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The palace of Bahia

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General presentationGeneral information
The Palace of Bahia is a chief of work of the Moroccan architecture whose construction goes up at the end of the 19th century and lasted seven years; as most palace arabo-Andalusians, it contains beautiful gardens and pretty patios, and comprises 150 richly decorated rooms.

The construction of the palace was undertaken by the Moroccan architect El Mekki on behalf of the large vizier Ahmed Ben Moussa known as Ba Ahmed (1841-1900) to place there his four wives and his/her twenty-four concubines.

Under Protectorate, the Lyautey general made his residence of it.

The palace of Bahia: the “palace of beautiful (the marvellous one, the brilliant one)” would have been a gift of the large vizier to his favorite among his four wives and his/her twenty-four concubines.


plan of the palace. Click to enlarge the image.The palace of Bahia is a continuation of course, small interior gardens, remarkable fountains, living rooms, dependences and appendices as well by their structure as by their ornamentation. The palace also comprised a bath maure, a mosque, stables, a “aguedal” (vast vegetable garden)…

As most Arab palaces, increased little by little without overall plan, the distribution of the courses and the apartments is rather disordered. The plan conceived by the architect marrakchi If Mohamed El Mekki El Mesfioui is a true labyrinth, without any benchmark. No the center, not of axis, not of perimeter, all was designed according to the whims of a powerful man who wanted always more and did not hesitate, to meet his requirements, to upset the voiery by acquiring the close streets and houses, transforming the streets into dead ends and the dead ends in interior corridors. A maze of corridors and staircases connect between them innumerable parts of very unequal size, without precise scheduling.

The decoration of the unit takes as a starting point the styles Arab, Turkish and European. All the ceilings, of a large variety of drawings, are out of wood of painted and illuminated cedar coming from the Means-Atlas, the marbles came from Italy and Meknès, earthenware of Tétouan.

The various parts of the palace are spread out over nearly eight hectares. All this unit is on one level, because, “court of leg and obese”, the vizier pained to climb.

Fact exception the “menzeh”, apartment arranged on the floor, above small riad, which was high on the order of If Madani Glaoui after the death of Ba Ahmed, and who does not visit himself.

The royal family always accomplishes stays in the palace; also, only a small part of the palace is opened with the public. The parts currently open to the visitors are:

  • Small “the riad” (1)
  • The small court (2)
  • The large court (3) and its big room (4)
  • Large “the riad” (5) and its two rooms (6)
  • The private house (7)
Small Riad
plan of small the riad. Click to enlarge the image.Small Riad is the most recent part compared to the other buildings. It is a small interior garden (1) of square form on which open rooms (3, 4 and 5), niches (2) and appendices.

Small Riad is very compartmentalized: it is made up various units conceived according to the model of the traditional residences: closed outside, they open on one or more course interior decorated of gardens and fountains and surrounded by galleries. The various parts are abundantly decorated with painted reasons, carved in wood, and the stucco or carried out in zellige.

The sumptuous garden interior, filled up banana trees and orange trees, is a harbor of silence and freshness on which give several superbly decorated anterooms.

small riad. Click to enlarge the image.small riad. Click to enlarge the image.small riad. Click to enlarge the image.
Small Riad is remarkable by its traditional structure, by the density of the decoration of the arcades, the niches, the big room, the ceilings, the leaves of gates and windows, the marble basin arranged in the center of the garden. The walls are decorated of wood of cedar and stucco.
small riad. Click to enlarge the image.small riad. Click to enlarge the image.small riad. Click to enlarge the image.
The ceilings all, different from/to each other and in the form from reversed naves, are coloured using natural products: henna, saffron, grenade, yellow and egg white.
room of small the riad. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).room of small the riad. Click to enlarge the of small the riad. Click to enlarge the image.
In the gardens, as in the patios, multiple basins with marble fountain of Meknès are.
basin small riad. Click to enlarge the image.
Room n° 5.
north-eastern room of small the riad. Click to enlarge the of small the riad. Click to enlarge the image.
The general Lyautey, a little sensitive to the cold, made add the chimneys, the heating and electricity.
Chimney room of the council. Click to enlarge the image.
room of small the riad. Click to enlarge the of small the riad. Click to enlarge the image.
room of small the riad. Click to enlarge the of small the riad. Click to enlarge the of small the riad. Click to enlarge the image.
The Room of the Council
It is in Small Riad that Ba Ahmed received people of the government in the big room, known as of the Council (6). This room is covered with a ceiling out of wooden of cedar of the surroundings of Meknès, remarkable ceiling by its painted reasons, its form and its three ventilators.

The General, and future marshal, Lyautey, reside general French, had made of this palace his residence at the time of his stays with Marrakech. It is in Small Riad that its particular apartments as from 1912 were arranged.

room of the council. Click to enlarge the of the council. Click to enlarge the of the council. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).
Ceiling room of the council. Click to enlarge the image.
Small Court
plan small court. Click to enlarge the image.The Small Court is a patio (1) with open sky, entirely tiled marble and of zellige, around of which four parts (2, 3.4 and 5) are symmetrically laid out of which one was formerly furnished with ices offered in 1898 by the French government to Ba Ahmed. The ceilings, the casements of the doors and windows out of wooden of painted cedar are remarkable.

These four parts, whose ground entirely is paved of marble and “zelliges”, one of the Ba Ahmed private apartments constituted. They was the rooms of his legitimate wives, most beautiful being of course the room of Bahia

From 1912, these rooms were transformed by Lyautey into rooms for the French officers.

small court. Click to enlarge the image.small court. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).small court. Click to enlarge the image.
small court. Click to enlarge the image in Adobe Stock (new tab).small court. Click to enlarge the image.
Large Riad
Large Riad is the oldest part of the Palace of Bahia: it was built by the Ba Ahmed father, If Foamed, completed in 1866-1867 and refitted thereafter.

Large Riad understands the court of north paved of marble, the Large Court, in which two star basins are arranged, a remarkable garden of rectangular form, occupied of a small basin in the center, like two beautiful rooms and two niches with the refined decoration, which frame the riad.

This unit underwent refittings during construction moreover palace by Ba Ahmed.

The gardens of Large Riad are Moorish gardens, planted orange trees, cypress, daturae and jasmines, reserved initially for the harem of the top dog who liked to come there to take the tea in the middle of his wives.

“The gardens, writing J. Tharaud, were downwards paved mosaics, rosettes and flowers of enamel. Of these deep floors spout out, with the orange trees covered in this moment of their flowers and their fruits, citrons which let hang their Lanterns lemon-yellow yellow, of the cypresses three times higher than the small green roofs which surround the gardens, of the banana trees, of the lilacs of Japan, the date palms, the cassies to the scented gold powder puffs, of the daturae, of the geraniums, a rustic tumble of plants”.

Large Riad, a superb point of view makes it possible to discover the north of the medina and the mountains of the Atlas.

large riad. Click to enlarge the image.large riad. Click to enlarge the image.large riad. Click to enlarge the image.
large riad. Click to enlarge the image.large riad. Click to enlarge the image.
Large Court or Main courtyard
The large marble court known as “Main courtyard” is an immense court (50 m X 30 m) luminous with open sky, paved zellige and Carrara marble, surrounded by a gallery to the grooved and painted columns, of Italian style. The large court is decorated with three fountains with basin.

The large court acted as harem and joined together the apartments of the concubines and their children. The apartments of favorite, decorated with painted wood at red bottom, have a height of considerable ceiling. The moucharabiehs (wood nettings placed in front of the windows and allowing to see without being considering) which decorates the upper part of the part are in stucco and plaster, while the stained glasses are made of imported glass of Iraq (single in the Maghreb).

large court. Click to enlarge the image.
The Room of Honor
The room of reception, known as Room of Honor, is the largest room of the palace (20 m X 8 m).

It has a painted ceiling of a great beauty, most remarkably carved palace, out of wood of cedar of the Atlas, painted and enluminé by the largest craftsmen of Fès.

room of reception. Click to enlarge the image.
Beyond the large court one reaches Ba Ahmad Aguedal, immense orchard where the olive-trees push, palm trees - date palms, the lemon trees, the orange trees… it is equipped with a large basin.
The Private House
A last court was surrounded by a mosque, a Koranic school and private apartment of the Master, consisted of a covered space of a ceiling richly decorated, lit by plasterboards carved and finely openwork. The apartment is bordered of two rooms and two niches.
The entry is made by a kind of bordered ride bigaradiers (bitter orange trees) and banana trees.

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

The house of If Foamed (“Dar” If Foamed)
In the beginning there was “Dar” If Foamed, the oldest part, located at the north, which was set up by If Foamed, vizier of the Sultan Mohammed Ben Abd er Rahmane (1822-1859). It understood large “the riad” (house arranged around a garden), the northern court and their dependence.

The end of work of this unit is gone back by inscription to 1866-1867. On this date If Foamed, the Ba Ahmed father, was chamberlain and was going to become Top dog.

Ba Ahmed enlargings
With the death of the Sultan Moulay Hassan in 1894 (Hassan I, 1873-1894), her son Moulay Abd el-Aziz (1894-1908) was only fourteen years old when it succeeded his father. The chamberlain Ahmed Ben Moussa (1841-1900), whom one named Ba Ahmed, took the title of Top dog and exerted regency; he was the true Master of Morocco of 1894 and until his death in 1900.

It is from 1894 that Ba Ahmed made increase the residence of his/her father by the acquisition of a set of houses which were gathered and arranged in a true palace by the Moroccan architect Mohamed Al Makki Al Masfioui, who, inspired by Andalusian art, built the palace in several stages and finished it at the end seven years of work. The best workmen and craftsmen of the country worked there without interruption during these seven years (1894-1900).

The best Moroccan craftsmen and Andalusians worked at this palace during fourteen years, and according to the chronicle, Ba Ahmed returned its last sigh “in the noise of the rammers”. Once finished, the palace exceeded in richness all the monuments of the kingdom, and it is said that the young king, Moulay Abd el-Aziz, were extremely opposed by it (what perhaps explains that it ordered the plundering of Bahia in 1900, as soon as the large vizier Ba Ahmed buried!).

Moreover, the palace underwent some refittings as from 1912, when it became the residence of the French General Resident with Marrakech.
The Palace of Bahia, like much of historical buildings of this time in Morocco, is in a very degraded state of conservation. A program of restoration is announced for 2011. The Palace of Bahia is often used for concerts of Andalusian music or exposures of Article.

InformationPractical informations

Visiting timesVisiting times
Visits: every day of 8:45 to 11:45 and 14:45 to 17:45 (closed Friday of 11:30 to 15:00).

Addresses: street Riad Zitoun el-Jdid, vis-a-vis the souk of the jewellers, beside the restaurant of Bahia.

Paying entry: 10 dirhams.

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