There was no good estimate of the number of children the Sultan Moulay Ismail had, but it is clear that he owned a lot of property. He made Meknes his capital and built a fortress city in the 17th Century that remains impressive today.
Our drive from Rabat to Meknes took us away from the coast through beautiful farmland. The road was well developed and maintained, and the farms were small family operations. As we passed through them, everywhere, we saw men working, a site that would not be as common later in the trip.
It was a brilliant day that made the green grasses glow and the pink houses seemed warm and welcoming. Meknes was also a glowing city that day. The gate of El Mansour, Bab el Mansour, is a beautiful and intricate, but no longer an entrance.
We went to the entrance of Sultan Moulay’s city and toured the vast compound he had built. It was of a magnitude that astonished, but then he was a man of great appetites. It took a lot of stores to support a family the size of his, and 12,000 horses take up a lot of room, then of course you have to keep your prisoners somewhere. The granary was cool and dry, but the stables were what drew me. Their size and symmetry was beautiful, almost joyous in the bright afternoon sun. Of course, the prison where the European slaves (who built the complex) was not as cheerful.
We went next to the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail. Although he was a brutal leader who enslaved many and killed thousands of his own subjects, he is revered and his mausoleum is a shrine. The tile work was beautiful and it is a serene place. We took off our shoes to enter the mosque joined a collection of tourists and people seeking baraka (blessings) by touching spots designated as holy. The tile work glowed when it was caught in the sunlight.
Heading to lunch we saw a man flogging wool to prepare it for spinning. Then we had a nice tagine of chicken for lunch.