As a “self-proclaimed” history buff, I would consider one of my biggest passions to be learning about and experiencing history. Understanding the history of my host city is important to me because the characteristics that make up a culture can be found in its history. At the beginning of last month, I set a goal for myself to explore and learn as much as I could about the history of the city and people of Meknes. Since being here, I have found a few sites that are my favorite.
Located just outside of Meknes lies the ruined Roman city of Volubilis. Volubilis served as the ancient capital of Mauritania- now modern day North Africa. The once vibrant city boasted a forum, a triumphal arch dedicated to the Roman Emperor Caracalla, and homes decorated with beautiful mosaics, which are still visable today. During the Roman period, the city flourished economically partly because of the richness of olive groves and the growing olive industry. After the departure of the Romans the city was continually occupied until roughly the 11th century. Today, the ruins of the ancient city can be easily accessed but much of it still has to be excavated.
Madrasa Bou Inania
The Madrasa Bou Inania was a religious school built in the 14th century. No longer in use today, the Madrasa is open to all visitors, including non-Muslims. The Madrasa stands in the midst of the market in the Medina. Visiting the Madrasa is one of the best ways in Meknes to experience the Islamic art and architecture of Morocco. One of my favorite features is the cedar-wood carvings on the high walls that are beautifully illuminated by the natural light of the open ceiling.
The Bab Mansour gate marks the entrance of the main square and market where Moroccans of all ages gather throughout the day. The gate was completed in the 18th century with the intention of being the most beautiful in all of Morocco. So much detail and artistry can be found in this gate that it took me several visits in order to have a good grasp of its incredible beauty. The gate is well worth a visit. It is a good introduction into the city and one of Meknes’ most significant period of history. The sultan who commissioned Bab Mansour was the son of one of Morocco’s most important leaders, Moulay Ismail.
The world awaits…discover it.