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Meknes

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Travel tips, hotels, food, sightseeing in Meknes

Meknes (مكناس) is a city in central Morocco. 

Image:Meknes.JPG  

Understand
Fes driving you nuts? Nearby Meknes is a vibrant, modern city bustling with nightlife, restaurants and an impressive castle. 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. 

Get in
The main bus station is west of the medina, while CTM has its own, brand new station, near Meknes train station (east of the new town). The smaller train station called El-Amir Abdelkader is more centrally located in the new town. 

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. 

Get around
Petit taxis abound, as well as an efficient and comprehensive, if cramped local bus service. The minimum cost for a petit taxi is 5 dirhams, while the bus is slightly cheaper. Buses are, however, quite difficult to navigate. 

The ville nouvelle (new town), which is known as Hamrya in Arabic, is easily navigated on foot, as is the medina. The two sides of town are connected by a bridge over the dry Oued Boufekrane (river), with a McDonald's placed conveniently in between for weary (or wary!) travelers. 

See
Bab Mansour: Bab means "gate" or "door" in Arabic, and Bab Mansour is the largest and most striking of Meknes' many gates. It's directly across from Place Hedim, the medina's main square. 
Place Hedim: Recently redone with new brickwork, this square once rivaled Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech but is now significantly less exciting (though there are a few nice cafes and snack spots in which to people-watch). 
Heri es-Souani: You can catch a glimpse of the grandeur of Moulay Ismail at these granaries, and sit beside the enormous Agdal Basin. 
Meknes Royal Golf Course: Although it is rumored that you must be a member of an affiliated club to play here, it seems that with money, your lack of membership is overlooked. 
Medersa Bou Inania: A beautiful Qur'anic school. 
Dar Jamai: Now a museum (Musče Dar Jamai in French), this old palace is located at the back of Place Hedim. It now houses the Museum of Moroccan Arts, which is currently exhibiting antique rugs. 
Around Meknes
Roman ruins of Volubilis (Oualili in Arabic and Berber): This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a short trip from Meknes. It is possible to go cheaply by grand taxi (via the town of Moulay Idriss, also worth a visit). 

Buy
Meknes isn't a shopper's paradise, but it's certainly cheaper than nearby Fez! The medina is chock full of traditional Moroccan clothing and rugs, as well as the popular Moroccan shoe, bilgha. The best way to enter the medina is at the back of Place Hedim, next to Dar Jamai. Herein you can find many shops catering to tourists. If you sojourn a bit deeper into the medina, you'll find plenty of unique shops selling jewelry, household goods, and other treasures. 

Be sure to bargain! Don't accept the shopkeeper's first offer - not only does it ruin it for tourists who come after you, but it also goes against Moroccan custom. The easiest way to bargain, particularly without knowledge of French or Arabic, is to offer exactly half of the given price (or 75% for expensive or large-scale items). From there, the shopkeeper will go down a bit; you are expected to raise your price slowly until you come to an agreement. 

If you can't agree on a price, try walking out of the store - this will generally lower the price significantly. And try not to be too stingy - the value of an item is your appreciation of it, not its ticket price. 
Image:Sweets in Meknes Market.jpg
Eat
Ville Nouvelle
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 Antsirape, are popular with travellers and offer Dh 40 set menus. 

Le Pub, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until midnight. Excellent, if slightly experimental, takes on French cuisine. Reliable pizza and alcohol license. 50dh-120dh. 
Athenos, Avenue Mohammed V. Open for lunch only. Delicious Moroccan staples, such as tajine, as well as fabulous desserts. 25dh-70dh. 
Mo Di Niro, Rue Zankat. Open daily until midnight. Popular with Meknassi teenagers, this restaurant serves good American-style burgers, pizza and pasta dishes. 20-100dh. 
La Fine Bouche, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until 10:00. Translating as "The good mouth," this hole-in-the-wall serves up delicious chawarma and other specialties. 15-50dh. 
Ibis Hotel. Open daily until midnight. This chain hotel has a decent French-inspired menu, but the real draw is that they serve alcohol. 50-150dh. 
Label' Gallery. Restaurants vary; some open past midnight. The closest thing Meknes has to a shopping mall, this food court is the only place to find international cuisine, with Mexican, American, Thai, and Lebanese all on the menu. Prices vary greatly. 
Medina

Meknes market. Les Colliers de Colombe, 67 Rue Driba (Follow the signs; it's located behind Place Lalla Aouda near the medina). Open daily. Delicious Moroccan staples, including the must-try pastilla. Prices vary (Most dishes are over 100dh). 
The market near the main place in the medina (at the Bab El-Mansur) has incredible fresh products. Lots of different kinds of olives, sweets, pickles, etc. 

Drink

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. 

Le Pub, Avenue Allal Ben Abdellah. Open daily until midnight. One of the only places in Meknes where women will feel comfortable finding a drink, this lively pub has two floors; the bottom is where the music and "scene" happens. 15-45dh bottle beers only, 50dh cocktails (Try the local wines; Guerrouane and Amazir are particularly tasty. Shisha (hookah tobacco) costs 50dh). 
Novelty, Top of Rue de Paris. Open daily until midnight. This recently renovated pub is rumored to be owned by Italians, which would explain the lovely wood decor. It's also the only place in Meknes to drink draught beer. 15dh-45dh draft/bottle beers, 50dh cocktails (Wine is served by the bottle only). 
Hotel Zaki, See restaurant listing, [1]. Open late. The only place to drink outdoors in Meknes - 'nuff said. 17dh-50dh, 50dh-100dh cocktails. 



Hostels
For those on a budget, the HI-affiliated and very friendly youth hostel (dorms from Dh 40, 120dh for a double room w/ shared bathroom, midnight curfew) is wedged between the medina and ville nouvelle, just two doors down from the much swankier and well known Hotel Transatlantique. If you enjoy feeling the day-to-day life in the medina, this place is not for you: it's like 1.5km from the closer gate. You can take a taxi (8dh) but it's not the same. For the same price, Hostel Maroc is better. 

Camping
This is the choice if you're feeling insane. The campsite itself is quite nice. It even has grass! The problem is it is located several miles away from the city centre, on the other side of the palace. For two people, with one tent, it cost 44 dh a night (Summer 2004 price) 

The sensible thing to do is to stay in the town centre, at the hostel, so you can avoid the long walk to and from the campsite. On the other hand it is sometimes a relief to escape to the quiet campsite after the busy town. 

Budget Hotels
Most budget hotels are located along Rue Rouamzine, just before the medina. Hotel Maroc and Hotel Regina are two such choices. 

Hotel Majestic, 19 Avenue Mohammed V, +212-035522035 (Fax: +212-035527427). Recently renovated, the Majestic offers a lovely garden as well as rooms overlooking the most busy avenue in Meknes. 120dh-160dh. 
Mid-Range Hotels
Ryad Bahia, 4 Tiberbarine (ask for directions outside of the medina), 035554541 (contact@ryad-bahia.com), [2]. The first riad to open in Meknes, its owners both speak English and are extraordinarily helpful in arranging tours and the like. 650dh per single or double. 
Hotel Malta, 3 Rue Cherif Al Idrissi, +212-55515020 (contact@hotelmaltamaroc.com), [3]. Open daily. This recently renovated hotel offers a restaurant, nighclub and English-style bar. 360dh-580dh. 

Top Hotels
Zaki Hotel, Boulevard Al Massira (simply tell a taxi driver to take you to Zaki Hotel), +212-55514146, [4]. Open daily. Meknes' most beautiful hotel includes a nightclub, bar, restaurant and conference center, as well as a gorgeous swimming pool. 880dh-1180dh. 

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