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Meknes is a historical city founded on the Saîs Plain by the Meknsa Tribe (a berber tribe) in the tenth century. It is famous for being the first capital of the Alaouite Dynasty which is Morocco's current royal family. It is 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.
The covered souqs (local market) are well worth a visit. Rows of spices in all shapes and colours piled high, dozens of varieties of olives, figs and dates just waiting to be tasted. For those with a strong stomach, pay a visit to the meat department where goat’s heads, bull’s testicles and sheep’s entrails are displayed like fine delicacies. Diagonally across the square is the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, the founder of what is now Meknes. You’ll pass several different souks, divided into separate sections according to their ware; tapestries, textiles, bric-a-brac, tents and finally musical instruments.
Other interesting sights in the area include the Dar Jamai Museum with its fine collection of Mid-Atlas rugs. On the other side of the Bab el-Mansour lies the Kouba el Khayatine where royal kings once received ambassadors who came to negotiate the ransom of Christian prisoners.
Meknes has a Mediterranean climate with continental influences. Its climate is similar to some areas of southern Spain and inland southern Portugal. The temperatures shifts from cool and cold in winter to hot days in the summer months of June–September. The nights, however, are always cool (or colder in winter), with daytime temperatures generally rising 10-14 °C above the low every day. The winter highs typically reach only 15.5 °C in December–January, whereas night temperatures average 3 °C. It rarely snows in Meknes.
ONCF has trains to Fez (1 hour), Taza (3,5 hours), Oujda (6,5 hours), Casablanca (3,5 hours), Rabat (2 hours), Marrakech (7 hours) and Tangier (4 hours).
You can easily access Meknes along well maintained tarred roads, but remember that getting into the centre of the city and parking your car can be a nerve breaking experience. Better to take public transport if you have the choice.
There is a smart new CTM bus station about 300m east of the junction with Ave Mohammed V. The main bus station is just west of the Medina.
CTM buses go to Casablanca (4 hours), Rabat (2.5 hours), Fez (1.5 hour), Marrakech (8 hours), Tangier (5 hours), Oujda (6 hours), , Erfoud, Rissani, Er Rachidia (6 hours) and Nador (6 hours). CTM also offers three buses a week to Paris and Madrid.
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 Medina inside Meknes and the Imperial City itself are both easily explore on foot. There is also an interesting two hour walk through the souks starting at Place el-Hedim and ending at the Grande Mosquee. The distance is only about 1 kilometre but allow plenty of time as there is a lot to stop and look at (and spend your money on) on the way!
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.
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.
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.
|Riad Hiba||20 Rue Lalla Aicha Adouya Ancienne Medina||Guesthouse||-|
|Riad Zahraa||5, rue Sidi Abdalah Elkasri Touta Meknes Medina||Guesthouse||86|
|Riad Felloussia||23 Derb Hammam Jdid Bab Aissi||Guesthouse||92|
|Dar Zerhoune||42 Derb Zouak, Tazga Moulay Idriss Zerhoune||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Riad Yacout||22 Lalla Aouda Place||Guesthouse||-|
|Maison d'Hote Marabou||10 derb Bel Bassir Kaa Ourda Rue El Haboul||Guesthouse||-|
|La Colombe Blanche||21 Tazgha Zouak Moulay Driss Zerhoun||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hotel Riad Idrissi||N20 Derb Sti Hennou||HOTEL||86|
|Adils House||Hamza Apt 16. Etage 4. Marjan Route du Rabat||GUESTHOUSE||-|
There are plenty of Cybercafes in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.
Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.
Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates.
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