The Bahia Palace – A photo tour exploring the architecture and grounds in Marrakesh (2023)
One of the splendid attractions worth visiting in the old Medina at Marrakesh is the beautiful palace called La Bahia (The beautiful) which was built in two stages during the late 19th century. The estate of the grand vizor to the sultan, the palace created to be one of the most opulent islamic style palaces of that timeframe. Experienced craftsmen were brought in from Fez to complete many of the elaborate detail work in the interiors and fine materials were shipped in from around the country to decorate the gorgeous interior courtyards and apartments.
Why visit the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh
Visiting the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh is a must for several compelling reasons:
The Bahia Palace is a masterpiece of Moroccan architecture, showcasing intricate tilework, stunning stucco plasterwork, and exquisite woodcarving. It’s a visual delight for anyone interested in design and craftsmanship.
This palace has a rich history, having been commissioned and inhabited by Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 19th century. It offers insights into the opulent lifestyle of the Moroccan elite during that era.
Gardens of Tranquility:
The palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens with fragrant flowers, towering palm trees, and serene courtyards. It’s a peaceful oasis in the midst of the bustling Marrakesh medina.
Exploring the Bahia Palace provides a glimpse into Moroccan culture and traditions. From the architectural details to the preserved living spaces, it’s a valuable cultural experience.
The palace’s intricate details, colorful tiles, and lush gardens make it a photographer’s dream. Every corner presents an opportunity for a stunning shot.
The Bahia Palace is conveniently located in the heart of Marrakesh’s medina, making it easily accessible and an ideal starting point for exploring the city’s historic sites.
Ambiance of Royalty:
Walking through the palace’s ornate rooms, you can almost feel the presence of the royalty and dignitaries who once graced its halls, adding to its allure.
Overall, the Bahia Palace offers a captivating blend of history, artistry, and tranquility, making it an essential stop for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Moroccan culture and architecture.
Exploring the palace grounds and gardens
The Bahia palace complex is a series of open courtyards, walled gardens, pavilions and one of the largest harems created in Morocco. Lush, exotic gardens connect the various courtyards and apartments, and filled with scented jasmine and roses, lemon, oranges and other tropical plants including bananas. The entire gardens are extensive and meld the interior spaces beautifully with outdoor living.
The inner courtyards are also filled with intimate garden spaces with fountains and elaborate tile work or zellige, which are small cut pieces and placed into magnificent islamic patterns decorating, the floors, walls, columns and even the ceilings.
Me in another interior courtyard
A brief history about the Bahia palace in Marrakesh
The Bahia Palace, located in Marrakesh, Morocco, is a historic architectural gem that carries a fascinating history. The palace was built in the late 19th century, commissioned by the Grand Vizier Si Moussa. Its construction began in 1866 and continued for several years, as it underwent expansions and enhancements under Si Moussa’s son, Bou Ahmed. The name “Bahia” is believed to be a reference to one of Bou Ahmed’s wives, who was of Algerian origin and named Bahia.
The palace was designed to be a lavish residence for Bou Ahmed and his family, as well as a place to host official receptions and entertain guests. Its construction incorporated the finest Moroccan craftsmanship, featuring intricate tilework, intricate stucco plasterwork, beautifully carved wooden ceilings, and opulent marble courtyards. The palace is a testament to the skill and artistry of the local artisans and craftsmen of the time.
Throughout its history, the Bahia Palace has seen periods of grandeur and times of decline. After Bou Ahmed’s death, the palace was gradually abandoned and fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the 20th century that efforts were made to restore and preserve this architectural treasure.
Today, the Bahia Palace stands as a remarkable example of Moroccan architecture and design, drawing visitors from around the world to admire its beauty and immerse themselves in the rich history and culture of Marrakesh. It serves as a window into the opulent lifestyle of Moroccan elites in the late 1800s and continues to be a captivating destination for those seeking to explore the heritage of Morocco.
Walled garden with exotic flowers and plants
Main attractions and places to visit at the Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace in Marrakech is a captivating historical site with a rich architectural and cultural heritage. While it doesn’t have a plethora of individual attractions like some modern tourist spots, it offers a unique and mesmerizing experience through its various areas:
The Bahia Palace features several beautiful courtyards with intricate mosaic tilework, lush gardens, and fountains. These spaces are serene and perfect for leisurely strolls and photography.
Rooms and Halls
Explore the numerous rooms and halls that showcase stunning Islamic architecture. You’ll encounter elaborately decorated ceilings, delicate stucco work, and ornate tiling throughout the palace.
The Grand Courtyard
The grand courtyard is a central feature of the palace. It’s a vast open space adorned with colorful zellij (geometric mosaic) and surrounded by rooms that once housed the grand vizier’s wives and concubines.
The palace includes a section known as the harem, where you can see the living quarters of the women of the palace. It provides insight into the private lives of the inhabitants.
The palace’s gardens are lush and fragrant, filled with citrus trees, exotic plants, and soothing fountains. Take a leisurely stroll in these tranquil surroundings.
Don’t miss the intricate architectural details, including calligraphy, woodwork, and the use of muqarnas (stalactite-like stucco work), which are typical of Islamic architecture.
The Bahia Palace is a masterpiece of Moroccan architecture and design, making it a must-visit for history and culture enthusiasts. However, it may not have specific attractions like museums do, so your visit primarily revolves around appreciating its architectural and aesthetic beauty.
Decorated ceiling interior
The vizor’s large estate was the envy of the sultan himself. Eventually when the grand vizor passed away, the sultan immediately raided the Bahia palace and collected all the beautiful furnishing and fine detailed work to furnish his own palaces around the country. Surprisingly, when you go visit another area of the palace and perimeter, the buildings look like they are in total decay, most of this was due to the raid, neglect and the eventual decline of its use by the heirs. Even with its bare and stark interiors, the beautiful interiors of the palace, islamic details and lush courtyard gardens are worth a visit to see what this type of palace would look at. Currently, the entire complex is currently being used by the Moroccan government for many purposes. It houses a museum, civic government offices and officially it is a reception gathering for foreign dignitaries when they are visiting.
One of the many courtyards with fountains and elaborate zellige tiles
How to get to the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh
Getting to the Bahia Palace in Marrakech is relatively straightforward. Here are the steps to reach this stunning historical site:
Begin from the Medina, the ancient walled city of Marrakech. Most visitors are already within or near the Medina when they want to visit the Bahia Palace.
The Bahia Palace is conveniently located within the Medina, and you can reach it on foot from many hotels and riads in the city center. It’s a pleasant walk through the narrow streets of the Medina.
If you’re using GPS or asking for directions, the address of the Bahia Palace is Rue Riad Zitoun el Jdid, Marrakech 40000, Morocco.
The palace is close to some well-known landmarks, such as the El Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs. You can use these as reference points when navigating through the Medina.
If you’re unsure about the exact location or get lost in the winding streets of the Medina, don’t hesitate to ask locals for directions. Moroccans are known for their hospitality and are usually happy to help.
Beautiful tile work throughout the palace
Beautiful lanterns and interior details
There are no signs or descriptions anywhere around the Bahia palace, so if you do not have guidebooks or come with a tour guide, you can hire a guide in front of the entrance to take you around the many rooms. Or you can casually drop in and out of the many tours with guides talking about the rooms.
This is a very busy place for tours, so get there early to avoid the massive crowds. My advise for taking great photos without the crowds is to follow at the tail end of any of tour group, and once they leave you should have ample time to take some great shots before the next set of tour groups come into the rooms.
Have you ever tried an authentic Moroccan style meal cooked outdoors exclusively with tagines made with thick ceramic containers, I write about this delicious dining experience here, enjoy the meal.
Conclusion to visiting the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh
Visiting the Bahia Palace in Marrakesh is like stepping back in time to experience the grandeur and opulence of Morocco’s rich history. This architectural masterpiece, with its intricate tilework, stunning courtyards, and ornate details, offers a glimpse into the lives of Morocco’s elite in the late 19th century.
Exploring the palace’s rooms and gardens is a sensory delight, with each corner revealing new wonders and hidden treasures. The Bahia Palace invites you to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship of Moroccan artisans of the past, who created this breathtaking masterpiece.
As you wander through its halls, you’ll not only marvel at the stunning architecture but also feel a sense of connection to the history and culture of Marrakesh. The Bahia Palace is a testament to the city’s rich heritage and the enduring legacy of Moroccan craftsmanship.
Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or simply someone seeking beauty and inspiration, a visit to the Bahia Palace is a must when exploring Marrakesh. It’s a place where the past comes to life, and where the magic of Morocco’s artistic and cultural traditions continues to captivate visitors from around the world.
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Hi, I'm Noel, a writer and photographer based in San Francisco and Hawaii. I write about delicious food and wine indulgences, thoughtful luxury, and adventure travel. I share camera tips and techniques while exploring new and unusual places around the world. My site explores culture and history, art and architecture, world heritage sites, exotic locals, along with nature tours and natural landscapes worldwide. Quite a mixed bag of curiosities and quirky interests, just like myself.