I don’t think anyone can deny that Marrakesh is home to some beautiful architecture. The elements I especially enjoyed were all the colours and intricate details. One amazing example can be appreciated at the Bahia Palace. The word “bahia” means “brilliant” or beautiful” in Arabic. Read on and make up your own mind if the palace is aptly named!
History of Bahia Palace
Built in the late 19th-century, Bahia Palace is (obviously) a palace; but it also contains several pretty gardens. It was considered to be the largest and most lavish Moroccan palace of its time. The palace was built for Si Moussa, a former enslaved man who had climbed the ranks to become the chamberlain of Sultan Hassan I. It was expanded by Ahmed ben Moussa, who succeeded his father as chamberlain and was regent for six years. Interestingly, though, once the child sultan Abd al-Aziz became the ruler, he apparently ordered that the palace be looted. This is why there is no furnishing or art in the palace today.
When Morocco became a French protectorate (1912 to 1955), Bahia Palace became a residence for French officers posted in Marrakesh. The French added heating and electricity (in fact, on your visit, keep your eyes out for various holes in the walls – they would have been for radiators and the like).
Visiting the Palace
There are many rooms in the palace to check out. Some were once for the chamberlain’s work, others for personal use. Some rooms were for the wives and others for the concubines. The walls, ceilings, doors, and archways are all gorgeous – carved woods, Carrara marble, colourful paintings, geometric patterns, mosaic tilework, and allegedly the first stained glass in northern Africa. There are also several courtyards, some with fountains and others lush with verdant gardens. These gardens are lovely, filled with trees like orange, jasmine, and hibiscus as well as various flowers and plants.
Okay, now that I’ve sold you on the beauty of Bahia Palace (I hope), time for the bad news. Even though I visited during the early days of the tourist high season, this place was horrifically busy. It was sometimes difficult to get photos that weren’t crammed with people. You will need an abundance of patience when you visit Bahia Palace. But I think it is still worth a visit – it really is a lovely place.
Location: Avenue Imam El Ghazali, Marrakesh; open every day, 9 to 5pm
Ticket cost at the time of writing: 70dh