Meknes, Morocco (pt 2/2)

Spending a day or two in Meknes is sufficient to see all the sites. You can either travel by taxi, car, or simply on foot. If you need any help sorting out directions, the people are friendly and more than willing to help point you or lead you in the right direction. You’ll notice that the atmosphere is less commerce oriented and hassle is nonexistent when compared with some places in the Fez medina.

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In Meknes, be sure to check out the Haras Regional, which is a breeding and training farm of the finest horses. In the high season, make reservations well in advance if you’d like to go horseback riding.

The Heri as Souani, or the Royal Granaries, are also quite spectacular and is where Moulay Ismail would store his grain that would last decades, if needed. He had the compound constructed so that the grain would be kept constantly cool with massive walls and by using donkeys to turn a water wheel that would cause water to circulate underground.

Another must-see attraction is the Zaouia of Sidi Mohammed ben Aissa; this shrine represents one of Morocco’s most fantastic legends – a cult known as the Aissoua who would undergo painful rituals in order to appease their gods. Ben Aissa is considered a saint in Morocco and is celebrated each year the day before the Prophet’s birthday. The festival is eerie, mystic, and mesmerizing.

All in all, Meknes’ medina isn’t as impressive as the one in Fez, but the city holds some gems worth your time. The people are friendly and the surrounding rich fields make for delightful scenery. Before heading to Volibulis or Fez, be sure to spend time exploring what was to become North Africa’s, and perhaps the world’s, most guarded and fortified treasures.

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