Next day, plan was to explore Meknes. Meknes is about 60kms west of Fes, and is another old city (1000ys old) that was an Arab capital. Meknes is smaller than Fes, and is home to the Moroccan Ismaili’s.
Meknes was the capital of Sultan Moulay Ismail (again claiming direct descendance from the Prophet Mohammed) who was one of the Arab dynasties to rule Morocco. Moulay Ismail’s followers are the Ismaili’s.
Sultan Moulay Ismail ruled the area for 55yrs, and he converted Meknes into a spectacular capital city, complete with 50 palaces inside a 45km long Medina wall, with 20 Bab’s or gates that controlled access to Meknes. The lasting remains of Moulay Ismail’s reign is the Ville Imperiale which were his palaces, gardens, barracks, stables and granaries. Unfortunately, the palaces, gardens and barracks were under serious renovations, and hence were closed for visitors. Only the granaries and stables were open; more on that later.
Before leaving Fes, I could not help taking a few more pictures below
By the Tannery, with donkeys carrying away the processed hides to the souks and Fondouks for processing.
We had rented a car, but the car rental agency was at the Fes airport, so we took a taxi to the airport, stopping along the way to get some cash from the bank, and a local SIM card.
At the airport, only I was allowed in (without plane ticket or itinerary) to rent the car. As usual, it does take some time to rent cars in foreign places. Got the car (Citroen Berlingo), which is a small minivan; with plenty of room for 4 people and luggage.
The car came with no gas, so first stop was the first gas station we could find for a diesel fill up, then then we drove to Meknes on the Auto route (tollway). The Auto route was very good, smooth and extremely well maintained.
Since I did not have cheap data plan on my mobile, I used an offline map on the mobile, using the mobile’s GPS system. This was pretty good, and we managed to get to Meknes town center, where we had planned to visit Moulay Ismail’s Ville Imperiale; but as mentioned, it was closed for renovations.
So we called Fatima using our local mobile, at whose Riad (Riad Amazigh) we were staying. She came over & meet us at the famous Bab Mansour, led us to the parking and then we loaded our bags onto a cart, and walked into the Medina to her Riad in the old Medina.
Fatima settled us into her Riad, another nice traditionally decorated old Moroccan house, in the heart of the Medina. We took the rooftop room which was cool and had a nice view of the old Median. Fatima gave us a brief into to Meknes, and oriented us to how to find our way back to the Riad, gave us some ideas of where to go and what to do, and off we went to explore.
The Median here was similar to Fes, except smaller, and less crowded, due to smaller population, and still very pleasant and easy to get lost within.
Meknes is famous for the Place El Hedim, which was a large square that the Sultan Moulay Ismail had had cleared out to make an open space for all citizens to enjoy a communal gathering area. Place El Hedim is opposite the Bab Mansour, and is a large open air square, with a fresh fruit and vegetable market to one side. We headed off to the market from the square before the market closed for the evening. See pics below
Outside the covered market was a huge area full of stalls of breads, and fruits mostly, but also clothing etc
Cherries, Plums, Apricots, Oranges, Lemons, Loquat,…….
We stopped at a comedian where there was a large crowd, and the comedian grabbed me and took me in the center, and talked a lot in Berber, made me say a few words, and made the crowd laugh a lot, at my expense 🙂 . Never mind; I don’t mind making people happy.
Then he grabbed Dilshad and took her into the center and she danced a little for the crowd; again a lot of laughter 🙂
Check out the short video below
By this time, the sun had started setting……
We made our way back to the Riad and after freshening up; decide to go have a pizza. We were tired of Tagine, and wanted good old fast food :(. Fatima, was ever helpful as are all Moroccans we have encountered so far; & took us to a nice small pizza place in an alleyway in the Median that was relatively inexpensive (30 Dhiram for a medium pizza; or $3); and the pizza was fresh and excellent.
While we were eating, a man drove in on a scooter with his dog riding with him as below 🙂 to pick up a take out pizza. The dog was actually riding like this on the scooter, with his owner sitting behind him.
After the pizza, we headed back to the Riad for a good rest, as we have a long day ahead.