Let’s Go to Meknes, The Other Empire City of Morocco
If you ask me, “What’s your favorite city in Morocco?”
My definite answer will be ‘Meknes’. Located in the northern part of Morocco, this city was used to be the capital of Morocco under the reign of Sultan Moulay Ismail from 1672 to 1727. The name of Meknes was taken from the name of one of Berber tribes, Miknasa. Compared to its neighbor, Fes, Meknes is smaller in size but more organized, cleaner and less crowded. After having my last breakfast in Fes with Sachi, Japanese traveler that I met in Riad Nassim, I left fes, headed to Meknes. On my way to the road, I still met little Noura, the little girl that helped me to find my riad yesterday. She watched me with her sad eyes when she saw me leaving with my suitcase.
“Vous allez ou?” she asked me in French.
“Oh. Je vais a Meknes. Au revoir, Noura,”
“Attendez, si vous plait,” she asked me to wait for her. She ran into her house, and after five minutes she returned with a pancake in her hand.
“C’est pour vous,” she gave the pancake to me with her shy face. What a lovely girl. I had nothing to give, until I remember the fake pearl bracelet that I used to wear everyday. I gave that bracelet as the symbol of our friendship.
She escorted me until the gate of the old city and I lift my hand to say good bye when the taxi took me away.
I arrived at Fes train station. By paying 30 Dirham, I could have one seat of First Class for myself. The distance is not so far, which only require approximately one hour to reach Meknes. As Casablanca and Fes, Meknes was also equipped by petite taxi, spread throughout the city. Unlike the red taxi I found in Casablanca and Fes, petite taxi in Meknes chose to have the blue color. I stopped one taxi and headed to the city center, to Riad Meknes, where I would spend my next two days. As happened in Fes, the driver was also confused about the location of my riad. He asked many people, here and there, and eventually, he took me to a corner of alley. An old man came for the rescue. The driver asked the old man about the location of my riad. This time, the old man came into our car to showed us the exact location. Well, finally we arrived at the entrance of alley. The driver gave me discount price (I didn’t ask) since he took me around in the same place for more than 15 minutes.
From the alley entrance, I required to walk 5 minutes only to get my riad. The riad is good, and they gave me a huge room for my self. The bed is located in the middle of the room, equipped with a small couch, a dressing table, cupboard and private bathroom. In the middle of riad, there was an empty swimming pool. According to the manager, if I came in the summer, the pool was usually full, but since I came n November and winter was about to come, swimming seemed not a really good idea. A small park with beautiful pergola welcoming the guests before entering the restaurant which is also functioned as the lobby. The owner of the riad is an art lover. I could see various paintings decorated most of walls. In addition, traditional masks were also many (apparently I was a bit scare with this), and one huge antique clock was standing in the middle of restaurant.
After having a lunch at the riad, I took a walk to see surrounding areas. My riad is located in the middle of Medina, still interesting place to see, but after the largest medina in Fes, I didn’t feel to explore another medina in Morocco. My first destination was Bad Mansour Gate, the landmark of Meknes. I chose to walk due to short distance, and considered to take the the horse cart with beautiful decoration if my two feet couldn’t be compromised. Bad Mansour, as other gate in Morocco, is the entrance point of the city. This gate is known as the biggest gate in entire Morocco. So, if you come to Meknes, don’t miss the chance to see this huge gate. However, there were not so many things to see in the gate itself. Some parts of the gate were used as shops by some vendors, selling particular souvenirs of Meknes. I spent 15 minutes only to capture the gate from various angles.
Right in front of the gate, there is a big square, called El Hedim Squre. In addition to various restaurants offering Moroccos food in the sides of the square, many street vendors rolled out their merchandises in the square to attract visitors. Not only vendors, horse riders, snake charmer with particular music also took part, tried to make their snakes dancing following the rhythm of music, and even beggars were there to make the square alive.
Just couple of steps from the square, there was one museum, called Dar Jamai museum. Entrance fee was 10 Dirham per person. A long time ago, this palace used to use as residential of Dar Jamai, one of the leaders in Meknes. When I entered the museum, there were some tour guides offering me their service. There were no specific price for their fees, visitors just are expected to give some tips. I thought this guides were part of management of the palace. If you didn’t want to use their service, they just need to tell them nicely, and they won’t force you. I let one of the guide following me into palace. He took me to every room inside palace and explained the history and function of each of them.
On my way back to my riad, I found a particular building by chance. Apparently, it’s, Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, and also one of the famous tourist attraction in Meknes. No wonder there were so many international tourist standing outside, waiting for their turn to enter the building, and there was no entrance fee to enter. When I came there, it seems the manager of the place had meeting, therefore we were not allowed to come closer to see tomb of Sultan. I waited until the the crowds went, and the manager came towards me. I asked him whether I am allowed to take some few pictures for my documentation. Once he knew that I’m from Indonesia, the far away country, (I didn’t mention that I flew from Congo) to see one of this famous places in Meknes, he allowed me to enter as long as I didn’t make any noise. As other important buildings, this mausoleum is filled with beautiful wooden carves and colorful tiles. There is small fountain in the middle of the room with the water flowing continuously.
Meknes is also known as cultural center of Berber tribe. Another thing that I like from there is the traditional clothes, the robe with cone-shaped hat.