Meknes-Tafilalet Region and Meknes
> The King Who Would Rival the Sun King
Meknes-Tafilalet is one of the sixteen administrative regions of Morocco. Yet, in terms of size, if this region were treated as a country and included in Wikipedia's List of Countries by Size, Meknes-Tafilalet's 79,210 square kilometer area would rank it larger than half the nations in the world—116th out of 235 on the Wikipedia list of countries by size. More than twice the size of Belgiun, the Meknes-Tafilatet region is just about the same size as the Czech Republic (78,865 km2), and only a little smaller than Austria (83,871 km2).
Like both Austria and the Czech Republic, Meknes-Tafilalet is a region of beautiful mountains and rich agricultural valleys. Also like them, it is dominated by an ancient but bustling World Heritage City.
The Czech Republic has Prague, Austria has Vienna, and the region of Meknes-Tafilalet has Meknes. Everybody, of course, has heard of Vienna and Prague, two of the most charming, beautiful, and historic cities of Europe.
Few, however, know of Meknes—except for the very rich who know how to keep the secret to themselves. But this is soon to change. Designated by UNESCO as World Heritage City only fifteen years ago (1996), Meknes is now actively striving to become known to the rest of the world by becoming a major world tourist destination and magnet for investment.
Meknes was built by a man who sought to outshine the Sun King. Louis XIV of France—called the "Sun King"—was the greatest European monarch of all time.
Meknes is one of Morocco's four Imperial Cities—including Fes, Marrakech, and Rabat—that served as capitals of the country in its 1,300 year existence, and under which Morocco has at various times ruled much of Spain and most of North Africa.
All four Imperial Cities are: glittering jewels of architectural splendor; filled with breathtaking mosques, monuments, and historical sites: and bustling with modern activity. All four are among Morocco's top tourist attractions, but Meknes has a special story that ranks it among the tops of the world.
The King Who Would Rival the Sun King
Meknes was built by a man who sought to outshine the Sun King. Louis XIV of France—called the "Sun King"—was the greatest European monarch of all time. Louis XIV built Versailles, a palace outside Paris constituting a city in itself to show off his wealth, power, and prestige. The man who dared to rival him was Moulay Ismail ibn Sharif, Sultan of Morocco, who decided to build a bigger, better, and more glittering palace-city.
Though little noted in most Western histories, Moulay Ismail (1645-1727) was a contemporary of Louis XIV (1638-1715), and like him was also one of the most powerful kings in the world. Born of humble circumstances, he nevertheless rose to dominate the tribes of Morocco with an army of 150,000 sub-Saharan Africans—his famous Black Guard—with whom he drove out the Spanish, French, and English from their coastal colonies, and defeated the Turks in several engagements that kept Morocco independent of Ottoman control.
His navies marauded the coasts of the world from Iceland to India to seize wealth and slaves, and preyed on the shipping of Europe to and from the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Sitting on the northern terminus of the caravan routes from southern Africa, and the western terminus-market for the caravan routes of North Africa, Moulay Ismail was one of the richest kings in the world.
Moulay Ismael is revered today as one of the great kings of Morocco for uniting the country; for his victories over the French, Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Turks that established the nation's independence; as well as for his great architectural wonders in Meknes. But he is also one of the most politically incorrect leaders in history; in his day, he was one of the greatest tyrants—known as the "Bloodthirsty."
The 50 palaces of Meknes were built by a corps of 25,000 Christian slaves captured by Moulay's marauding ships, and Moulay was said to have executed at least 30,000 victims during his life. His most famous saying is: "My subjects are like rats in a basket, and if I don't shake the basket, they will gnaw their way out;" and many accounts still are passed down of Moulay Ismael's cruelty.
For more of the facts and legends of But Moulay Ismail is most likely to be famous today for holding the world record for the number of children fathered by a single man—over a 1000. Wikipedia (without disclosing the math) calculates that Moulay Ismael would have had to "copulate with an average of 1.2 women per day over 60 years to achieve that number of children." For more of the facts and legends of Moulay Ismail, one of the most colorful, amazing, and frightening characters in history, go here.