The former capital of Morocco under the reign of Moulay Ismail, Meknes is one of the most beautiful cities in Morocco, surrounded by over 40 kilometres (25 miles) of defensive walls. Moulay Ismail ruled for 55 years, a reign almost long enough to build one of the finest imperial cities that Europe had ever seen. Tens of thousands of slaves, many Christians kidnapped from European villages as far north as Iceland by Moroccan pirates, worked and died to construct more than 50 palaces, the 20 gates and the large city wall.
Due to the city's wealth of preserved buildings and monuments it is nicknamed 'the city of a hundred minarets'. Its medina - Place el-Hedim - is one of the busiest in Morocco, while the 18th century gates, called 'Bab Mansour', are considered to be one of the most beautiful city gates in the world. They are located at the entrance to the imperial city. Another of the city's key attractions is the Mausoleum of the Sultan, one of the only mosques in Morocco to admit non-Muslims.