools and institutions divided among three campuses in the cities: Meknes, Errachidia and Khenifra.

in Meknes:

  • Faculty of Sciences - FS, created in 1982
  • Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences - FLSH, created in 1982
  • Normal Superior School - ENS, created in 1983
  • Faculty of Juridical, Economical and Social Sciences - FSJES, created in 1993
  • Superior School of Technology - EST, created in 1993
  • National Superior School of the Arts and Professions - ENSAM, created in 1997

in Errachidia:

  • Faculty of Science and Technology - FST, created in 1994
  • Poly disciplinary Faculty - FP, created in 2006

in Khenifra:

  • Superior School of Technology - EST, created in 2014

In addition to Moulay Ismail University, numerous private institutes for higher education exist in Meknes.

International relationsEdit

See also List of twin towns and sister cities in Morocco

Twin towns – Sister citiesEdit

Meknes is twinned with:

ReferencesEdit

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BibliographyEdit

See also: Bibliography of the history of Meknes

External linksEdit