2 failed attempts to find the El Badi on my previous trip, I found it quite easily on my second trip.
The Palace of "The Incomparable" or "The Marvel" its name isn't easily translated, was built on the orders of Ahmed El Mansour after defeat of the Portuguese in the Battle of 3 kings.
Built 1578 to 1603, and paid for by ransom money from the Portuguese, Guinean gold and Sugar (which was exchanged for its equivalant weight in marble !)
It's design was influenced by the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Italian marble, Rare woods from India, and Sudanese gold were used .Craftsmen from around the world were employed in construction and decoration. Its walls being covered with zillij tiles and carved stucco panels.
360 rooms, courtyards, pools, orange groves and an underground prison were enclosed in the brick walls. The most impressive room being the Kabba el Khamsinyya- named due to its 50 columns- it was probably the Reception Hall for state visits.
Sadly El Mansour died before completion of his dream.
Sultan Moulay Ismail decided to a bit of re-cycling, and over 10 years in the 17th C, removed the valuable materials and craftwork for his palace in Meknes! Looks like he got a bit carried away, as today there is just the shell of the Palace, whose walls provide nesting space for the many storks.
It is worth visiting to get an idea of the size, and you can get some idea of the layout from the foundations (and info plaques at strategic points) There are good views from the walls over the City into the Mellah, and you can clamber around the underground cells (bring a torch).
Late afternoon, the storks (cignones) make quite an impressive sight soaring into the sky, before swooping earthwards.
The treasure in the Palace now is the restored Koutoubia Minbar, considered to be one of the finest examples of wood working created by man in the world!
May or June, the Palace is the main venue of the annual Folklore Festival.
10dh admission to Palace + 10dh to see minbar
Open 08.30 - 11.45, 14.45 - 17.45
The Badia palace is in fact the royal palace
constructed by the most powerful ruler of the
Saadian dynasty'Ahmed Al-Mansour Ad-dahbi'.
1578 is when the buildings works took a start
and they would not get finished before 1594.
Now the palace is little more then a ruin.
But if you visit the Saadian tombs first you
can imagine what a rich and amazing palace
It must have been impressive only for it's size.
The inner court measured 135 by 110 meters
with a swimming pool in the middle 90 by 20 meters.
The picture shows the 'Koubba al Khamssiniyya' ,
-the pavilion of fity cubits. (referring to it's size).
The pavilion used to have a pyramid shaped
roof resting on twelve columns and was used
by the sultan for state audiences.
This enormous palace was another of the Saadian sultan Ahmed al-Mansour's extravagant creations and was described at the time as one of the world's most beautiful buildings. Unfortunately much of it was destroyed when the Saadian dynasty fell and Marrakech was ransacked.
Although you can't see the luxury and decoration I assume it would have been like a bigger version of the Saadian tombs - so extremely impressive! As it is you can still get a feel for the sheer size of the place and wander around the old ruins and crumbling walls. There are lovely orange groves in the main section and in the ruins behind there's a system of dark underground tunnels and dungeons to explore. Maybe I just hit it at the right time but it was a lot less crowded than most other Marrakech attractions - just me and a Japanese guy who insisted I pose for about a dozen photos!
The minbar is in a restored pavillion in the Palace El Badi, with exhibits of the minbar and its restoration.
A minbar or Mimbar is the platform/pulpit where the Imam recites the Koran.
Often they're small towers with a pointed roof and stairs. They are always placed to the right of the mihrab - a niche in the wall indicating the direction of Mecca, the direction for worshippers to face during prayer.
Minbars are only used on Fridays, and otherwise remain locked away.
Originally constructed in Cordoba, Spain in 1139, It was transferred in separate pieces to Marrakech by camel, where it was reconstructed.
It consists of over a 1,000 single carvings of incredible complexity and pattern, not one is identical!
Scripts from the Koran and geometric/ mathmatical patterns are contained in the work. It took 8 years to complete and is thought to be one of the finest examples of woodwork created by humans.
Not only was it an amazing piece of craftsmanship, the assembled worshippers were stunned to see the minbar appear as if by magic during their Friday prayers - a series of pulleys and rails enabled this manouevre!
The minbar was in continual use in 3 different mosques in Marrakech until 1962, when it was removed here for restoration.
Restored by experts from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in joint partnership with the Ministery of Cultural Affairs of Morocco.
A documentary of the restoration won the gold trophy in 1998 in an arts film festival in S. France.
For an account of the conservation work carried out and the history of the minbar this web page below is useful (I think this paper might have been one of the displays in the exhibition)- there are drawings and photos too
I found that the minbar is behind a corded rail, which prevents viewing of most of the structure, and photography is forbidden - A security guard ensures this!
Please see my previous El Badia Palace tip for more details of directions, opening times etc.
This palace, built in the late 16th century, was an immense and sumptuous place in its day. Very sadly, it was demolished about a century later when another sultan decided to use its materials to build another palace in the city of Meknes. Only the outer walls and grounds remain, with just enough detail left of the pools and fountains to let you imagine what this place might have looked like in its heyday.
This was originally one of the most beautiful palace in the world. But now, it's only ruins since the materials were used to build Moulay Ismail's own palace in Meknes.
You can explore the underground corridors and go on top to admire the view (mainly on the storks). At the entrance, guides will propose you a guided tour of the ruins but according to me, it's not necessary since there is nothing special to see.
Entrance fee is 10 Dh (1 euro) but if you don't have much time, forget about this place ;-)
El-Badi Palace was built by the Saadian Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour in the 16th century. He ordered to be built a luxurious palace, which was meant to be used mostly for receptions. It was one of the most beautiful buildings in the Muslim world and impressive for its size; just the inner court is 135 by 110 metres and had 360 rooms. It was destroyed when the Saadian dynasty fell.
El-Badia Palace is hidden behind its red coloured pisé walls. After entering through the so called Green Pavilion we came in the enormous courtyard with four sunken gardens with orange trees and a swimming pool. Going to the left we reached a staircase - just behind a nice fountain with zellij tile work - to a viewing point with views of the courtyard and the remains of the of the palace (to the other side is a view over the roofs of Marrakech to the Koutoubia Mosque, with some stork nests nearby on the ramparts).
On the right hand side of the entrance are the ruins of some rooms visible, which were used in the older days by guests of the Sultan. The ‘Koubba el Khamsiniyya’ (referring to its 50 grand marble columns) was the main hall for audiences; today hardly to believe.
It was nice to walk around (you don’t need no more than 30 à 45 minutes to get a good impression), but we were rather disappointed seeing just remnants of a former palace. To be honest we missed the minbar (pulpit) from the Koutoubia Mosque, which is displayed in another building. Nobody at the ticket office told us anything about this gem.
El-Badi Palace is open daily 8.30 - 11.45am and 2.30 - 5.45pm. Admission fee is 10 Dirhams (extra for the minbar another 10 Dirhams). Within the palace are a couple of info plaques, so there is no need to get a guide for your visit.
Following his victories against the Portuguese in the 16th century, Yacoub el-Mansour ordered the construction of el Badi Palace, which was designed to be the largest and most sumptuous in Marrakech. If the Saadien Tombs of the same period are any indication, then el Badi Palace must have been that and more. Unfortunately, around 1700 during the rein of the Alaouites, Moulay Ismail ordered the destruction of el Badi along with other Saadian palaces. El Badi's decorations, however, were carefully removed and transported to Meknes where Moulay Ismail had moved the capital. The recovered materials were used to decorate palaces in his new capital Meknes. Despite being a ruin today, el Badi Palace is a very relaxing and picturesque spot worth exploring. Most astonishing is the sight of numerous storks nesting along the palace's ruined walls.
I was amused reading that the sultan summer
residence where he would go on a holiday
with his family was just on the other side of
the pool. The interior of this parth was
highly contrasting with the splendour of his
Now the ruin houses a breeding colony of storks.
These magnificient black and white birds
are all over town and you can sometimes see
them fly using the warm air to keep circling
with the snowy mountaintops in the back.
The thick walls seem to be perfect to build
their nest. Each almost leaving exact the same
space in between them.
El Badi Place was constructed between 1578 and 1594 for Ahmed el Mansour, who ruled Morocco for 25 years. It was also known as "The Incomparable" because it was so magnificent. It was later destroyed and stripped of all its wealth by Sultan Moulay Ismail. Today there are still impressive ruins of this huge palace complex to be seen.
Admission: 10dh or 20dh with the minbar
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