MEKNES Meknes is one of Morocco's four royal cities and became famous due to its megalomaniac monarch, Sultan Moulay Ismail who is also known as Morocco's Sun King. The cruel and despotic sultan made Meknes the mightiest fortified city in North Africa. Moulay Ismail had an army of a hundred and fifty thousand men who were stationed at each of the country's main strategic points. Included in his royal household was a harem of six hundred wives of various races as well as countless children and a large retinue of African slaves. His former residence, the Heri and Dar El-Ma Complex, contained fifty palaces that were divided by way of gardens, barracks and stables in which there were twelve thousand horses. The Medina of Meknes is a World Heritage Site and contains both medieval and modern architecture. The old town consists of the Ville Imperiale, the ruins of the palace complex and also the Medina with it residential and commercial districts. It also includes the former Jews Ancien district and the Nouveau Mellah that is now known as Riad. The Medersa Bou-Inania is one of the most important buildings in the Medina. Its courtyard contains a shell-shaped well that is used for ritual bathing. The ground marble and alabaster stuccowork is decorated with objects made with fine spatulas. The Great Mosque was founded by the Almohads but was altered during the time of the Meridis and provides a close insight into the world of Islam. The Berber tribe of Meknassa first gave this city its name but following thousands of years of dramatic history the former royal city of Meknes remains an enigma to the present day.
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