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Imperial Meknes, What to See and Do, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Moulay Ismail Mausoleum and Spiritual Site

Morocco ‘s 4th Imperial City of Meknes is often left off tourist itineraries. Meknes is a UNESCO World heritage site and has massive imposing ramparts, 25 kms long, built by Sultan Moulay Ismail, of the Alaouite dynasty, who ruled Morocco from 1672-1727. He chose Meknes as his capital because of the resistance and intrigue he encountered in Fes and Marrakech. He successfully defeated warring tribes and religious brotherhoods in the south uniting the country and repelling European invaders in the north, liberating Tangiers from British rule. The Sultan Moulay Ismaeil also withstood the Ottoman invaders who took Tunisia and Algeria.

Having won many battles and ensuring the unity of what became the modern Moroccan state, he returned to build Meknes as his capital over a period of 55 years. Moulay Ismail was not one to do things by half measures. The old town of Meknes had been the capital of a Berber tribe which had come from Tunisia, the Mekanassa. Alongside this old medina town the Sultan built his imperial city which provided accommodation for his wives and some 500 concubines and 800 children with 24 royal palaces, mosques, barracks and ornamental gardens, surrounded by four sets of massive defensive walls .

The Sultan also installed his army of black soldiers, the Abids or Black Guard, which grew to a force of more than 25,000 in number during his reign in Meknes. He used this slave army to impose a centralized state instead of using unreliable Moroccan tribes to enforce his rule as other sultans had done before him. He created a huge complex, which you can still see, for storage facilities and stabling for thousands of horses at the Heri el Souani granary. He used 50,000 Berber and European slaves to build the imperial city. He plundered the roman remains of Volubilis and completely removed the interior of the Badi Palace in Marrakech to build his imperial city.

Despite his iron control during his reign he failed to ensure the succession. Shortly after his death his sons dismantled most of what he had built within the walls and removed the materials to other locations following a pattern repeated in Moroccan history up until the French Protectorate and conservation efforts following Morocco’s independence in 1956.

Dar Jamai Museum, Meknes

Meknes has some remarkable entrance gates or babs, the best known and most ornate is the Bab Mansour, embellished with zellij tiles and Islamic script engraven on stucco. It is at Place el Helim which separates the Medina from the Imperial city and the nearby Bab Jema en Nouar ,both designed by Moulay Ismail’s court architect, a Christian renegade known as Mansour el Aleuj. The Dar Jamai Museum overlooks the Place el Helim and is a former palace built in 1882 for the Jamai family, two of whom were viziers to the sultan. Since 1920 it became one of Morocco’s best museums displaying the work of urban craftsmen and traditional Berber tribal artifacts. Its exhibits include ceramics, antique Fes and Meknes pottery, Berber jewelry, rugs, kelims, antique carpets, embroidery and woodwork. You can also enjoy the greenery and fountains of the museum’s Andalusian garden . Upstairs the vizier’s salon is arranged as a typical 19th century palace reception room with period decorations and furniture.

Opposite the Grand Mosque is the Medersa Bou Inania, a Merinid Medersa ( Islamic college) built in 1358 by Bou Inania ,who also built the renowned Medersa of the same name in Fes which is much larger. The medersa has fine zellij tiles, delicate stucco relief work and a carved olive wood ceiling. You can climb up to the roof for a fine view of the green tiled Grand Mosque and its minaret. The medersa itself is closed to non muslims.

In the Imperial City the tomb of its founder Sultan Moulay Ismail remains and is open to non muslims. It has courtyards which lead to the tomb hall which is finely decorated with zellij tiles and crafted stucco decorations. You can view the tomb but should not advance in to the chamber which is visited by pilgrims.

Moulay Ismail’s parade ground, the mechaouar, for reviewing his troops, is now called the Place Lalla Aouda and lies to the south of the Bab Mansour . The Koubbba al Sufara further on, is where the sultan received ambassadors and stairs lead down to a large crypt with dark rooms which are said to be dungeons but were apparently for storage.

The medina is smaller than that of Fes or Marrakech but nevertheless has good souks for jewelry, textiles, carpets and kelims. For accommodation you can choose riads in the medina including Riad Yacout or Riad D’Or and the Ville Nouvelle has a number of hotels including the Ibis and the Transatlantique. If you fancy a drink there is Le Pub and there are a number of restaurants in the medina including Dar Sultana and Restaurant Zitouna and in the Ville Nouvelle, such as Chez Phillipe and the Bistrot Art & Wine Bar. Meknes is a good place to stay whilst visiting the nearby Roman ruins of Volubilis with its famous mosaics and the religious pilgrimage town of Moulay Idris.

As well as being famous for its ramparts Meknes and the region is also a major agricultural centre and is home to the famous vineyards of Celliers de Meknes at Chateau Roslane which produces many fine Moroccan wines. Ask your travel agent to arrange a visit.

For More Information on Meknes Tours and Attractions

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
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Colorful Chefchaouen, Morocco’s Idyllic Escape, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Chefchaouen, Blue and White Washed City

Chefchaouen lies inland from Tangier and Tetouan. Chefchaouen is a unique Moroccan city known for its blue and white washed medina walls that surround it. Filled with old world charm, a walk through Chefchaouen’s blue alleys  evokes being in a magical story book, similar to Aladdin and the magic lamp from One Thousand and One Nights. An early morning stroll through Chefchaouen’s  winding streets is a great to discover this Riffian town famous for fresh goat cheese, local crafts and peaceful setting.

Chefchaouen was originally a small fortress town founded by Moulay Ali Ben Moussa Ben Rached El Alami to resist the Portuguese expansion in Morocco. Built up by Jewish and Muslim occupants in 1471 Chefchaouen served as a refuge for those who fled Andalusia following the Reconquista led by the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

When Spanish troops occupied Chefchaouen, or Chaouen,as the locals call it, in 1920 as part of the Spanish Protectorate in the north of Morocco, they found the population still speaking an archaic form of Catalan which they had brought with them centuries before. It was a closed city to Europeans until 1920 and was only visited in disguise at the risk of a european’s life. Charles de Foucauld and Walter Harris were amongst only 3 foreign visitors. Chefchaouen was returned to Morocco on its achieving independence in 1956.

Chefchaouen’s medina is a delightfully picturesque maze of streets and derbs leading to the Outa el-Hammam square and the restored kasbah. The grand 15th century Tarik Ben Ziad mosque has an octagonal minaret which was inspired by the Torre de Oro in Seville. It is part of the Andalusian influence on architecture found in the kasbah and its gardens in the heart of the medina. There is also a ruined Spanish replica of a mosque.

Chefchaouen Artisan

Chefchaouen’s main square in the medina is lined with cafes, craftsman, artists and weavers. Tourists can also visit the Kasbah near Plaza Outa el Hammam and the museum in the medina. Chefchaouen’s Kasbah was built by the legendary ruler Moulay Ismail and is surrounded by gardens. Inside the Kasbah, there is also a museum containing antique weapons, musical instruments, berber artifacts and photographs of the old medina. The town boasts a number of excellent restaurants as well as some many charming Moroccan Riads and boutique hotels.

Morocco travelers can visit souks where they can find local products which are special to the region such as woven wool garments and blankets ,carpets, djellabahs, wooden furniture, pottery and artifacts .

View of Chefchaouen

View of Chefchaouen

The area around Chefchaouen is a hashish and cannabis growing region as it is the only crop that can be grown in the mountainous region. This may also partly account for the relaxed ambiance and you may well be offered some of the local product but smoking cannabis remains illegal, so tourists must avoid it as Moroccan laws are very strict and the penalties severe.

The name “Chaouen” refers to the mountain which dominates the town and is said to resemble the horns of a goat. Climbing one of the surrounding mountains and trekking in the hills is a popular excursion. You can visit the Talassemtane Park and climb the region’s highest mountain Jebel Lakraa at 2,159 meters or visit the Bouhachem Park. For the adventurous there is the Kef Toghobeit Cave, nearly four kilometres long and over 700 metres deep, one of the deepest caves in Africa. There is also the Achkour cascade (waterfalls) and a natural bridge called locally “the Bridge of God” to visit.

Chefchaouen is a delightful and relaxing excursion from Fes and also a great place to visit on a Morocco tour en route from Rabat to Fes.

For More Information about a Chefchaouen Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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Riad Star, A New Boutique Riad in Marrakech, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Riad Star, Marrakech - Patio with Dipping Pool

Riad Star, Marrakech – Patio with Dipping Pool

Riad Star opens in September 2013 after two years of renovation by a team of Marrakech’s finest craftsmen. It was part of the palace once owned by the Pasha of Marrakech, Thami El Glaoui who in the 1940s invited Josephine Baker to live there. She was inspirational vaudeville star, singer and dancer of the jazz era. She was also a French resistance heroine and civil rights pioneer to come and live in it and Riad Star’s seven rooms have been decorated in Art Deco style with memorabilia sourced from the Parisian music halls of the twenties and thirties. Riad Star is a unique addition to Moroccan Riad and Boutique Hotel offerings.

The Riad is attached to the former Menebhi Palace which is now the Marrakech Museum, for many years it was used to accommodate distinguished guests.

Following a painstaking renovation, Riad Star now continues that tradition of hospitality as a boutique Riad hotel with just seven guest rooms. Riad Star blends traditional Moroccan style with Art Deco and modern elements.

Riad Star, Josephine Room

Riad Star, Josephine Room

The riad has original cedar woodwork, exquisite hand carved plaster and a host of other features have all been retained while discretely incorporating air conditioning, Wifi, power showers and other creature comforts. The individually named rooms include the Josephine. Unusually for Marrakech this room has a window onto the street. It is believed the Pasha of Marrakech paid children to sit outside Josephine’s window and read for her while she was convalescing.

A private roof terrace offers a further seating area with outdoor fireplace, a space to relax and loungers to soak up the Marrakech sun. Best of all is the Riad’s hammam and massage suite, the ultimate Marrakech luxury just a few short steps from the comfort of your room.

Riad Star offers extremely versatile accommodation. All rooms can be double or twin, most can be triples making the Riad perfect for groups of friends. The Josephine and Star rooms can interconnect which is great for families. The dining room features full length mirrors and makes a stunning dance studio. The dipping pool can be covered leaving the patio free for yoga, or special occasion parties. There is also the option of covering the patio with a secret rolling roof guaranteeing the success of your event in all weathers.

The Riad Star Collection comprising memorabilia, art and documents celebrates the Music Hall era and the extraordinary life of Josephine Baker. Highlights includes a stage costume created for Josephine’s spectacular last performance by Andre Levasseur from a design by Niki de Saint Phalle.

A 19 page manuscript, hand corrected by Josephine, setting out her ideals and her vision of universal brotherhood.Letters, news cuttings and photographs from throughout Josephine’s career including a polaroid taken in the kitchen at the Chateau des Milandes with her Rainbow tribe of twelve adopted children.A stage costume created by designer Gessmar for the legendary singer Mistinguett around 1920, a jewellery box and Costume Jewellery belonging to Mistinguett.Gauches by Erte, Wittop, Bib, Zig, and other leading designers for the Casino de Paris. Some of these items may be on loan to international exhibitions.

If you want to enter into the spirit of the roaring twenties you can find costumes, many of which were worn on the Paris stage you can wear in a dressing up cupboard.

English owners Mike and Lucie Wood are passionate about sharing Josephine’s vision of the potential of the world’s peoples to live together in harmony. There is no better place to appreciate diverse cultures than Marrakech, an ancient trading post which sits at the intersection between Europe, the Arab world and Sub Saharan Africa.

For More Information about a Marrakech Riads or a Marrakech Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

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