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If the Walls Could Talk: The Ugly Past of a Beautiful City

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Even though I sprained my ankle coming down from our hike in the Atlas Mountains, I was determined not to miss out on a tour of Meknes! Abeja and I got off our bus at four o'clock in the morning, in total darkness! We waited in the smoky bus station for daylight, and then she helped me hobble into a taxi for a tour of the city!

As we rode through the streets of Meknes, Abeja and I said to each other how beautiful we thought the city was. "It's not beautiful," said our taxi driver. "It's a mess!" We then learned how Meknes came to be compared to the grand palace of Versailles, built by King Louis XIV of France, and how just as quickly it lost its sparkle.

In 1672 a ruthless man named Moulay Ismail became Sultan of Morocco. He decided that he would move the capital of Morocco from Marrakech to Meknes, and that his new home should have an extravagant palace for him to live in as well as lots of other monuments.

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Architecture that once rivaled Versailles
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Instead of hiring people to build his palace, Ismail made more than 25,000 Christian prisoners and another 30,000 common criminals do the back-breaking work. He didn't pay them, and they were treated very badly. Anyone who disobeyed Ismail or who couldn't keep up with the work suffered the worst fate of all: death.

Moulay Ismail ruled Morocco for 55 years. When he died, his grandson, Mohammed III, moved the capital back to Marrakech, and took most of Meknes's beautiful decorations with him. The city of Meknes was no longer the jewel in the crown of Morocco.

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Ismail's tomb - eerily peaceful
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Even though Moulay Ismail was one of the worst rulers of Morocco, there are still monuments to him in Meknes. His body lies inside a tomb in a lovely mausoleum with peaceful courtyards, tiled rooms and running water fountains. Do you think he deserves such a peaceful resting place?

Kavitha
 

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