Historic City of Meknes
Historic City Of Meknes
Cultural Morocco Arab States Region Centre Sud, Wilaya De Meknes

The Historic City of Meknes represents in an exceptionally complete and well-preserved way the urban fabric and monumental buildings of a 17th century Maghreb capital city combining elements of Islamic and European design and planning in a harmonious fashion. It has exerted a considerable influence on the development of civil and military architecture (kasbah ) and works of art. It also contains the remains of the royal city founded by Sultan Moulay Ismail (1672-1727). The presence of these rare remains within a historic town that is in turn located within a rapidly changing urban environment gives Meknes its universal value.

The name Meknes goes back to the Meknassa, the great Berber tribe that dominated eastern Morocco as far back as the Tafilliet and which produced Moulay Idriss I, founder of the Moroccan state and the Idrissid dynasty in the 8th century AD.

The Almoravid rulers (1053-1147) made a practice of building strongholds for storing food and arms for their troops;this was introduced by Youssef Ben Tachafine, the founder of Marrakesh. Meknes was established in this period. The earliest part to be settled was around the Nejjarine Mosque, an Almoravid foundation. Markets congregated around the mosque, specializing in firearms, woodwork and metal products. Like other settlements of the time, Meknes was not fortified: walls were not added until the end of the Almoravid period.

The town fell into the hands of the Almohad dynasty (1147-1269) at the start of their rule: it was taken by an army led by the Caliph Abdelmoumen in person. During this period it was enlarged and urbanized. An inscription states that the Great Mosque was enlarged during the reign of Mohamed Annacer. Water from the Tagma spring was brought to the town to serve the various fountains, baths and mosques. At that time there were four sets of baths (hammam ), the location of which indicates how the town had spread.

During the subsequent Merinid period (1269-1374), Meknes absorbed the suburbs that had grown up round it. Refugees from the Moorish centres in Andalusia that fell to Christian forces also helped to swell the population, among them a significant Jewish community. Following Merinid practice, Abou Youssof built a kasbah (only the mosque of which survives) outside the old town, as well as the first of the three madrasas (Islamic schools) with which the Merinid rulers endowed Meknes. Other public buildings from the Merinid period included mosques, hospitals, libraries and fountains.

The founder of the Alawite dynasty, Moulay Ismail (1672-1727), made Meknes his capital city and carried out many reconstructions and additions, such as mosques, mausolea and gardens, but his main contribution was the creation of a new imperial city. Built in the Hispano-Moorish style, it is impressive in both extent and construction. It is enclosed by high walls pierced by monumental gates. Within are the palace with its enormous stables, a military academy, vast granaries and water storage cisterns.

The high defensive walls of Meknes are pierced by the monumental gates: Bab Mansour Laalej, Bab Lakhmis, Bab Berdain, Bab Jdid, etc. Within there are many religious buildings, especially the many mosques from successive periods and the madrasas . Some of the fondouks (inns) that cluster around the gates were devoted to specific crafts or trades: for example, the Fondouk Hanna dealt solely in henna, while the Jewish craftsmen worked at the Fondouk Lihoudi. Certain quarters were reserved for specific trades and activities