My first thought on visiting the El Pahia Palace was that the one-time slave and his son who built it, Si Moussa and Ba Ahmed, did all right for themselves! This is an impressive and beautiful complex, seeming more fit for a ruler than for that ruler’s servants – but these were no ordinary servants. Si Moussa had risen from his lowly start as a slave to become Sultan Moulay Hassan’s chamberlain, and then his grand vizier. He started to build his palace, on the foundations of several old houses on the northern fringes of the Jewish quarter of Marrakech (the Mellah) around 1860 – the exact dates of construction are disputed. He named it for his favourite wife – a fitting name, as it translates as “Brilliance”. His son Ba Ahmed, also a grand vizier and later regent to Moulay Hassan’s son Moulay Abd el Aziz, continued to enlarge the palace to create the sprawling complex we see today.
Paying your 10 MAD entrance fee at the gate, you make your way along a path through gardens that provide a welcome respite from the chaos of the medina outside and enter first the newer part of the palace built by Ba Ahmed. This in its way is almost as chaotic – not in terms of noise and bustle (even with the large number of visitors this is a relatively peaceful spot) but in terms of design, as Ba Ahmed was one of those people who just didn’t know when to stop! His additions to his father’s rather more harmonious palace (which we will come to shortly) were rather piecemeal. When he wanted more space, or was able to acquire some land through the purchase of neighbouring houses or even streets, he added a few more rooms.
The first part you enter is known as the small riad and is the newest part. It consists of a courtyard planted with banana and orange trees and surrounded by a series of rooms. The garden is very pretty and, even full with a tour group as it was when we arrived, provided us with welcome shade on a scorchingly hot day. And when the group moved on, it was really a lovely spot. In addition to the shade of the trees and the restfulness of the greenery, there is beautiful stucco work to admire as well as the ornate ceilings of the various anterooms. The largest of these is the council room, where Ba Ahmed used to receive government officials, with an especially striking ceiling of painted cedar wood (see photo three for a detail of this). The fireplaces here and in several other rooms were the addition of the French general, Lyautey, who later made his home in this riad during the French Protectorate.
From here you proceed to the small courtyard (photo four), an elegant space of white marble and restrained zellige tiling, around which were the private quarters of Ba Ahmed and his legitimate wives. Here I especially loved the painted wooden shutters, one of which you can see in photo five.
This is, as I mentioned, a large complex, so let’s continue our explorations in my next 2016 tip: Dar Si Moussa
From the succession of fairly intimate rooms and courtyards that constitute the newer part of the El Bahia Palace, built by Ba Ahmed, you proceed to the stunning (and definitely not intimate!) centrepiece of his father Si Moussa’s palace, the large courtyard. And large it is – 50 by 30 metres, built in white Carrara marble which, in the bright sunlight when we visited, is almost painful to look at. The floor is criss-crossed with relatively restrained zellige tile-work, but the vivid blue and yellow painted lattice work that decorates the arches between the pillars is what makes the most striking impression. There are three marble basins along its centre, and around its perimeter the rooms that once housed the harem, shielded from view with ornate grilles and windows filled with stained glass imported from Iraq. The colonnades are further ornamented with elaborate painted ceilings (see photo three for a detail of one of these).
To the north of this courtyard is the large riad, the oldest part of the palace completed (probably) in 1866-67. Here Si Moussa, and later Ba Ahmed, would come to relax and take tea with his favourite concubines. After the glaring heat of the large courtyard its gentle green shade is especially welcome.
As I said in my previous tip about the El Bahia, entrance to this enchanting place is just 10 MAD – money well spent on what should be a must-see in Marrakech.
Next 2016 tip: the nearby Place des Ferblantiers
This 19th century palace has over 160 rooms, but only about two dozen are open to the public. A part of it is still used by the Royal family and their staff. It was the residence of Abou Ahmed, a former African slave who rose to power and became grand vizier to the Sultan. The palace was named after his favourite wife. Later, it was used by the French colonial government as the governor's residence.
El Bahia Palace has been carefully restaurated and is said to be the most beautiful in Marrakesh open to the public. However, there is not a lot of furniture to see. There is almost no information inside either, therefore consider to take a good guidebook with you or even hire a guide, if you are interested in details. Even with all the tourists inside, El Bahia Palace has a quiet atmosphere and is probably one of the quietest places in Marrakesh's old town.
There is the standard entry fee of 10 Dirham for adults (2015). Try to have small denomination notes with you as they are constantly lacking change. Plan around 60 minutes for a visit (depending on how many rooms are open as some may be closed temporarily), add around 20 minutes if you want to roam the gardens as well. The website is in French only, but opening times and fare details can de found under “Tarif et horaire de la visite”.
The royal Bahia Palace was built to impress. It was intended to be the finest building in the world, and took a legion of master craftsmen shipped in from Fez 15 years to complete. It consists of 160 rooms, each one of which is decorated to the highest degree in marble tadelakt plaster, zellige terracotta tiles and polished cedar ceilings - all examples of the best in Moroccan interior design. I read that Morocco has some of the finest craftsmen in the world, but that nothing ever gets finished unless the King himself turns up to watch over them. Here you can see what happens when the greatest craftsmen complete their work on a massive scale.
The El Bahia palace is situated in the south of the Medina and is approached by a long garden driveway.Once inside you are directed by arrows on the wall which take you through a succession of rooms and courtyards.The decoration in the rooms with the tiling,carved wooden doors and ornate ceilings gives you a good idea of Moorish architecture.Very little information inside so you really need the help of a guide.Enjoyed our visit,allow about 1 hour.Excellent value for 10 dirhams.
Exquisitely beautiful with courtyards, grand doorways, colourful, patterned tiles and elaborate rooms. The palace was built at the end of the 19th century and has been restored after it was ransacked further to the death of Bou Ahmed.
It makes for a quiet alternative to the busy souqs, medinas etc...
It costs 10Dh to get in
Closed on Sundays and Mondays
Open 8:30 - 11:15 & 14:30 - 17:45 on Sat- Thurs
and 8:30 - 11:30 & 15:00 - 17:45 Fri
The Bahia Palace is located in the medina of Marrakesh near the Jewish quarter. The exact dates of the construction of the palace ae not known but it was completed by 1900.
The palace complex was erected in sections additional tracts of land were obtained resulting in a slightly haphazard layout. The palace is quite large and spreads over almost eight hectares including walled gardens, pavilions, and courtyard buildings.
The older part of the palace is the Dar Si Moussa which includes a courtyard in the north of the complexand a central garden featuring several fountains and cypress, orange, jasmine, and banana trees.
The palace has some fine example of Moroccan architecture and design - beautiful carved archways, marble floors, painted cedar ceilings and tiled panels. I especially admired the intricate carving above the windows of the harem.
The Bahia Palace has been well-maintained over the past century by the Moroccan government and is currently used to receive foreign dignitaries. Part of the palace is occupied by the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
This palace is quite close to the Jemma el Fna square. It has some amazing decorations inside, on the floors, walls and ceilings. Some of the tiling done in the palace looks really nice. There are plenty of places inside that provide a nice shade in the summers heat.
The palace looks nice but it is in desperate need of restoration and if this was done it would look a million times better.
There was an entrance fee of 10 dirhams.
Palais De La Bahia is a private palace dating to the 19th century. With decorated rooms and ceilings, mosaic fireplaces, beautiful gardens and patios, Palais De La Bahia was the prettiest place we saw in Marrakech. Even had a harem!
Palais Bahia translates as Palace of the Favourite.
Built in two stages or parts at the end of the 19th century by two powerful grand viziers - the older part built by Si Moussa, the vizier of Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abderrahman, and the newer part of the two built by Si Moussa's son, Ba Ahmed, vizier of Moulay Abdelaziz.
The older part contains apartments around a marble-paved courtyard and an open courtyard with cypress and orange trees and jasmine, with 2 star shaped pools.
The newer part is a huge palace complex containing luxurious apartments looking onto courtyards planted with trees. The best craftsmen in the kingdom were apparently hired to build and decorate this palace and it is decorated with prized materials such as marble from Meknes, cedar from the Middle Atlas and tiles from Tetouan.
The main courtyard, once used by the vizier's concubines, is paved with marble and zellij tilework, with 3 fountains and surrounded by a gallery of finely fluted columns. This courtyard faces the main reception room with a cedar ceiling painted with arabesque.
I have visited the Bahia on two occasions - the first was quite rushed and I always after wanted to come back for a better look! When I finally returned last year I needed about 1 and a half to 2 hours to adequately see and photograph this beautiful complex!
Entrance is still only 10 dirham - approximately 1 euro
Check if it definitely closes for a lunchbreak from about 1230 to 230 pm each day. Opens early before 9am and closes 6pm.
There are two other courtyards with jasmine, cypress, lemon and orange trees. It is believed that Ba Hmad, Sdid Moussa’s son, received government representatives in these areas. Zellij tile work is laid out in beautiful designs on the floor of the courtyards and surround small fountains.
During the 1900’s, the French conquered Marrakesh and Marshal Lyautey used the Palace as his residence. During this time he chose to update and modernise the complex.
Decorations take the form of subtle stucco panels, zellij decorations, tiled floors, smooth arches, carved-cedar ceilings, shiny marble (tadlak) finishes and zouak painted ceilings.