Fez driving you nuts? Nearby Meknes is a vibrant, modern city bustling with nightlife, restaurants and an impressive imperial city created in the 17th century by King Moulay Ismaïl, with numerous historical monuments and natural sites; it is also the nearest city to the Roman ruins of Volubilis (Oualili). Since it's relatively ignored by most tourists, it's also free of the usual hassles (touts, faux guides, etc.) that plague the other tourist centers. The prices in Meknes are among the most reasonable in Morocco and the people are much more polite and nicer than in the other cities. It is also one of the more liberal places in the country: unveiled women are much more often to be seen on the streets and female solo travelers especially enjoy Meknes as a welcome break from the permanent unwanted attention they get everywhere else.
Meknes is located on the Fès-Rabat railway line and has two train stations. The smaller one called 1 Gare de Meknès-Amir Abdelkader is more centrally located in the new town (ville nouvelle), while the bigger 2 Gare Meknès-Ville is a bit further east.
Meknes is connected by train to most major cities like Marrakech (6½h, 174 dirham), Tangier (3½–4½h, 85 dirham), Rabat (2¼h, 69 dirham), Casablanca (3¼h), Fes (40min, 20 dirham) or Oujda (6h, 130 dirham). Specific times and prices can be found on the website of the Moroccan National Office for Railways.
The 3 main bus station (Gare Routière) is west of the medina, colocated with the main grand taxi station, while CTM has its own 4 Gare CTM Meknes, brand new station, near Meknes train station (east of the new town).
There are buses to Meknès from almost anywhere in Morocco, including Agadir (11 hrs; 200dh-230dh), Casablanca (5 hrs; 80dh-90dh), Chefchaouen (5 1/2 hrs; 60dh-80dh), Erfoud (10 hrs, 100dh-110dh), Fez (1 hr; 20dh), Marrakech (9 hrs; 140dh-160dh), Rabat (3 1/2 hrs; 50dh-60dh) and Tangier (6 hrs, 80dh-90dh).
Chefchaouen is accessible by bus from the Gare Routière for 50 dirham per person. Busses leave Meknes at 05:00, 12:00, and 24:00. The 05:00 bus is direct while the other two buses stop in Dardara, about 8 km away from the city, so you have to take a petit taxi to Chefchaouen from there. The trip by bus takes approximately 4 hours. There are also grand taxis outside of the bus station that will get you to Chefchaouen by way of Ouezzane. The taxi from Meknes to Ouezzane takes about 2 hours and costs 50 dirham per person in a full taxi (6 passengers). It takes about 2 hours from Ouezzane to Chefchaouen and costs 35 dirham per person in a full taxi. It's possible to travel with fewer than 6 people, though you'll have to pay the full fare for 6 people. These taxi drivers do not seem interested in overcharging tourists, and without negotiation you should be able to pay the standard fare that Moroccan passengers pay.
By grand taxi
Grand taxis arrive and leave from several places, the most popular being El-Amir Abdelkader train station and to the left of the main bus station. Opposite the road of the Institute Francais is also a quite large taxi rank.
5 Grand taxi stand to Volubilis.
Meknès is located on Autoroute 2 (Rabat-Fès), which continues further east on N6 to Oujda.
Road N13 goes over the mountain range to Tetouan and Tangier or Ceuta to the north, in the northbound direction it goes to Azrou and At-Rachida.
Petit taxis (small blue cars of Fiat Uno or Peugeot 205 brands) abound, as well as an efficient and comprehensive, if cramped local bus service. The minimum cost for a petit taxi is 5 dirham (the price is calculated based on 1.40 dirham + 0.20 dirham/100 m but you should expect a surcharge of 50% after 20:00), while the bus is slightly cheaper. Buses are, however, quite difficult to navigate because they are, in the majority of cases, very crowded and operate to transport people between agglomerations and the ville nouvelle and Medina.
The ville nouvelle (new town), which is known as Hamrya in Arabic, is easily navigated on foot, as is the medina. The two sides of town are connected by a bridge over the dry Oued Boufekrane (river), with a McDonald's placed conveniently in between for weary (or wary!) travelers.
Hamrya is a new town with all entertainment facilities, You can find all what you need there, but there is no monuments or things to see except if you like to chat with people. Medina is the other side is the ancient Meknes and it contains all the monuments of this wonderful city.
- 1 Bab Mansour. Bab means "gate" or "door" in Arabic, and Bab Mansour is the largest and most striking of Meknes' many gates (27 gates). It's directly across from Lahdim Square, the medina's main square. The gate is nowadays used for art exhibitions.
- 2 Lahdim Square. Redone with new brickwork, this square once rivaled Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech but is now significantly less exciting (though there are a few nice cafés and snack spots in which to people-watch).
- 3 Heri es-Souani. You can catch a glimpse of the grandeur of Moulay Ismail at these enormous granaries and horse stables, and sit beside the large Agdal Basin.
- 4 Meknes Royal Golf Course. The former palace gardens, now converted into a golf course. This place is absolutely marvelous. The gardens are beautifully kept and it is entirely surrounded by palace walls. It is open to the public. There is also a public café on the grounds. It's possible to eat on the terrace overlooking the course but you need to book in advance.
- 5 Medersa Bou Inania. A beautiful Qur'anic school; you can explore all floors including the roof. 10 dirham.
- 6 Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. 9AM–6:30PM. Although non-Muslims are not permitted to enter, they can view the tombs, which hold the body of Moulay Ismail and other relatives, from the entrance. Closed for renovation as of Feb 2018.
- 7 Prison Kara (Habs Qara). A huge underground prison where Moulay Ismail allegedly kept prisoners.
- 8 Palais Al-Mansour. Half destroyed palace built in 17th-century to be king's summer residence.
- 9 Agdal Basin (Bassin Souani). Basin built at the time of Ismail Moulay in the imperial city, northwest of the granaries.
- 10 Mausoleum of Sidi ben Aïssa. Closed to non-Muslims.
- Al masjid AlAdam. Meknes' largest and oldest standing mosque (note: Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter).
- 11 Dar Jamai Museum. W-M 10AM–5:30PM. This old palace, now a museum, is located at the back of Place Hedim. It now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts, which is currently exhibiting artifacts, jewels, and old copies of the Qur'an. Dar Jamai is a gorgeous museum with exqusite gardens on the outside. Closed for renovation as of Feb 2018. 10 dirham.
- 12 Meknes Museum (100 m away from Bab Mansour). Small museum located in an old mansion. 10 dirham.
- Public swimming pool. There is a very popular public swimming pool between the medina and the new city, on a hot day it's a godsend
Meknes isn't a shopper's paradise, but it's certainly cheaper than nearby Fez! The medina is chock full of traditional Moroccan clothing and rugs, as well as the popular Moroccan shoe, bilgha.. it's also known for it's iron made articles; the local artisanal speciality. The best way to enter the medina is at the back of Place Hedim, next to Dar Jamai. Herein you can find many shops catering to tourists. If you sojourn a bit deeper into the medina, you'll find plenty of unique shops selling jewelry, household goods, and other treasures.
Be sure to bargain! Don't accept the shopkeeper's first offer - not only does it ruin it for tourists who come after you, but it also goes against Moroccan custom. The easiest way to bargain, particularly without knowledge of French or Arabic, is to offer exactly half of the given price (or 75% for expensive or large-scale items). From there, the shopkeeper will go down a bit; you are expected to raise your price slowly until you come to an agreement.
If you can't agree on a price, try walking out of the store - this will generally lower the price significantly. And try not to be too stingy - the value of an item is your appreciation of it, not its ticket price.
There are dozens of restaurants and snack bars lining the main road, Rue Antsirape offering the staples of harira, tagine, cous cous and of course rotisserie chicken. A few restaurants on Rue Ghana, just off Rue Antsirabi, are popular with travellers and offer 40-dirham set menus.
- Le Pub, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until midnight. Excellent, if slightly experimental, takes on French cuisine. Reliable pizza and alcohol license. 50-120 dirham.
- Athenos, Avenue Mohammed V. Open for lunch only. Delicious Moroccan staples, such as tajine, as well as fabulous desserts. 25-70 dirham.
- Mo Di Niro, Rue Antsirabé. Open daily until midnight. Popular with Meknassi teenagers, this restaurant serves good American-style burgers, pizza and pasta dishes. 20-100 dirham.
- La Fine Bouche, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until 10:00. Translating as "The good mouth," this hole-in-the-wall serves up delicious chawarma and other specialties. 15-50 dirham.
- Ibis Hotel. Open daily until midnight. This chain hotel has a decent French-inspired menu, but the real draw is that they serve alcohol. 50-150 dirham.
- Label' Gallery. Restaurants vary; some open past midnight. The closest thing Meknes has to a shopping mall, this food court is the only place to find international cuisine, with Mexican, American, Thai, and Lebanese all on the menu. Prices vary greatly.
- Restaurant Marhaba: the most popular Meknassi restaurant, offers local menu of Ma'aqouda and Harira.
- 1 Les Colliers de Colombe, 67 Rue Driba (behind Place Lalla Aouda near the medina). Delicious Moroccan staples, including the must-try pastilla. Most dishes are over 100 dirham.
- The market near the main place in the medina (at the Bab El-Mansur) has incredible fresh products. Lots of different kinds of olives, sweets, pickles, etc.
Those looking to find a watering hole in Meknes have come to the right place - in Morocco, anyway. For some strange reason, Meknes seems to have more bars than people. Only a few are suitable for the average traveler, however.
- Le Pub, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until midnight. One of the only places in Meknes where women will feel comfortable finding a drink, this lively pub has two floors; the bottom is where the music and "scene" happens. 15-45 dirham bottle beers only, 50 dirham cocktails (Try the local wines; Guerrouane and Amazir are particularly tasty. Shisha (hookah tobacco) costs 50 dirham).
- Novelty, Top of Rue de Paris. Open daily until midnight. This recently renovated pub is rumored to be owned by Italians, which would explain the lovely wood decor. It's also the only place in Meknes to drink draught beer. 15-45 dirham draft/bottle beers, 50 dirham cocktails (Wine is served by the bottle only).
Most budget hotels are located along Rue Rouamzine, just before the medina. Hotel Maroc and Hotel Regina are two such choices. Keep in mind that Hotel Regina is very dirty and stinky, but very cheap.
- 1 HI-affiliated youth hostel, Boulvard Okba Ben Nafii. Wedged between the medina and ville nouvelle, just two doors down from the much swankier and well known Hotel Transatlantique. In the new city, it's 1½ km from the closest medina gate; in fact it's not really near anything and you loose whatever you save staying here on a taxi (8 dirham) coming or going. For the same price, Hostel Maroc is better. They do let anyone use the shower for 7 MAD though. Dorms from 70 dirham for HI members (+20 if you aren't, and they don't honour E-memberships), 160 dirham for a double room w/ shared bathroom. .
- Camping Agdal. This is the choice if you're on a budget or brought your own transport/ camper. The campsite itself is quite nice. It even has grass! It is located about 2 km (about 20–30 minutes on foot) from the city centre right next to the Agdal basin and Heri es-Souani. For two people, with one tent, it cost 44 dirham a night (Summer 2004 price). If you don't feel like walking; taxies to/ from the medina shouldn't cost more than between 5 and 10 dirham and about 15 to 20 to the el-Emir Abdelkader railwaystation. If you arrive by train, it's more convenient to stay in the town centre (ville nouvelle or medina). Though if you're near the El-Emir Abdelkader railwaystation you're about as far off from the Medina as you would be if at the campsite.
- 2 Hotel Majestic, 19 Avenue Mohammed V, ☎ , fax: . Renovated, the Majestic offers a lovely garden as well as clean and nice rooms overlooking the most busy avenue in Meknes. 180-210 dirham including a simple breakfast. Continue straight ahead when you exit the train station, and the hotel will be on your left hand side after approximately 100 metres. You will see a sign directing to the hotel after less than 50 m. But watch out! Clients have complained about theft in this hotel.
- Riad Atika, 11, Derb Elkatib, Kabet Souk, Touta, fax: . Guest house in the old Medina with 14 rooms and a beautiful terrace. 330-825 dirham breakfast included.
- Riad Hiba, near the Place Lehdim, 20 Rue Lalla Aicha Adouya, ☎ , fax: . Beautiful guest house in the old city (Medina) with 7 rooms. 385-649 dirham, breakfast included.
- [formerly dead link] Riad Idrissi, 20 db Lalla Sti Hennou, ☎ . Guest house in the old Medina with 12 rooms and a beautiful terrace. 440-605 dirham breakfast included.
- Palais Didi, ☎ . A restored old palace/riad located in the medina right by a palace wall. Maison d'hotes - restaurant.
- Riad d'Or, 17, Derb ain el anboub et Derb Lalla Aicha Adouia - Quartier Hammam Jdid, ☎ . A very nice guest house - Bed & Breakfast - restaurant. A traditional restored old palace/riad in the old medina.
- 3 Ryad Bahia, 4 Tiberbarine (signs lead the way from Place Hedim, if unsure ask for directions outside of the medina), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The first riad to open in Meknes, its owners, and most of the staff, speak English and are extraordinarily helpful in arranging tours and the like. The roof terrace overlooks Place Hedim and the restaurant is open for non-guests as well. 650 dirham per single or double.
- 4 Hotel Malta, 3 Rue Cherif Al Idrissi, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open daily. This renovated hotel offers a restaurant, nightclub and English-style bar. 360-580 dirham.
- Riad Felloussia, Bab Aissi, ☎ , , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily. A traditional home in the heart of the medina. Great view of El-Hedim square. 600dh for large suites with private bathroom (breakfast included).
- 5 Riad Lahboul, 6 Derb Ain Sefli, ☎ , . This beautifully restored riad is on the edge of the medina (overlooks the magnificent "Lahboul Gardens"). Run by an English and Moroccan couple, this family guest house serves delicious home-made food.
- Zaki Hotel, Boulevard Al Massira, ☎ . Meknes' most beautiful hotel includes a nightclub, bar, restaurant, conference center, and a gorgeous swimming pool. single €73, double €84.
- Chefchaouen — a beautiful blue and white city in the mountains of northeastern Morocco.
- Roman ruins of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a short trip from Meknes. It is possible to go there by grand taxi via the town of Moulay Idriss, which is also worth a visit.