When I think of the word ‘castle’ or ‘palace’, the first thing that comes to mind is places like Versailles or the Buckingham Palace. European architecture, royal and lavish. And by lavish, I mean laa-aavi-sh…
Versailles was gorgeous, especially their famous Hall of Mirrors. Antique glass chandeliers, golden lampposts, crystal like mirrors and beautiful painted ceilings. But I realize that after walking through the whole castle, I got sort of full. It was as if I just had three big piece of some creamy layer cakewith one tall glass of vanilla milkshake with cream on top.
I was craving for some fresh fresh lemonade.
And I got exactly that when I toured around Marrakesh, Morocco to see its palaces. Everything was the complete opposite to whatever ideas of ‘palaces’ and ‘castles’ I had in my head before.
The first palace I went to was called the Bahia Palace. The opening hours were quite weird, I think it closes pretty early and also during lunch hour. Children can get in for free and it doesn’t cost much for adults too.
The ticket booth was located at the mouth of the entrance, which was beautiful. The pathway at the entrance which lead to the palace were lined on both sides with blossoming orange trees (according to our guide, the flower of said tree were used for many Moroccan dishes).
The palace itself was is in the form of a riad, which is signified by four small outdoor garden surrounding one small fountain, usually placed as the middle courtyard of the palace. Built in the 19th century, the Bahia palace was the home of Morocco’s late prime minister and his multiple wives. He named the palace, however, after his favourite wife, Bahia, which means ‘Beautiful’ in Arabic.
The arches were beautifuly carved with amongst other things, Arabic calligraphy. It was carved out of gypsum, which according to our guide does an excellent job in keeping the inside temperature cool even though it’s searing hot outside.
The place also has it’s own ‘harem’ with a vast courtyard and small washing basin in the middle, surrounded by small rooms for the prime minister’s many wives and concubines. Bahia, of course, had the biggest room amongst the other wives.
Moreover, according to our guide this vast harem courtyard has also been used as a setting for many movies. I couldn’t remember exactly, but I think he named “Lawrence of Arabia” as one of them.
At Bahia Palace’s harem court, posing right in front of the washing basin.
The next palace that we went to was the El Badi Palace. I recall that the location of this palace is perfect for tourists. It was located right behind the Place des Ferblantier, a small square lined with souks selling mostly antique ornamental lamps and furnitures. (Tip: If you ever get hungry, I reccomend a chic affordable restaurant called the Kosybar at the Place des Ferblantier. They have really nice and fresh fruit salad with orange blossom water!)
The El Badi Palace is a much older palace. It used to be a grand and marvelous palace built by Saadian king Ahmed Al-Mansur in the 1500. However, the only thing you can see now is the ruin and remnants for it was destroyed by another Sultan after Ahmed Al-Mansur’s time.
Our trusty guide told us that the jealous Sultan took every single valuable things before destroying the palace, namely its gold or doors and windows with gold on it, leaving many holes in the ruin.
Even though it isn’t as beautiful (architecture-wise) as the Bahia palace, the El Badi Palace is still worth a visit. Especially with a good guide who can tell the history of the whole place like the back of their hands.
Now, the El Badi palace also function as a venue for occasional music festival. There were people rehearsing when I came and visit the palace .
Berber musicians and dancers practising for the music festival in the center of the ruin of the El Badi Palace.
One of the buildings in the Palace has a good panoramic view of the whole city of Marrakesh. So, dont leave the palace without going up the stairs of the building and take a great panoramic picture of the city with the Koutoubia Minaret as the backgound.