The El Badi Palace is one of the oldest monuments in Marrakech, dating from the late 16th century. The name means “Incomparable”, reflecting its original grandeur – materials such as Italian marble, gold, turquoise and onyx were used in its construction, and there were pavilions, sunken gardens and a huge ninety-metre-long pool. Today it is largely ruined, but is an impressive ruin, as foretold by the court jester of its founder, the Saadian sultan Ahmed el Mansour, who when asked for his opinion by his ruler is said to have responded, “Sir, this will make a magnificent ruin”. It is said to be rather atmospheric and a real draw for photographers. It was therefore high on my wish-list for this return visit to the city. Imagine my disappointment then to find that it was closed for restoration! All we could really see of it was its massive outer walls and the storks nesting thereon. It was good to see them though, and the sight (and the clattering of their beaks) was a nice reminder of the VT meeting earlier in the year in Faro where we had seen many similar nests. I took these photos from the Rue de Berrima, which also provided me with some other good photo opps such as the rather spooky-looking tailor’s dummy in photo five which I spotted in a shop window.
An official government sign posted about the restoration work stated that it is due to take 12 months, but unfortunately didn’t give the start date (well, it might have done so in Arabic, which I can’t read, but not in French which I can!)
Next 2016 tip: the nearby Royal Palace
Apparently El Badi Palace means The Incomparable Palace. With a good reason, as this palace must have been spectacular in its heyday. The palace took twenty five years to build, with construction finally completed around 1593 and was a lavish display of the best craftsmanship of the Saadian period. Now it is ruined, but still interesting.
The newly opened guest rooms and the prison cells (very dark when you get off the main drag) are especially noteworthy and the roof terrace will give you some great photo ops of the storks and their nests.
The Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Art (MMP+) is also currently located in the El Badi premises (next tip).
The “Incomparable Palace” is a huge palace complex from which only ruins are preserved. The Saadians ordered its construction in 1578. It was only in use for about 75 years until it was demolished in the late 17h century. According to a legend, the court jester remarked once that the palace is going to be a beautiful ruin. Still, there is enough left of the palace so give you an idea about its greatness. The interior was once similar rich in decoration to the Saadian tombs.
The entry to the small palace museum is another 10 Dirham. Compared to the 10 Dirham entry fee for the palace this may be much, compared to the value of the currency this is nothing (less than 1 EUR). For that price, it is worth to have a look around the exhibition and see the beautiful preserved 12th century minbar from Koutoubia Mosque (no photography allowed in this part). The other museum, the photography museum, (included in entry fee) has changing exhibitions. Information is available in English, French and Arabic.
Plan around 1 ½ to 2 hours for a visit, a little more than two if you want to visit both museums. All prices as of early 2015.
At 10 dirhams for entry this is a must place for a visit.Once inside the palace you enter a peaceful retreat from the way of life outside.The only sound that we heard was the click click from the many storks that live around the palace walls.It is worth going up to the terrace from which you get nice views of Marrakech as well as getting an idea of the immense size of this complex.Going down to the underground passageways was also interesting as this is where the stables and dungeons were.
Ive read reviews by visitors to El Badi saying theres nothing to see - the thing is, this is a historic site that was once a wonder of the Muslim world. and the meaning of El-BAdi is the 'Incomparable one' so it sounds impressive in name too.
This enormous palace was built by Ahmed El Mansour (the Victorious) after a battle known as the Battle of the 3 kings in 1578 near Tangier - in which his brother was killed alongside an opposing Saadian sultan in league with the King of Spain who had sent his young nephew, the King of Portugal, to fight but was also killed.
Ahmed el Mansour was also known as the 'Golden one' after this battle as he was able to ransom the Portugeuse to finance the building of his new palace!! Italian marble, Irish granite, Indian onyx and goldleaf decorating the walls and ceilings of the 360 rooms its no wonder Spain got rid of its alliance with Portugal!
In 1683, Moulay Ismail (who I consider the bad boy of MOroccan history as he was truly ruthless and has some rather nasty stories from his days lording over his subjects) demolished Palais El-BAdi and used all the valuable materials to decorate his imperial city of Meknes.
It is true there is not a lot remaining but the huge walls that surrounded show what an enormous place this was. There are still remains of rooms and underground dungeons and tunnels and some of the gardens. The area above the main entrance gate is still intact and you can take the stairways up for good views over the area and see the storks that return here for several months each year.
Nice to be up on the walls around sunset - which is when my photos in this tip were taken.
Remains of the old mosque with ancient minbar are visitable with an extra ticket.
All in all one of the major historic must-sees to appreciate Marrakech.
The old Royal Palace is only a shell now .... not much to see or do here ....towards the back there is a very interesting Muslim Staircase from the mid 1300's ... other than that the view from one of the roof is the best part of coming here .... you get to see the Atlas mountains towards the east and see the roof tops of the old medina ....
Admission price is a low 20 dirhams ... about $2.50
We walked around the whole complex in about 30 minutes .......
This palace was reputed to be the most beautiful in the world - difficult to imagine as you wander around the ruins. It was constructed between 1578 and 1602 and there was apparently there was marble from Italy and other materials from India. It was known as the Incomparable! In 1696 it was plundered for these fine materials and what you see today is all that remains.
The remains are centred around a sunken orange grove and the storks who nest on the remains will look down and cry their woody cry to you!
You don't need to much time here. It was around DH10 per person.
This palace was built in the 16th century. It was one extremely grand but was looted and left as a ruin by Moulay Ismail the following century.
There are four huge, rectangular sunken gardens and two large rectangular pools.
You can find the holes into which prisoners were thrown.
Look up to see the storks on top of the walls ---they are good luck!
It opens 8.30-11.45 then 2.30-5.45.
The entrance fee is 10dh.
Would I return there? Probably not ---but I'm pleased that I've been!
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.
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
This palace was built for Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour in 1603. The name - roughly translated - means "the incomparable". The palace is now in ruins due to the fact that the later Sultan Moulay Ismail preferred Meknes as his favourite city, so he plundered Al Badi thoroughly in 1683. Al Badi remains a ruin, but it has a nice athmosphere, and one can still guess the splendor that it once must have radiated. On the crumbling walls plenty of storks are nesting. As an additional bonus, it is less crowded than most other sights in Marrakech.
I found El Badi Palace quite interesting, although there's not much of it left - only the outer walls, in fact. But - because of its vast size, it can still igve you an idea of how magnificent the palace would have been. This palace was built by the Saadian king Ahmed el-Mansour in 1578, whose tomb you can visit nearby.
The original building (which was built between 1578-1594) consisted of 360 rooms, a 135 m by 110 m courtyard and also a 90 m by 20 m pool - all richly decorated, of course. In what would have been the courtyard you can now see a large orange grove - so your visit will be a very perfumed one.
Sadly this palace was destroyed by the Sultan Mawlay Ismail, who took away the best materials and decorations to ornate his own palace in Meknes.