Meknes Royal Stables in Morocco were built by despot Moulay Ismail to provide palatial accommodation for his beloved horses. They numbered 12,000, and each of them had its very own groom and slave to tend to all its needs. It is even said that, after a horse had completed a journey to Mecca, slaves were forced to catch its urine in a bowl, as even the earth was too undeserving for the horse to urinate on.
Despite his power, Ismail could not ensure the stables’ longevity: They were destroyed within a hundred years following an earthquake.
Born in either 1634 or 1645, Moulay Ismail has been given the epithet “the Bloodthirsty” for his legendary cruelty. In order to intimidate rivals, he once ordered that his city walls be adorned with 10,000 heads of slain enemies. Legends of the ease in which Ismail could behead or torture laborers or servants he thought to be lazy are numerous. During the half century of his rule, he is estimated to have killed 30,000.
During Ismail’s reign, Morocco’s capital city was moved from Fez to Meknes where he carried out an extensive building program that resulted in the construction of numerous gates, mosques, gardens and madrassas. Some of the stones were plundered from the ancient Roman ruins at Volubilis.
Moulay Ismail is alleged to have fathered a total of 867 children, including 525 sons and 342 daughters; his 700th son was born in 1721.This is widely considered the record number of offspring for any man throughout history that can be verified.
After Moulay Ismail’s death in 1727 at the age of eighty-two (or at around ninety if one accepts the 1634 birthdate), there was another succession battle between his surviving sons. His successors continued with his building program, but in 1755 the huge palace compound at Meknes was severely damaged by an earthquake. By 1757 his grandson, Mohammed III, moved the capital to Marrakech.