Found within the medina (translation: city or town) of Marrakech, Bahia Palace is a vast display of opulence, wealth and beauty. Riads are all the rage when visiting Morocco (particularly in Marrakech), and this palace offers not just one riad, but 160 rooms, riads and gardens!
Just in case you’ve not heard of a riad before, it is a large traditional house built around a central courtyard, and Morocco is renowned for them. If you find a perfect picture taken in Morocco, complete with colour, vibrancy and nature whilst hunting through pictures on Instagram; the chances are high that it was taken within a riad.
Within Bahia Palace, not all of the rooms and courtyards are open to the public as it is still occasionally used today by guests of the current Royal family. That said, there are a lot of rooms and riads open to you for your 10 dh entry fee, so you won’t be missing out.
Why was Bahia Palace built?
Built in the late 19th Century (and taking 7 years to build), Bahia Palace was built by two men (father and son), which is often why it is described as a palace of two halves. The first section was built by Si Moussa, Graduate Vizier of Sultan Sidi Mohammed bin Abd al Rahman. The second half was built by the Vizier’s son, who was Grand Vizier of Sultan Moulay Abd al-Aziz.
What I find interesting about the palace is that it’s name, roughly translated from Arabic means “the brilliant one” or “brilliance” and was named after one of the Vizier’s wives – imagine having a palace as opulent as this named after you!
We should perhaps ignore the fact that the largest of the courtyards within Bahia Palace is surrounded by rooms that were used to house the Vizier’s many concubines… maybe not such a nice thing to have a palace named after you, after all.
The main ambition behind this grand palace was to build a palace that would outshine any other of its time, whilst capturing the essence of the Islamic and Moroccan styles. And I would say they succeeded in this ambition…
Today, the palace rooms are empty, as it was raided by Sultan Abdel Aziz after the original owner’s death. This emptiness is vastly contrasted with the opulence of the walls, floors and ceilings; still left very much intact.
Why should you visit Bahia Palace?
Bahia Palace is a most beautiful place to visit in Marrakech. Away from the hustle and bustle of the souks, once you walk under the archway leading to the palace, you will feel like you’ve entered an entirely different place in Morocco – somewhere much more relaxing such as Agadir or Paradise Valley.
Whilst walking through the outer gardens, the sun will warm your skin, whilst you admire the blue skies, quiet paths and bright orange fruit trees. Walk a little further, and here, you will be greeted by the first archways of the palace. From the outside, you may not expect much, but as soon as you enter, you will know you’ve stumbled across something special.
Take the time to enjoy the intricate tile work, the traditional archways and the vibrant light fixtures. These are just some of the details that help sum up Morocco in just a few words: vibrant, traditional and colourful.
After that first entrance, every riad, room and garden has its own vibe and energy, but each of them will be just as intricate, beautiful and ornate as the last. One riad will set your tropical wanderlust on fire as you spot colourful lemon trees as well as exotic banana plants and towering palm trees.
Another riad will be elegantly simple at first glance, allowing you to just marvel at the water feature and pure serenity of the place. Whilst another riad will seem vast, bright and summery; complete with yet more palm trees casting shadows across the whole courtyard.
Venture further into the palace to find rooms with intricately decorated high vaulted ceilings, traditional Moroccan lanterns and colourful stained glass windows.
However long you decide to spend at Bahia Palace, I can ensure you that you will be faced with such opulence, such beauty, such vibrancy, that you will find it quite difficult to leave. Bahia Palace was by far one of my most favourite places to see in Marrakech. That said, there is so much beauty in this most famous of Moroccan cities, that you will want to explore every inch of it; not just Bahia Palace.
What are your thoughts? Would Bahia Palace be on your list of sights to see in Morocco? Feel free to leave a comment…
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