Kasbah of Moulay Ismail Rabat Morocco

Entrada a Meknes, Marruecos. - panoramio.jpg
Meknes sahrij IMG 1483.jpg
Medina, Meknes, Morocco - panoramio.jpg
Sidi Amar Hassini, Meknes, Morocco - panoramio (10).jpg
Clockwise from top: Bab Mansour, Sahrij es-Swani, Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Bou Inania Madrasa, Bab el-Khemis
Official seal of Meknes

العاصمة الإسماعيلية
مكناسة الزيتون
The Ismaïlian Capital
The medina with 100 minarets.
Meknes is located in Morocco
Location in Morocco
Coordinates: 33°53′42″N 5°33′17″W / 33.89500°N 5.55472°W / 33.89500; -5.55472Coordinates: 33°53′42″N 5°33′17″W / 33.89500°N 5.55472°W / 33.89500; -5.55472
Country Morocco
 • MayorAbdellah Bouanou[1]
 • PrefectAbdelghani Sebbar[2]
 • Total370 km2 (140 sq mi)
Elevation546 m (1,792 ft)
 (September 2014)[6]
 • Total632,079
 • Rank6th in Morocco[6]
 • Density1,700/km2 (4,400/sq mi)
 • Municipality
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)WEST (UTC+01:00)
Postal code
Historic City of Meknes
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Bab Mansour.jpg
CriteriaCultural: iv
Inscription1996 (20th session)
  1. ^ In the 2014 census, the High Commission for Planning gave the legal population of the city of Meknes as 632,079,[6] which corresponds to the combined population of the municipalities of Meknes, Al Machouar – Stinia, Toulal and Ouislane.[5] The municipality of Meknes proper recorded a population of 520,428 in the 2014 census.[5]

Meknes (Arabic: مكناس‎, romanizedmaknās; Berber languages: ⴰⵎⴽⵏⴰⵙ, romanized: amknas) is one of the four Imperial cities of Morocco, located in northern central Morocco and the sixth largest city by population in the kingdom. Founded in the 11th century by the Almoravids as a military settlement, Meknes became the capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismaïl (1672–1727), son of the founder of the Alaouite dynasty. Moulay Ismaïl created a massive imperial palace complex and endowed the city with extensive fortifications and monumental gates.[7] The city recorded a population of 632,079 in the 2014 Moroccan census.[6] It is the seat of Meknès Prefecture and an important economic pole in the region of Fès-Meknès.


Meknes is named after a Berber tribe which, was known as Miknasa (native Berber name: Imeknasen) in the medieval North African documents.[7]


Skyline of the old city (medina) of Meknes

Early history (8th–16th centuries)

Volubilis, a major Roman-era settlement in Morocco and one of its early urban centres, is located near the site of the current city of Meknes. The current city and its name, however, originate with a Berber tribe called the Miknasa, originally from the Tunisian south, who dominated this region and much of eastern Morocco as early as the 8th century.[7] Some sources attribute the effective founding of a settlement here to a group of small Miknasa villages known as miknāsat al-zaytūn in the 10th century.[8] In 1061 the Almoravids founded a fortress or fortified settlement just south of these villages after conquering the area.[7][8] Some sources attribute the effective founding of the city of Meknes to this Almoravid foundation.[7] The city's first main mosque (the current Grand Mosque of Meknes) is in turn believed to have been first built by the Almoravids in the 12th century.[9][10] The Nejjarine Mosque, often reputed to be the oldest mosque in the city, also dates back to the Almoravid period.[11]:212–213

The fortress resisted the military advance of the Almohads, who destroyed the city after a long siege in the 12th century.[12][8] However, at the beginning of the 13th century the Almohad caliph Muhammad al-Nasir (ruled 1199–1213) rebuilt the city and its fortifications, as well as its Grand Mosque.[12][8][13] The city enjoyed relative prosperity in this period, before being conquered again by the new Marinid dynasty in 1244.[8] The first kasbah (citadel or governor's district) of Meknes was created afterwards by the sultan Abu Yusuf Ya'qub in 1276 CE; the same year that the citadel of Fes el-Jdid was built in nearby Fes as the new capital of the Marinid empire.[14][8] During this period, Meknes was frequently the residence of Marinid princes (appointed there as governors) and especially of viziers.[15][16]:55 The Mosque of the Kasbah (the later Mosque of Lalla Aouda) was also founded and first built in 1276.[14][17] The Marinids also carried out major restorations to the Grand Mosque in the 14th century and built the major madrasas of the city nearby. These included the Bou Inania Madrasa (built in 1336) and two other madrasas, Madrasa al-Qadi and Madrasa Shuhud, all built by Sultan Abu el-Hassan.[13]

After the end of the Marinid and Wattasid periods, however, Meknes suffered from neglect as the new Saadian dynasty (16th and early 17th century) focused their attention on their capital at Marrakesh and neglected the old northern cities of Morocco.[16]

Early Alaouite period: the reign of Moulay Isma'il (17th–18th centuries)

It wasn't until the Alaouite dynasty in the second half of the 17th century that Meknes received renewed attention. Under Moulay Rashid (ruled 1666–1672), the first Alaouite sultan to unite Morocco under his rule, Fes became the capital once more and his brother, Moulay Isma'il ibn Sharif, governed Meknes.[16][18] Upon Rashid's death in 1672, Moulay Isma'il became sultan and chose Meknes as his new capital. In addition to his possible attachment to the city as a governor, a number of reasons may have favoured this choice.[16]:129 One may have been the fact that Ismail had to fight hard to reconquer both Fes and Marrakesh from his rival nephew (Ahmad al-Mahriz, son of Moulay Rashid) during the first years of his reign, which may have rendered him skeptical towards both cities as possible centers of power.[16][18]:467–468 Moreover, Moulay Rashid had garrisoned much of Fes with his own contingents from the Tafilalt and eastern Morocco while Moulay Isma'il was forming his own personal royal guard composed of Black slaves ('abid) from Sub-Saharan Africa, and there may have been concerns that not all these contingents could be garrisoned simultaneously in Fes. The ulema (religious scholars) of Fes were also particularly disapproving of his ways, including his use of slaves (many of whom were of Muslim background), and maintained tense relations with him throughout his reign.[19][16][20] Choosing Meknes thus removed him from the influence of traditional elites and allowed him to build a fresh base from which he hoped to exercise absolute power.[19] The threat of Ottoman attacks from the east (from Algeria) and the increasing insecurity in central Morocco due to tribal migrations from the Atlas and Sahara regions may have also persuaded Ismail that Meknes, situated further west, was more defensible than Fes.[19]:234[16]:129, 138

Whatever the reasons, Ismail made Meknes the center of Morocco in his time and he embarked on the construction of a new monumental palace-city on the south side of the old city. Its construction continued throughout the 55 years of his reign, beginning immediately after his accession to the throne in 1672.[20][13][21][22] Existing structures dating from the earlier medieval kasbah of the city were demolished to make way; the name of the large public square in front of the Kasbah today, el-Hedim (or Place el-Hedim), means "the rubble" and came from the masses of rubble and debris which were piled here during the demolition.[23][14][13] Labour was carried out by paid workers as well as by contingents of slaves, particularly Christian prisoners of war.[13] Estimates on the total number of workers involved range from 25,000 and 55,000.[20][13] Nonetheless, frequently-told stories about the tens of thousands of Christian slaves used for labour and the large underground dungeons where they were kept are somewhat exaggerated and originate from the accounts of European ambassadors who visited Isma'il's court (often to negotiate the release of prisoners from their countries).[24] In reality, the number of Christian slaves was likely closer to a few thousand at most and the chambers popularly called "prisons" were actually storage rooms for grain and supplies.[24]:106[8]:267

It was also in Moulay Ismail's reign that the Jewish inhabitants of the city were moved to a new Mellah or Jewish district to the west, near the Kasbah, not unlike the Mellah of Fes or that of Marrakesh.[19]:234 Moulay Isma'il also undertook works throughout the old city too. He refortified the walls and built new monumental city gates such as Bab Berda'in and Bab Khemis.[25][16] He also built several other kasbahs or garrison forts throughout the city to house his 'abid troops and help protect (and control) the rest of the town, such as the Kasbah Hadrash and the Kasbah Tizimi.[16]:142 He carried out renovations to the Grand Mosque and the nearby Madrasa al-Qadi (which he devotes to students from the Tafilalt),[9][13] and founded the Zitouna Mosque.[16] Khnata bent Bakkar, one of his wives who was vizier (minister) under him (and briefly became de facto ruler of Morocco in 1728 after his death), was responsible for founding the Bab Berda'in Mosque, completed in 1709.[26][27][28][11]

View of Bab Berda'in gate and the minaret of the Bab Barda'in Mosque (photograph from 1881)

One of the last constructions before his death, carried out between 1721 and 1725, was the Heri al-Mansur, a palace on the far southern edge of the kasbah which included vast stables.[20] The monumental gate known as Bab al-Mansur al-'Alj, overlooking Place al-Hedim, was only finished in 1732 by his son Moulay Abdallah.[12] His son and brief successor, Moulay Ahmad ad-Dhahabi , carried out modifications to his father's mausoleum during his two brief reigns (in 1727–28 and 1728–29) and was himself buried here in 1729.[13]

Later Alaouite period (18th–20th centuries)

Following Moulay Isma'il's death, however, the political situation in Morocco degenerated into relative anarchy as his sons competed for power. Meknes lost its status as capital and suffered damage in the 1755 earthquake.[20] The city was neglected and many parts of the enormous imperial kasbah fell into disrepair. The site received only occasional royal attention in the following centuries. Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah, who ruled between 1757 and 1790, built a number of projects in the city. He added the Dar al-Bayda Palace in the Agdal garden to the southeast of the main palace complex, which was later turned into a royal military academy.[20] He constructed the Er-Roua Mosque in the southern part of Moulay Isma'il's Kasbah, which became the largest mosque in Meknes.[29][30]:391 He also renovated and added a qubba over the tomb of Sidi Mohammed ben Aissa (just outside the city walls) and built the current minarets of the Grand Mosque and the Nejjarine Mosque in the old city.[9][16] The Dar al-Kebira, however, was abandoned and progressively transformed into a residential neighbourhood where the inhabitants constructed their houses within and between the former palace structures of Isma'il's time.[31] In the early 19th century, Sultan Moulay Abd ar-Rahman added a loggia structure in front of Bab al-Mansur which served as a meeting place for ceremonies and the governor's tribunal, though this structure was later removed.[13]

Recent history (20th–21st centuries)

A main street in the Ville Nouvelle (new city)

After the installation of French colonial rule in Morocco in 1912, the French administration created a new city (Ville Nouvelle) on a nearby plateau across the valley on the northeast side of the old city. The capital of Morocco was moved from Fes to Rabat, further marginalizing cities like Meknes (which is near Fes). Some traditional Muslim authorities and officials were retained, but Meknes was reorganized under a new French municipal and military regime.[16] This also leads to a greater influence of the cities over their surrounding countryside and growing urbanization. The city became a transportation hub for people and goods traveling from east to west or from north to south across the country, in addition to hosting extensive military barracks. The population of Meknes grew from 25,000 at the beginning of the century to over 140,000 by the mid-20th century.[16]:191–192 Some roads in the old city were widened to accommodate greater circulation, but most of the new development took place in the Ville Nouvelle. The new French authorities took interest in the conservation of historic monuments in the old city; the madrasas, for example, were restored in 1922.[16]:199 During this period Meknes also became a center of agriculture and viniculture, led mainly by French colonists who appropriated large amounts of land nearby.[8][16]

Nonetheless, Meknes, like other cities, also hosts resistance to French authority. In 1937, a particularly serious and violent revolt erupts following attempts to divert the local river to benefit the French settler population during a time of food shortages for the native Moroccan population. A violent suppression of protests takes place in the city which results in 13 dead and more injured.[16][32][33]:63 Following Morocco's independence in 1956, the changes which began or accelerated under French rule still continue to run their course. Large scale rural migration increases the population of the city and intensifies the urbanization process (as elsewhere in the country). Industries develop around the city's perimeter, but at the same time the old elites and bourgeois families move away to the coastal cities like Casablanca and Rabat.[16]

These changes have also contributed to the relative neglect of the old city. According to the ICOMOS Heritage at Risk report of 2000, the historic city of Meknes contains insufficient drainage systems, and as a result, suffers from inundation and leakage in certain areas.[34] Still, some conservation and restoration efforts have taken place in recent years, motivated in part by the revenues of tourism.[16]:222


Meknes is located in a strategic position in the heart of Morocco. To its south and south-east are the rich cedar forests and mountains of the Middle Atlas mountains with the cities Ifrane and Azrou; and more to the south are the rich oases of Tafilalt. To the west are the two largest metropolitan areas of Morocco: Casablanca and Rabat. To the north is the mountainous north of Morocco with the cities of Tangier and Tétouan. Oujda and Fes lie east of Meknes.


Meknes has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa) with continental influences. Its climate is similar to inland southern Portugal (such as Beja or Évora) and some areas of southern Spain. The temperatures shifts from cool in winter to hot days in the summer months of June–September. Afternoon temperatures generally rise 10–14 °C above the low on most days. The winter highs typically reach only 15.5 °C (59.9 °F) in December–January, whereas night temperatures average 5 °C (41 °F). (see weather-table below).

It rarely snows in Meknes.

Climate data for Meknes (1961–1990, extremes 1919–1993)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 26.9
Average high °C (°F) 15.3
Daily mean °C (°F) 10.2
Average low °C (°F) 5.2
Record low °C (°F) −4.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 89.4
Average precipitation days 10.5 10.1 9.9 10.3 7.3 3.5 0.9 1.4 3.4 7.6 9.8 9.6 84.3
Average relative humidity (%) 75 78 76 75 72 68 57 57 62 70 72 77 70
Mean monthly sunshine hours 174.3 176.2 226.6 236.9 283.4 305.5 347.8 328.4 264.4 227.7 176.5 165.8 2,913.5
Source 1: NOAA[35]
Source 2: Deutscher Wetterdienst (extremes and humidity)[36]

Districts - Quartiers (in French)

  • Agdal
  • Al Bassatine
  • Ancienne Médina
  • Bassatine
  • Bab El Khmiss
  • Bel Air
  • Belle Vue (1, 2 et 3)
  • Berrima
  • Bni-Mhmmed
  • Borj Meshqoq
  • Borj Moulay Omar
  • Kamilia
  • Belle vue 3
  • Diour Salam
  • El Hedim Place
  • El Malah Lakdim
  • El Manar
  • El Mansour (1, 2, 3 et 4)
  • El Menzeh
  • Ennasre
  • Hamria (new city district)
  • Hay Salam
  • Hacienda
  • Hay El Fakharin
  • Kasbat Hadress
  • Marjane
  • Mellah
  • Neejarine
  • Ouislane (municipality)
  • Place d'Armes
  • Plaisance
  • Riad
  • Roua
  • Rouamzine
  • Sbata
  • Sidi Amar
  • Sidi Baba
  • Sidi Bouzekri
  • Sidi Said
  • Touargua
  • Toulal (municipality)
  • Volubilis
  • Wjeh Arouss
  • Zerhounia
  • Zehoua
  • Zitoune


Meknes is the seat of the prefecture of Meknès, which consists of 6 municipalities (including the city Meknes) and 15 rural communes.[37]

Historic monuments and landmarks

Aerial view of the northern part of the old medina of Meknes, near Bab Berda'in

The main historic monuments of the city are concentrated in the medina (old city) and the vast former Kasbah of Moulay Ismail to the south. The most notable monuments are listed below.

Place el-Hedim

Crowds gathering in el-Hedim Square at the end of the day

Often compared to the Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakesh, el-Hedim Square (Place el-Hedim) is a vast plaza at the southern end of the old city, before the main gates of Moulay Isma'il's former royal palace complex. The square's name, el-Hedim, means "the rubble/debris" and refers to the demolitions which Moulay Isma'il carried out here during the construction of his palaces. He left this open space as a public square to separate his palace from the rest of the city.[23][14] Since then, the square has become the focus of various activities including evening entertainers such as storytellers, acrobats, and musicians.[38]

Mosques and madrasas

Fortifications and city gates

Imperial Palaces of Moulay Isma'il

Map of the Kasbah of Moulay Ismail in relation to the medina (old city), with its major areas indicated

The palace complex or "imperial city" of Sultan Moulay Isma'il was constructed over his entire 55-year reign from 1672 to 1727 (with some elements finished or remodeled shortly after). It occupies the site of the city's former medieval kasbah (citadel) and stretches over an area approximately four times larger than the old city itself. It was composed of several autonomous palaces along with vast gardens, religious buildings, and other amenities. The complex was also notable for its impressive infrastructure, which included a water supply system with a hydraulic system of wells, norias (water extraction mechanism powered by wheel), canals, and underground pipes which distributed water to the royal city's many buildings. It also contained numerous monumental granaries and underground warehouses which stockpiled supplies that could allegedly sustain the city for a siege of ten years. Below is a list of some of its main areas and monuments.[25][23][47][13][12][20]


Outlying sites

The ruins of the Roman town of Volubilis (Oualili), another UNESCO World Heritage Site, are about half an hour to the north, as is the village and important pilgrimage site of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun.[38]


A traditional market street in the center of the medina (old city)

Meknes is an economic centre in Morocco with various products from three sectors (agriculture, industry and services), which makes the city economically competitive and attractive for investment.


A December 2015 World Bank report classified Meknes as one of the three most competitive cities in Africa.[52] Two of those three competitive African cities are Moroccan: Meknes and Tangier.


Meknes is considered to be the capital of agriculture in Morocco. And the Saïss plain is one of the most fertile and rich plains in Morocco and Meknes is the centre of this plain. [53]

This image shows the geographical structure of the Saïss plain around Meknes area in Morocco.

Each year Meknes holds the International Agriculture Show in Morocco(French: Salon International de l'Agriculture au Maroc) since April 2006. This agriculture show has an area of more than 250000 square meters, with more than 60 countries participating, and more than 1200 exhibitors.[54] The lands around Meknes area are known to be fertile and productive. The high elevation, fertility and the fresh water of those lands favor the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, most notably: peaches, nectarines, prunes, apples, potatoes, onions and garlic. Meknes is also known for its olives and olive oil. Livestock raising, particularly sheep and cattle, is widespread. Meknes has large industrial units for milk and dairy production that fulfill most of the needs of the region.


Industry in Meknes is of light type, most of it is related to food processing especially in the Commune of Mejjat, and chemical and para-chemical industry in other industrial zones like the Agropolis industrial and agribusiness zone. Add to those the textile and metallic manufacturing which are old industries in the city. The year 2016 marks a new era of industry in the city of Meknes; it includes electrical wire, embedded systems, and automotive parts production companies.[citation needed]

Major Companies

Name Year
Yazaki March 2016
Delphi Automotive 2016
Lafarge Holcim
Salidor 1993
Yura Corporation 2016

Meknes Agropolis

Agropolis is Morocco's first competitive. cluster dedicated to agribusiness. Its unique geographical location in central Morocco, together with its agricultural potential, makes it an attractive, rapidly developing platform. Agropolis welcomes investors in a first-class environment offering infrastructure that meets international norms as well as a wide range of real estate services, notably equipped plots of land and delegated management possibilities at competitive rates. Meknes Agropolis is the ideal ecosystem to implement a project focused on agribusiness, logistical activities and marketing, packaging units, tertiary activities, training and R&D.[55]

The first phase of the project has a land surface of 130 ha. The Agropolis Zone is 12 km from Meknes and 2.5 hours drive from Casablanca. Casablanca Port is 246 km far from Agropolis and Tanger-Med Port is 382 km away.


Many of the services products in Meknes are related to tourism due to the attractions of the old city district (the medina).


Meknès Ville train station


The geographical location of the city of Meknes makes it one of the important transport hubs in Morocco. The city is accessed via the A2 expressway with two exits, one to the east of the city and another to the west.


Two train stations are located in the new city district (French: Ville Nouvelle) of Meknes, with trains each hour to the east, west, and north of Morocco. Operated by ONCF, the following table lists destinations reachable via Meknes railway stations (round-trips):

Direction Route Frequency
West Fez - Meknes - Kenitra - Rabat - Casa Voyageurs Every 2 hours
West and South West Fez - Meknes - Sidi Kacem - Sidi Slimane - Kenitra - Salé - Rabat - Mohammedia - Casa Ain-Sebaa - Casa Voyageurs - Casa Oasis - Berrechid - Settat - Ben Guerir - Marrakesh Every 2 hours
North Fez - Meknes - Sidi Kacem - Ksar el-Kebir - Tangier - Ksar es-Seghir 6 trains a day
East Casa Voyageurs - Casa Ain-Sebaa - Mohammedia - Rabat - Salé - Kenitra - Sidi Slimane - Sidi Kacem - Meknes - Fez - Taza - Guercif - Taourirt - Oujda Two trains a day
West Meknes - Sidi Kacem - Sidi Slimane - Kenitra - Salé - Rabat - Mohammedia - Casa Ain-Sebaa - Casa Port 3 trains every Sunday PM

As mentioned above, Meknes city has two train stations, and their names are: Meknes Railway Station (French: Gare de Meknès) and Meknes Amir Abdul Qadir Railway Station (French: Gare de Meknès Amir Abdelkader). All the mentioned trains cited in the previous table stop by the former station; and except the first row of the table, all the remaining trains stop by the latter station.


The nearest airport is Fes-Saïss Airport (IATA: FEZ, ICAO: GMFF) accessible only by road transport.

Otherwise, Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca, with more international flights and destinations, is conveniently accessible by train.

Public Transport

Public transport in Meknes is managed by the urban commune and it consists of:


Meknes is home to the public Moulay Ismail University, with actually the following faculties, schools and institutions divided among three campuses in the cities: Meknes, Errachidia and Khenifra.

in Meknes:

in Errachidia:

in Khenifra:

In addition to Moulay Ismail University, numerous private institutes for higher education exist in Meknes.

International relations

See also List of twin towns and sister cities in Morocco

Twin towns – Sister cities

Meknes is twinned with:


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