Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes
Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes: Meknes is a historic Moroccan city with a rich and varied history. Built in the 11th century, the city has preserved a number of historic sites from that era. In honor of its history and rich heritage, here are Meknes’ 18 must-visit monuments.
1. Bab Mansour Laalej
Bab Mansour Laalej is an 18th-century Ottoman gateway in the medina of Meknes, Morocco. It was built in 1771 on the orders of Sultan Mohamed Ben Abdallah, who had chosen Meknes as his capital. The gate is one of the city’s most important monuments, and stands at the entrance to a small square known as “Plateau des Ambassadeurs”.
Bab Mansour Laalej is one of the few Ottoman gates in Morocco to have retained its original function as a monumental city entrance. It has been declared a national monument by the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and Communication.
2. Place Lahdim
Place Lahdim is a large square in the center of Meknes, Morocco. It was built in 1755 by Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah, who also ordered the construction of several other architectural monuments in Meknes. It is located on the edge of the Medina district, near the Bab Mansour gate. named after Moulay Ismail’s minister, Ahmed El Mansour Ben Lahdim.
The square is surrounded by arcades supported by columns with Corinthian capitals. At its center is a fountain with a small pavilion at each corner. On one side of the square is the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, built between 1670 and 1671 by the architect Abderrahman Mouhaoui El Ghalbani in memory of Moulay Ismail, who was buried here in 1672.
3. Habs Qara
The Habs Qara is a castle in the medina of Meknes. It was built by Moulay Ismail, the Sultan of Morocco, between 1669 and 1672. The name Habs Qara means “Black Fortress” in Arabic.
Rectangular in shape, the fortress has a perimeter of 380 meters, and its walls are thick enough to withstand cannon fire. The entrance is on the north side, at the same level as the ground outside.
The fortress has two floors: the upper floor houses the residence and reception rooms, while the lower floor contains the stables and other rooms used for storage.
4. Dar Jamai Palace
Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes: The Dar Jamai Palace is a historic building in Meknes, Morocco. It was built in the 19th century by Sultan Moulay Hassan I. The sultan was inspired by European architecture and wanted to create a palace worthy of his status as ruler of Morocco.
The Dar Jamai palace is located to the east of the city center, near the Bab Mansour gate and the Bab el-Mansour mosque. The palace is surrounded by a garden and covers an area of around 5 hectares. The main entrance is called Bab el-Mansour (Mansour Gate), after one of the gates in the city’s medina.
5. Medersa Bou Inania
The Medersa Bou Inania is a madrasa in Meknes, Morocco. It was built by Sultan Moulay Ismail and completed in 1792. The building is considered one of Meknes’ most important monuments and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The medersa was designed by the architect Muhammad Sijilmasi, who also designed other buildings in Meknes, including the Bou Inania mosque. The madrasa was built on top of an earlier building destroyed by fire in 1759, which had served as both a palace library and accommodation for travelers.
The madrasa’s main entrance is marked by two rectangular towers with conical tops: one on each side of the main doorway, which leads to a large courtyard surrounded on three sides by student cells (douaa). On the fourth side, there are two additional entrances: one leads to a smaller courtyard where children learned to read and write Arabic script, and the other leads to a second courtyard where students studied arithmetic, geometry and algebraic equations.
6. Place Lalla Aouda
Place Lalla Aouda is a public square in the medina of Meknes, Morocco. It is located at the intersection of avenue Mohammed V and rue Ibn Rochd. The square is named after Princess Lalla Aouda Bint Al Hassan, who is buried in the Dar el Makhzen palace on the south side of the square.
The square was built during the French protectorate of Morocco in 1939 by French architect Maurice Durand (1879-1954). It was inaugurated on March 22, 1940 by King Mohammed V, who named it “Sidi Abderrahmane”. During the Second World War, it was renamed “Place de Gaulle”, but reverted to its original name after Moroccan independence in 1956.
7. Médersa Filalia
The Médersa Filali is a historic madrasa in Meknes, Morocco. It was founded by Moulay Ismail as a center for the teaching of Malékite law. It is located in the heart of the Meknes medina, near the royal palace and the Bab Mansour gate.
The building was constructed in 1792 on the orders of Moulay Ismail, who was fascinated by Islamic architecture. The architect was Moulay El Hassan, who also built the Hassan Tower and the Hassan Mosque. The building’s architecture is inspired by Andalusian art and features an outer wall with two rows of horseshoe arches, each row comprising 8 arches and a dome above. The inner courtyard has been compared to that of the Alhambra, with its large pool surrounded by arcades on three sides and a gallery above.
The school had around 100 pupils when it opened, but quickly expanded to accommodate around 300 pupils a year. It closed after independence in 1956, but reopened in 2010 as part of efforts to revive traditional Moroccan culture.
8. The Royal Palace
Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes: The Royal Palace was built by Sultan Moulay Ismail and completed in 1716. It is located in the heart of Meknes, Morocco’s third-largest city. The palace is a vast complex of buildings containing rooms for receptions, concerts, conferences and banquets. The palace can accommodate up to 10,000 people at any one time.
The building comprises a central courtyard with a fountain and a garden surrounded by three-storey arcades covered with painted cedar wood panels. The lower floor houses the reception rooms, while the upper floor contains suites for visiting heads of state.
9. Great Mosque – Jamaâ Al Kabir
The Grand Mosque is Morocco’s largest place of worship. It is located in Meknes and was built for Sultan Moulay Ismail, who reigned from 1672 to 1727. The mosque was designed by Ahmed el-Mansour and his son Mohammed.
It took over thirty years to complete this masterpiece, with 40,000 workers on the job at any given time. The mosque is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, with its high arches, large courtyard and ornate stonework.
The mosque has been renovated several times since its construction, notably during the reign of Sultan Moulay Hafid (1822-59), who added a new entrance and minaret, as well as new decorations throughout the building.
10. The Berdaïne Gate
Porte Berdaïne, also known as Bab Berdaïne, is a historic gateway to the Moroccan city of Meknes. It is located in the south-western part of the medina district.
The gate was built in the late 16th century by Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, Sultan of Morocco from 1672 to 1727 and founder of Meknes (then known as al-Maknassa), who was born in the city and reigned until his death. It bears the name of his father, Ali Pacha al-Alami, who died in 1595 after being raised by one of his relatives, Moulay Ismail’s uncle Abdallah al-Ghalib.
11. Tomb of Mohamed Ben Aïssa
Mohamed Ben Aïssa’s tomb is located just outside Meknes, Morocco. The monument was built in 1803 to commemorate the life of Mohamed Ben Aïssa, famous Islamic scholar and soldier of the Almoravid dynasty.
The tomb is an impressive structure that has stood the test of time. It comprises three chambers decorated with mosaics, marble and stucco. The façade resembles a mosque, with its ornate arches, columns and domes.
The tomb of Mohamed Ben Aïssa is one of Meknes’ most popular tourist attractions, giving visitors a glimpse of Moroccan history through its architecture, works of art and other artifacts from the period.
12. Bab El Khemis
The Bab el Khemis is one of the most important and oldest gates in the Meknes medina. It was built by Moulay Ismail in 1672, who ordered its construction during his first stay in Meknes. The gate was named after an ancient mosque located nearby. The mosque was demolished, but the name remains. Bab el Khemis faces Bab er Rbiaa, also built by Moulay Ismail as part of his campaign to extend his capital’s city walls.
13. Heri Souani and Dar El Ma
Heri Souani is a unique and magnificent monument. Built in the historic city of Meknes, it is a structure that was built in 1739 by Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdellah Al-Moumen, one of the country’s founders. It’s an old house that has been transformed into a museum to display archaeological collections. Visitors can see arts and crafts, such as traditional Moroccan furniture and carpets. A visit here is highly recommended for tourists who want to learn more about Morocco’s history, as the house contains a wealth of information on local traditions and crafts.
14. Bab Er-Rih
Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes: Bab Er-Rih is one of the most beautiful gates in the Fès medina. It was built by Sultan Moulay Hassan I in 1873.
The original gate was called Bab el-Ftouh, meaning “Gate of Triumph”. Later, it was named Bab Er-Rih (literally “the red gate”), because of its red color.
This monumental gate features four towers, each crowned by a turret and two crenellated galleries. The central tower is taller than the others and features an iron gateway that opens onto the street leading to the city center. Bab Er-Rih was built as an architectural symbol of power and glory for Meknes, then the capital of Morocco.
15. Moulay Ismaïl Mausoleum
The Moulay Ismaïl Mausoleum is a monument located in Meknes, Morocco. It was built by Moulay Ismaïl in the 18th century. The mausoleum is a blend of classical and Moroccan styles and has been described as one of Morocco’s most imposing monuments.
The complex was built on the orders of Moulay Ismaïl, who reigned from 1672 to 1727. Construction took place between 1704 and 1720, and continued for several decades after his death. The main building is a square structure with an octagonal minaret at each corner, topped by a cupola. The interior is decorated with geometric motifs in black and white marble and mosaics depicting flowers, fruit and birds.
The building contains two mosques: Masjid al-Qiyam and Masjid al-Jami’ al-Kabir (Great Mosque). The latter is used for Friday prayers, while the former houses the tomb of the sultan’s father, Ahmed al-Mansur (1603-1617), and other members of his family, including Abdallah ibn Muhammad I (1672-1727), who succeeded Moulay Ismaïl.
16. Koubat Al Khayatine
Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes: Koubat Al Khayatine is a monument located in the city of Meknes, Morocco. It was built in the 14th century during the reign of Moulay Ismail. One of the city’s most important monuments, it is also known as the “Koubba” or “Mausoleum”.
It sits atop a hill overlooking the Medersa Ben Youssef and the gates of Bab El Mansour. The monument was built for two people: Moulay Ismail’s uncle, who died during his reign, and his son, who predeceased him at the age of 13. They were buried here, but unfortunately their tombs were destroyed by time and weather, so that today there is no trace of them, except for their names engraved on a marble plaque that has been placed near their graves.
The architecture of Koubat Al Khayatine consists of two parts: the first comprises a large wooden building covering a platform where three tombs are located; the second comprises another stone building with four doors leading to each tomb inside.
17. Ksar El Mansour
This magnificent monument is a popular tourist attraction. Ksar El Mansour is located in the heart of the city and was built by Sultan Moulay Ismail, who ruled Morocco from 1672 to 1727.
The former palace was transformed into a military fortress in the 18th century. The building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and boasts an impressive mix of styles, illustrating Moroccan craftsmanship in all its splendor.
Ksar El Mansour is located near the Grand Mosque, some 500 meters from Place Maata Khadija. It’s an ideal place to visit if you want to learn more about Morocco’s rich history, culture and traditions.
19. Volubilis archaeological site
Volubilis is an archaeological site in north-west Morocco, about 20 km from Meknes and 60 km from Rabat. The Volubilis was a Roman colony located on the site of present-day Azrou. It was founded around 40 AD under Emperor Claudius (41-54) as Colonia Marciana Ulpia Traiana Thamugadi. Trajan named it after his sister Marciana (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), who had married Ulpianus, son of Gaius Arrius Antoninus and father of Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a man who would play an important role in the rise to power of Septimius Severus and, later, the emperor himself. The city reached its zenith under the reigns of Trajan, Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, when it became one of the largest Roman cities in Mauretania Tingitana, with a population of around 50,000.
Visit the 19 best monuments in Meknes
In 2011, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as one of four Moroccan cultural sites under consideration by UNESCO. It currently receives between 16,000 and 18,000 visitors a year.
Moulay Ismail’s legacy lives on in the city of Meknes. His palace bears witness to his military might, and his former military camp reminds us of the length of his reign. These monuments are a must-see when visiting Meknes.