Cut in two by the wide river valley of the Oued Boufekrane, MEKNES is a prosperous city with a notably relaxed and friendly atmosphere, due in part to a large student population. Monuments from its past, particularly the extraordinary creations of Moulay Ismail, justify a day or two’s rambling exploration, as do the varied and busy souks of its Medina – a uniquely well-preserved combination that have earned the entire city a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Visitors en route to Fez will find Meknes a good introduction to the drama of its illustrious neighbour, while those arriving from Fez are sure to enjoy the reduced tempo.

An easy excursion from Meknes, Volubilis and Moulay Idriss embody much of Morocco’s early history: Volubilis as its Roman provincial capital, Moulay Idriss in the creation of the country’s first Arab dynasty. Their sites stand 4km apart, at either side of a deep and very fertile valley, about 25km north of the city.

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