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The palace el Badiâ

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General presentationGeneral information
The palace el Badiâ, Dar el Badiâ, indicates the palatial unit built by most famous of the sultans saadiens, Ahmed el Mansour, called AD-Dhahbî (gilded), in Arabic أبوالعباسأحمدالمنصور, sixth sultan of the dynasty saadienne.

To build this imposing work, the sultan chooses the north-eastern corner of the kasbah; the site had the advantage of being next to the private apartments and inviolable of the sultan, the palace being intended for the festivals and the solemn audiences where the ostentation of the sovereign could appear with the elite of the kingdom and the foreign embassies. It was the object of several accounts and poems.

Old descriptions also depict us the sumptuous decoration of Badiâ which is known for us only through the decoration of the tombs saadiens.

The design of this jewel of Islamic art was influenced by Alhambra de Grenade.

El Badiâ (قصرالبديع): the singular, sublimates it, the incomparable one.


To build this palace, the sultan chooses an old garden almohade which was in the north-eastern corner of the royal kasbah of Almohades, near his private apartments. The erudite astrologers and the religious personalities consulted approved the choice of the king and fixed the beginning of work at the month of Chawal 986 (December 30th, 1578).


This beautiful palatial unit constitutes an invaluable testimony for the knowledge of the Moroccan architecture of the 16th century. The contributions and the foreign influences are numerous there: the general provision of the palace and its decoration attest an influence of Grenade, its plan being probably inspired by the palace of Alhambra, leaving think that the architect, though unknown, was to be originating in Grenade. At the court of the Lions with Grenade, one finds the houses which are drawn up in the middle of the small sides, as well as the system of channels and basins of cooling. The course of the Myrtles also provides us an example of basin lengthened similar to that of the palace El Badiâ.

Old texts provide us invaluable indications to understand the structure of the palace El Badiâ, like that of Portuguese P. Francisco of S. Juan LED Oporto of 1585, illustrated of a plan, as well as a plan drawn by English Windus in 1727. The Portuguese plan indicates that the wall of the palace was flanked of four turns of angle. The access was done by a large number of doors of which principal, which bore the name of Bab Al-Rokham, Porte marble, opened in the south-western angle of the southern face of the palace. Other doors mentioned by the chroniclers opened on the southern faces, is and western.

Court. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Central basin. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).Floor. Click to enlarge the image.
An almost absolute symmetry was essential in the plan of this splendid residence entirely built on brick vaults of a great solidity.

The palatial unit was ordered around an immense rectangular court of 135 m out of 110 m, in the middle of which a basin of 90 m out of 20 m in the center was arranged of which a surmounted monumental fountain of two superimposed and surmounted basins of a fountain rose; this solid mass was accessible to dry foot by the means from flagstones carried by columns.

On both sides of this central basin, four floors, traced with art, are covered with trees and flowers laid out in squares separated by alleys paved from zelliges.

“They are so large that of each one it has there a part intended for the flowers which make there escutcheons and drawings, and a part with the fruit trees, lemon trees, orange trees and others,…”

The gardens were called gardens of the desire, the joy, and other names quite as evocative.

The angles of the court are occupied by small rectangular basins of 30 m out of 10 Mr.

Around the immense court of the palace el Badiâ organize the imposing ruins of old houses.

On both sides of large central basin, in the middle of the two small sides of the court, projecting two small houses carried by columns rose facing: one, known under the name of crystal Pavillon, of which there remains only the ruins, was the subject of excavations which put at the day its plan while carcass work of the second, called Pavillon of the audiences, remains in the form of high walls. Both, with almost identical plan, almost square, were covered with a cupola supported by twelve massive columns. The ground of the two houses was covered with zelliges which one can observe some specimens in the House of the audiences. Small running water basins and channels of water conveyance made it possible to refresh the interior of the building. Outside, surrounded by columns, they opened by large doors on the main courtyard.

Two other houses, rectangular and much larger, and covered of green tiles, occupy the medium on the large sides, northern side and southern part. Unlike the first two houses, the provision of the green House and House of the heliotrope, slightly in withdrawal, allowed the installation of two galleries open along the walls supported by two series of columns of jasper and glazes of traditional frames.

Once the completed palace, it comprised more than 360 parts.

A significant number of doors and staircases served the palace. It seems that the principal door, on the southern face, is probably the marble door described by El Ifrani like a marvellous artistic jewel. All the services were with the basement, dissimulated with the sight of the hosts.

The fitting of this palace revealed an amazing modernity, nothing did not miss. “Most astonishing is still what certain rooms of the palace contained. especially that of the gynaeceum… A mobile cupboard of mechanical food autodirigeable of manner, thanks to precise buttons, kitchen with the residence of the princesses and ladies of the palace, resembling the elevator known today in the large hotels. ”

There even existed, it appears, a system close to the “central heating” which used a copper piping where circulated of cool water or heat.

The mosque and the hammam would have been splendid.

Palace El Badi, El Ifrani tells

“that one found there marbles of all the colors veined, black and white, whose glare dazzles the sight and throws amazement in the spirit of the spectator: the capitals of the columns were covered with molten gold or of sheets of fine gold, the ground was paved superb flagstones of polished marble and finely cut… Lastly, the ceilings were encrusted with gold and the walls, decorated with this same metal, moreover were decorated brilliant sculptures and made elegant inscriptions of the most beautiful stucco”.

The first characteristic of this palace was the multitude of its cupolas. The El-Khamsinia cupola (Fiftieth, because its expenses of realization reached fifty quintals), the Gold Cupola, the Green one, Red, the White one, the Cupola of Glass, the Victoire, the Crowns and the Large Cupola of the courtroom of the foreign delegations. Twenty, they competed of size and magnificence.

On each one of them were engraved inscriptions in worms carved in wood, drawn on the earthenware or moulded in stucco. Each inscription was in keeping with the nature of the cupola which contained it and sometimes, even, it contained a kind of challenge intended for the close cupola.

El Fichtali, the eloquent secretary of El Mansour, made speak the qoubba “Khamsinia” in these terms:

“The beauty of my wonders charms the eyes; The splendor of my spirit charms the glance:
My sculptures are so beautiful that their glare dazzles the eyes of all the spectators.
At the top of my ceiling appear brilliant stars, whose clearness at any moment is not darkened.
My atmosphere is formed by the vapors of the perfume which projects on the ground the shade and the darkness.
I exceed in height the spheres of the seven skies and therefore Fortune does not taste any more one moment of rest…”

El Badiâ filled with wonder its time and was regarded as a terrestrial paradise, a wonder of the world, the roof of Article It is of him that the poet said:

“Its aspect is fairy-like, its wave is pure, its scented ground and its buildings are drawn up proudly in the airs.
Marrakech owes him its immense celebrity and, thanks to him, its glory will last of the centuries”.

The gardens extended on all the face is kasbah.

A large public garden, commun run, known as the Son-in-law, was equipped with a basin which disappeared and about which Marmol speaks like swimming pool, “a bath”, of one hundred feet length and twenty-five broad, paved small squares where Roy will bathe the summer. He understood also a pit with lions lock up as in a large hovel very with discovered and one went up there by a degree.

The garden of Qsar, of the particular apartments of El Mansour, communicated by a monumental door and a double staircase (of which a part was found) with Badiâ.

Around the kasbah, the sultan had reconstituted the large garden almohade El Buhayra and the name of Massara gave him, which extended, according to Matham. on one mile and half.

Thomas the Son-in-law gives an excellent description of it:

“From these mountains (the Atlas) several small rivers go down from beautiful and good water, which firstly come to sprinkle a garden which one calls small Messarra and make there a large perfectly beautiful pond which has thousand steps in square well. This water passes afterwards in an extraordinary garden, which one calls El Messara, which is full with lines of orange trees, of lemon trees, palm trees or date palms, olive-trees. almond trees, fig trees and pomegranates, entremélez of shrubs of jasmine and other odoriferous flowers”.
plane palace badia. Click to enlarge the image.1. Green house

2. Group dwellings

3. Planted floors

4. Large basin

5. Basins of angle

6. House of the fifty bent

  (or House of the audiences)

7. Crystal house

8. House of the heliotrope

9. Remain of summer

10. Crystal garden

house of the héliotrope. Click to enlarge the image.
One has few elements allowing to appreciate the decoration of the palace el Badiâ, whose name with him only lets imagine a sumptuous building. The sources mention onyx of all the colors, marble, capitals covered with gold, walls decorated with polychrome ceramics, ceilings of wood encrusted with gold, plasters carved and painted and everywhere of the fountains and basins. It is through the decoration of the tombs saadiens and the médersa Ben Youssef that it is necessary to imagine that of the palace.

It is the historian El Ifranî who informs us on the other sources of inspiration like on the spot of source of materials of the palace. It reports that el Mansour made come from the workmen and the craftsmen of all the countries, even of Europe, and that the marble was imported of Pisa in Italy.

The richest materials were used to decorate the 360 parts with the palace: marbles of Italy, onyx of all the colors, mosaics and crystals, ivories and stuccos, coatings of gold sheet decorated walls and ceilings.

There does not remain large thing of the decoration of the palace el Badiâ, except some fragments of columns, stucco and earthenware squares.

The green House
It is one of the principal buildings of the palace, located in the middle of the northern frontage; it is set up on two levels. The ground floor consists of a rectangular big room with alcove, formerly paved zellige and equipped with water basins. The higher level was composed of two North-South and covered directed rooms zellige and of carved plaster.
plane green house. Click to enlarge the image.1. Entry

2. Alcove

3. Remainders of bases of column

green house. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).green house. Click to enlarge the image.
The House of the heliotrope
entry. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
The House of the audiences
The House of the audiences more known under the name of “House of the fifty is bent”, in reference to the measurement on its side. It is a building in square plan, built out of cob strongly stabilized with lime.

The House of the audiences was covered by a large pyramidal cupola supported by twelve marble columns. The access inside was done by three gates with two casements arranged in the middle of the sides north, south and east. The last are advanced by a gantry in the east.

The house is marked inside by a alcove where the sultan at the time of the audiences settled. In the center was a living room decorated by small basins of water embellished of zellige coloured, as well as water basin.

plane house of the audiences. Click to enlarge the image.1. Gantry

2. Gate

3. Central living room

4. Pillar

5. Alcove

6. Basin

7. Basin

house of the audiences. Click to enlarge the image.
house of the audiences. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).house of the audiences. Click to enlarge the image.
The crystal House
It is thanks to the archaeological excavations that one could put at the day the main part of the structures of this house. The plan of the released structures presents a great similarity with that of the house of the audiences.

The crystal House, or gold House, is surrounded by a punctuated gantry of water basins supplied with a judicious system of drains with four gates which were open on the sides of the monument.

The center is occupied by a living room which gives on a alcove, itself giving on a garden via a staircase. Contrary to the House of the audiences this one was intended for the personal use of the sultan.

plane crystal house. Click to enlarge the image.1. Gate

2. Basin

3. Pillar

4. Gate

5. Central living room

6. Staircases

7. Recovery basin of water

The group of dwellings
The group of dwellings, located at the North-East of the koubba alkhamsiniyya (House of the audiences) would have been reserved for the stay foreign embassies.
plan groups dwellings. Click to enlarge the image.1. Passage commun run

2. Patio

3. Rooms

4. Basins

5. Pillar

6. Patio

dwellings. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).dwellings. Click to enlarge the image.
The estival Residence
This maisonnette is supposed to have been a retirement of the sultan at the time of the moments of estival relaxation.

It remains, in its simplicity, faithful to the plan of the traditional houses of the Islamic occident, and slices with ostentation moreover palace.

plan remains estival. Click to enlarge the image.1. Patio

2. Basin

3. Central part

4. Two side parts

2010-03-05. Click to enlarge the image.Away from the palace, one can see the minbar (pulpit to be preached) original of Koutoubia, the mosque-cathedral: rare cedar, ivory, money, ebonies and other materials compose this masterpiece of the art arabo-Andalusian which asked for eight years of work baited to the main most gifted cabinetmakers of Cordoue.
The palace el Badiâ had also a small underground part being used as kitchen, hammams but also prison and private apartments, and which one can see the vestiges.
El Mansour took one day to its buffoon:

- What do you think of this palace?

The buffoon answered:

- When it is demolished, that will make a very beautiful heap of ruins!

Magnificence of the palace el Badiâ it remains indeed today only one immense esplanade dug of basins surrounded by high dilapidated walls. Its only inhabitants are from now on the couples of storks which installed their nests there.

storks. Click to enlarge the image.storks. Click to enlarge the image.
storks. Click to enlarge the image.storks. Click to enlarge the image.

History and traditionsHistory, literature, arts, traditions, legends, religions, myths, symbols…

ahmed el Mansour. Click to enlarge the image.The Moroccan sovereigns were accustomed to celebrating their victories by building imposing buildings. Thus the caliph Yacoub El Mansour Almohade (1192 1198) had made in particular by building the three large mosques: Giralda in Seville, Koutoubia with Marrakech and Hassan with Rabat, following her victory over the Castilians (Spain) with the battle of Alarcos (1194).

Thus the palace El Badiâ was built at the end of the 16th century by the sultan saadien Ahmed el Mansour Dhahbî to celebrate the victory of the troops saadiennes over the Portuguese army in 1578 in the battle of Wadi Al-Makhazine, known in the Western world under the name of “Battle of the Three Kings”. Ahmed el Mansour had reached the power following the death of her brother and sultan at the time of this battle.

Ahmed el Mansour wanted to show in the world the glare of the reigning dynasty and to leave with the posterity a testimony of her size which would eclipse the work of the other dynasties.

According to the historian El Ifranî, the construction of this sumptuous palace, which gave place to an immense building site, were undertaken five months after the advent of the sultan in year 986 of Hégire (December 1578); work continued without interruption lasting more than sixteen years, to be completed in 1593-1594. Certain complementary work continued until 1603, thus covering the whole of the reign of the sovereign.

Work stopped neither of day nor of night, in spite of a multiplicity of craftsmen from Europe or being in Morocco and in spite of the abundance of materials imported from Occident and the East: of Tombouctou and Europe, of India and Brazil. The accounts agree to say that the Palace El Badiâ was a Paradise on the ground of Marrakech.

El Badi, the incomparable one, the marvellous one, was built with rare and invaluable materials brought back whole world. Certain raw materials came from the Indies, the imported marble of Italy was exchanged “weight for weight” against sugar, and the granite of Ireland chosen by an envoy of the queen Elizabeth Ière of England.

A considerable labor was engaged and the craftsmen and working foreign, for most Européens, were very well accommodated by the sultan who showed himself extremely generous in their connection. The chroniclers of the time tell indeed

“that El Mansour was shown very liberal and very benevolent in this circumstance. It largely paid the workmen and lavished to the skilful masons all kinds of generosities and gratifications. It dealt even with the maintenance with their children, so that these craftsmen can entirely devote their work and were distracted from it by no concern”.
But, one century later, at the 17th century, the sultan alaouite Moulay Rachid, took by Marrakech storm and made destroy the palace El Badiâ; its successor, Moulay Ismaïl (1672-1727), in his will to make clean slate of the heritage saadien, undertook to shave what remained about it. Started around 1696, the demolition lasted about ten years.

Most of materials of the palace would have been conveyed in Meknès to be employed again in the construction of the palaces of the royal city of Moulay Ismaïl.

Today, there remains only one immense esplanade dug of gardens, planted orange trees and surrounded by high walls.

In 1953, an excavation campaign made it possible to put at the day a large number of structures which make it possible to foresee the overall plan. The excavation also delivered a rich archaeological material made up mainly of white and black marble fragments, of stucco, capitals, of earthenware, remainders of fountains and basins.

InformationPractical informations

General information
Each year in June, the National Festival of Folklore is held in the sumptuous ruins of the incomparable palace.

Addresses: Palace Al Badia, Place of the Tinmen, Kasbah, 40000 Marrakech

Visiting timesVisiting times
Opened every day of 8:45 to 12:45 (more entry after 12:00) and of 14:30 to 18:30 (more entry after 17:45). Every day.

Paying entry: 10 dirhams for the palace alone and 20 dirhams with the minbar.

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