Founded in the 11th century as an Almoravid fortress town, Meknes is a charming imperial city and former capital of Morocco just 40 miles south-west of Fez. Its regional importance can be traced back to the Sultan Moulay Ismail who in the 17th century set about transforming it into a regional powerhouse replete with palaces, mosques, gardens and mansions. Sadly, the sultan died before his grand plan was completed and over time Meknes’ prominence slowly ebbed away. Today, under UNESCO patronage, the city is slowly restoring the crumbling monuments to their former glory. Stay a few days and you can visit the Bou Inania Medersa, the impressive Bab Al Mansour Gateway and Moulay Ismael’s mausoleum before heading into the surrounding countryside.
Close by, Volubilis is Morocco’s foremost Roman ruin founded on the very edge of the empire in the 3rd century BC. Earthquakes and looting have robbed the site of many of its architectural treasures yet much still remains including the Basilica, Arch of Caracalla and Capitoline Temple as well as several impressive mosaics.