Ready to move on, we hopped aboard a 6 hour train north to the city of Meknes where life slowed down a bit. Immediately, it was evident that Meknes was just the city we needed after overbearing Marrakesh. Only 45 minutes from Fes, Meknes is often overlooked by tourists thankfully leaving it without the resulting hoards of professional tourist scammers.
Letting Our Guard Down
We had heard wonderful things about Meknes and when we told Moroccans we´d met along the way that it was our next stop, they´d always smile and tell us how much they loved it (not just polite conversation as we´d soon find out when we started telling people we were heading to Fes next). From the taxi driver who asked if I could find him an American wife and wanted to trade emails to the family who helped us find our way in the pitch black medina streets one night, we discovered that the people in Meknes (Meknesians?) hadn´t become jaded and annoyed yet by the influx of tourists and were indeed friendlier. In fact, the entire pace of life in Meknes was slower and calmer than it had been in Marrakesh and this was a welcome change.
Riad or Bust
Even if you´re travelling on a budget, I highly recommend staying at a riad. While hostels in the area ran about 10€ per person, a beautiful room in a riad with breakfast included might set you back 27€ total, so not much more if you are travelling with someone. What you get is an experience in itself. One of my favorite moments of the trip was sitting outside our rooftop room at Riad Bab Berdaine and eating a homemade breakfast of meloui (Moroccan style pancakes) and fresh squeezed orange juice as the morning prayer calls started.
The markets of Meknes are also a refreshing change after the over-touristed souks of Marrakesh. With no fear of being run over by a donkey or motorbike, we took our time and wandered around for a while checking out the produce, live animals and random odds and ends being sold. If you´re hoping to pick up some souvenirs, maybe an intricately engraved tea pot or clay tajine, Meknes is the place to do it. The prices will be lower here and so will the pressure to buy. You´ll still have to haggle over the price but you´ll get used to that.
At the end of the day, things close up pretty quick but there´s still time to grab one last glass of mint tea on the rooftop of one of the cafes surrounding the Place Hedim before you turn in for the night.
Have you been to Meknes? How do you think it compares to other Moroccan cities?