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Bahia Palace, Marrakech, Morocco
The Arabic word ‘bahia’ means ‘beautiful’ or ‘brilliance’. To name the house you’re building ‘Bahia Palace’ would be quite a boast – except, as it turns out, in the case of the Moroccan compound of that name in the city of Marrakech. Here, it is more than apt.
Bahia Palace was built in the second half of the 1800s in two stages. Firstly by a man called Si Moussa who had risen from being a slave to the grand vizier of the Sultan of Morocco.
When he died, the construction and decoration was expanded by his son, Bou Ahmed, who was not only also grand vizier but also effectively the ruler of the country because the new sultan he served was just a teenager.
There’s no symmetry or planning to Bahia Palace because of its haphazard construction over so many years as more land became available. Elegant rooms open onto courtyards or gardens that then have more doors into narrow passageways leading to private areas.
It could be a labyrinth but not one you want to escape from.
Some of the best Moroccan artisans came to Marrakech from across the country to work on the palace.
Painted ceilings; tiled walls; ornate woodwork; classic columns; colourful windows; hanging lanterns; water features; fruit trees in courtyards; and mosaic floors.
Natural light illuminates most areas on this sunny morning and the colours are vibrant even a century after the art was first installed.
In total, the palace compound is about eight hectares in size and has about 150 rooms. Only some of it is open to the public but it’s enough to see some of the best examples of the art and interior design – at least, those that weren’t stolen by the sultan when he raided the palace upon the death of Ahmed Ba.
Some parts were spared, including the marble-paved courtyard and adjoining apartments.
The streets of Marrakech around the compound have the hectic and somewhat dusty atmosphere expected here in the city’s medina… but inside these walls there’s a calm.
There’s also a little glimpse into how the country’s nobility lived in the 19th century with the beauty and brilliance of Islamic and Moroccan-influenced luxury.
If you would like to see Bahia Palace and some other Marrakech landmarks with a local guide, you might be interested in one of these tours:
THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN MARRAKECH
The most authentic style of accommodation is a riad in the medina – but they come in all shapes and sizes!
For a cool and safe hostel in a riad, have a look at Rodamón Marrakech.
A nice riad that is affordable and welcoming is Riad Dar Nadwa.
For a stunning boutique option, I think 72 Riad Living is one of the best in the city.
And Riad L’Hôtel Marrakech is an absolutely stunning hotel, if you feel like splurging!
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MOROCCO?
To help you plan your trip to Morocco:
- My tips on the best things to do in Marrakech
- Why it’s worth doing a side trip to this seaside city
- Visit an incredible World Heritage Site used for filming Game of Thrones
- My suggestions for the best things to see in the Medina of Fez
- What you’ll find when you explore the blue city of Chefchaouen
- The grand buildings of the old imperial city of Meknes
- Finding the new and the old in the capital city Rabat
- Visit the ancient Roman ruins that are now a World Heritage Site
- How to deal with touts in Morocco
- Details about all the World Heritage Sites in Morocco
Let someone else do the work for you:
You may also want to consider taking a Morocco tour, rather than organising everything on your own. It’s also a nice way to have company if you are travelling solo.
I am a ‘Wanderer’ with G Adventures and they have great tours in Morocco.
You could consider:
When I travel internationally, I always get insurance. It’s not worth the risk, in case there’s a medical emergency or another serious incident. I recommend you use World Nomads for your trip.