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.
There are two train stations, the smaller train station called El-Emir Abdelkader is more centrally located in the new town (ville nouvelle), while the other is a bit further east. Meknes is connected by train to most major cities like Marrakech (6½h, 174 dirhams), Tangier (3½–4½h, 85 dirhams), Rabat (2¼h, 65 dirhams), Casablanca (3¼h), Fes (40min, 20 dirhams) or Oujda (6h, 130 dirhams). Specific times and prices can be found on the website of the Moroccan National Office for Railways (www.oncf.ma).
The main bus station (Gare Routière) is west of the medina, colocated with the main grand taxi station, while CTM has its own, brand new station, near Meknes train station (east of the new town). For trips to Marrakesh, while seemingly shorter on the map, the mountain route via Beni Millal takes at least 2 hours more than on the highway via Rabat and Casa, going there by train is the most comfortable option, although buses might be slightly quicker.
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.
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 dirhams (the price is calculated based on 1.40 dirhams + 0.20 dirhams/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 Place Hedim, the medina's main square. The gate is nowadays used for art exhibitions.
- 2 Place Hedim. 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.
- 6 Dar Jamai. Now a museum (Musèe Dar Jamai in French), this old palace 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 on Tuesdays.
- 7 Habs Qara. A huge underground prison where Moulay Ismail allegedly kept prisoners.
- 8 Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. 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.
- Al masjid AlAdam. Meknes' largest and oldest standing mosque (note: Non-Muslims are not permitted entry).
- Medina of Meknes Mosque. A mosque that is built near a Qur'an school, which was built in 1350.
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 dirhams.
- Athenos, Avenue Mohammed V. Open for lunch only. Delicious Moroccan staples, such as tajine, as well as fabulous desserts. 25-70 dirhams.
- 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 dirhams.
- 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 dirhams.
- 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 dirhams.
- 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.
- Les Colliers de Colombe, 67 Rue Driba (Follow the signs; it's located behind Place Lalla Aouda near the medina). Open daily. Delicious Moroccan staples, including the must-try pastilla. Prices vary (Most dishes are over 100 dirhams).
- 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 dirhams bottle beers only, 50 dirhams cocktails (Try the local wines; Guerrouane and Amazir are particularly tasty. Shisha (hookah tobacco) costs 50 dirhams).
- 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 dirhams draft/bottle beers, 50 dirhams cocktails (Wine is served by the bottle only).
- Hotel Zaki. See restaurant listing. Open late. The only place to drink outdoors in Meknes - 'nuff said. 1. 7-50 dirhams, 50-100 dirhams cocktails.
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.
- The HI-affiliated and very friendly youth hostel (dorms from 40 dirhams, 120 dirhams for a double room w/ shared bathroom, midnight curfew) is wedged between the medina and ville nouvelle, just two doors down from the much swankier and well known Hotel Transatlantique. If you enjoy feeling the day-to-day life in the medina, this place is not for you: it's 1½ km from the closest gate. You can take a taxi (8 dirhams) but it's not the same. For the same price, Hostel Maroc is better.
- 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 dirhams 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 dirhams 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.
- 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 dirhams 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 dirhams 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 dirhams, breakfast included.
- Riad Idrissi, 20 db Lalla Sti Hennou, ☎ . Guest house in the old Medina with 12 rooms and a beautiful terrace. 440-605 dirhams 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.
- 1 Ryad Bahia, 4 Tiberbarine (signs lead the way from Place Hedim, if unsure ask for directions outside of the medina), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 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 dirhams per single or double.
- 2 Hotel Malta, 3 Rue Cherif Al Idrissi, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open daily. This renovated hotel offers a restaurant, nightclub and English-style bar. 360-580 dirhams.
- Riad Felloussia, Bab Aissi, ☎ , e-mail: , email@example.com. 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).
- 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.
- Roman ruins of Volubilis (Oualili in Arabic and Berber): This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a short trip from Meknes. It is possible to go cheaply by grand taxi (via the town of Moulay Idriss, also worth a visit), a visit should be around 300-350 dirhams with the driver waiting while you peruse the site. There is hardly any shade so bring a hat and water since it can get very hot. A large archeological museum houses the finds.
- Moulay Idriss Zerhoun: 14 km from Meknes and just next to Volubilis, the small city on a hill was founded by Moulay Idriss I and is an Islamic holy site. A moussem is held here each year.
- Chefchaouen: A beautiful blue and white city in the mountains of northeastern Morocco. Chefchaouen is accessible by bus from the Gare Routière for 50 dirhams 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 dirhams per person in a full taxi (6 passengers). It takes about 2 hours from Ouezzane to Chefchaouen and costs 35 dirhams 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.