About El Badi Palace
El Badi Palace was once the magnificent royal palace of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur of the Saadi Dynasty, located in Marrakesh, Morocco.
History of the El Badi Palace
Shortly after his accession in 1578, Sultan Ahmed Al Mansour commissioned the Badia Palace: it’s believed it was largely completed by the early 1580s, but that Al-Mansour continued to embellish and decorate the palace for at least 20 years after this with the finest produce from across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. El Badi was a lavish complex of buildings, made up of over 350 rooms, courtyards, gardens and a large pool.
Al Mansour was known as the ‘golden king’, and was the longest ruling, as well as the last, of the rulers of the Saadian dynasty. The Badia Palace was one of the most impressive of its type in the world at the time, and although it’s hard to picture today, the reflection pools and remnants of the sunken gardens give a hint of the former grandeur and splendour that it would have embodied.
Yet, today there is no sign of the gold or marble which once adorned the walls of El Badi Palace. Indeed, the whole complex lies in ruins in the centre of Marrakesh, having been utterly destroyed by the Sultan Moulay Ismail. Moulay Ismail is infamous for demolishing many of the buildings in Marrakesh to use their materials in his own creations and El Badi palace was probably one of the most prominent examples of this. The palace was certainly in a state of complete decay by the early 18th century.
El Badi Palace today
The ruins of the palace are open to visitors today, including the underground chambers which have various exhibitions – there’s a detailed permanent exhibit looking at conditions for slaves and prisoners who would have resided in these subterranean spaces which is grimly fascinating.
Particular highlights include the sunken gardens and the Koubba el Khamsiniyya or “main hall”, the Koutoubia minbar (complete with the gold and silver calligraphy of Cordoban artisans) and the Khayzuran Pavillion, which hosts contemporary art exhibitions,
For an overview of El Badi Palace, go to a nearby terrace or rooftop to see it from above. The views from the ramparts of the palace itself are remarkable.
Getting to the El Badi Palace
The palace is located slightly south of central Marrakech, the other side of the Avenue Imam El Ghazali from the Bahia Palace. To reach the palace entrance, head through Place des Ferblantiers and turn right along the ramparts. It’s easiest and quickest to walk here from central Marrakech (it’s about 15 minutes), but taxis will be able to get you to the entrance if you’re coming from further afield than the medina.
A country with traditions from sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the wider Middle East woven into its cultural fabric, Morocco is host to a number of historic sites which make for a fantastic visit.