Meknes has been called the Versailles of Morocco, but the grand scheme for a royal palace was never completed. Today the city is the centre of a productive area, producing olives, wine, cereal crops and citrus.
The old city is not among the finest in Morocco, but the royal palace is filling a considerable part of it. The palace was erected during the rule of Sultan Moulay Ismail, who reigned for 55 years (1672-1727). He was a true tyrant, and one believes that he had around 30,000 people killed during this period, but the figures are far higher if you include the ones killed in his battles he conducted. His motto was: "My subjects are like rats in a basket, and if I don't shake the basket, they will gnaw their way out."
Despite Ismail's great interest in building, he never succeeded in making Meknes the great imperial city he planned it to be. Meknes has for always been stamped by its feeling of emptiness. Not even the newer French city, situated on the other side of the gorge that divides the city in two halves, managed to change this.