Meknès never set out to be an ‘imperial city’. But, as chance would have it, the inhabitants of Fès and Marrakech showed little enthusiasm for 17th-century ruler and builder Moulay Ismaïl, and so heturned his attentions towards Meknès. Strategically situated at the heart of Morocco, Meknès became his capital and he embarked on a massive building programme. Meknès is known as a city of minarets- gentle green or grey in colour, the tall, angular, linear towers dominate the old town, which, with its cream colour-washed houses and terraces sits above the narrow valley of the Oued Boufekrane. There are pleasant souks, a medersa – but, above all, an easy pace which is almost relaxing after the tension and press of Fès. The most famous monument is the great Bab Mansour el Aleuj, and although\today little is left except for vast pisé walls, once upon a time this great gate to a palace complex was worthy of the Thousand and One Nights. Meknès also offers some rewarding side trips – to the Roman site of Volubilis, and to the pilgrimage centre of Moulay Idriss.

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