The Imperial Cities of Morocco: Fes, Meknes, Marrakech, and Rabat
The four historical and capital cities of Morocco are Fes, Meknes, Marrakech, and Rabat. At some point in time over the past few decades, each of these cities have been named the capital. Currently, Rabat is the official capital. If you’re visiting Morocco anytime soon, or just want to learn more, getting to know Morocco’s imperial cities is a great start!
Fes is the oldest of the imperial cities, built in 780. It’s located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and is a hotspot for Moroccan politics. Fes has been described as a very clean and well-kept city, especially since it’s where the king resides. It’s not as big of a tourist destination as some of the other imperial cities, but it’s a great place to relax and see medinas that are not as busy and packed tightly. The high-walled streets and ornate carvings and mosaics on every surface allow visitors to experience ‘old Morocco’. Fes is known for its cultural and historical significance, which is felt by all who visit.
Meknes is only a two-hour train from Fes and is probably the least well-known and smallest. It was named an imperial city in the eighteenth century. Even though it’s a quiet town, Meknes is full of golden washed streets and vibrant markets. It’s known for fresh produce and lush rolling hills. The medina markets are filled with spices, herbs, perfumes, dates, and sweets. Everything smells delightful and is sold at a practical price. For lunch, small and authentic restaurants serve a variety of traditional Moroccan cuisine, including lentil soup and camel burgers, for those feeling adventurous. In the evenings, visitors will find that Meknes comes alive with a pulsating nightlife and fun bars very welcoming towards visitors.
Marrakech was founded in 1062, is the most well-known out of all of the imperial cities, and one of the best places to visit in the whole world. The fast-paced city in one of the busiest in the country filled with Riads, medinas, restaurants, shops, and much more. Marrakech is home to one of the busiest market squares in Africa, filled with entertainment. It’s not uncommon for tourists to come across fire-eaters, belly dancers, and acrobats, alongside street peddlers. Marrakech is filled with hotels, restaurants, bars, golf courses, and luxury spas.
Rabat also was named an imperial city in the eighteenth century, but was not known as a Moroccan capital until 1912, and is still the capital today. There is a lot of history built into the streets, which has made it a center for tourism, culture, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rabat is located on the Atlantic coast. Some popular destinations include Hassan Tower which holds the ashes of King Hassan II and Prince Abdallah, the Chellah, where the Phoenicians and Romans made their base early on, the Rabat beaches, and the Mohamed VI Museum of Modern and contemporary art.
The imperial cities of Morocco are rich with history and great destinations for anyone who is adventurous. Medieval cities, Roman ruins, palaces, performers, and mosques are all just a journey away!