El Badi Palace in Marrakech
A popular stop on any tour of Marrakech is the once magnificent El Badi Palace. The building dates back to the 16th century and is a fascinating place to spend some time. It was built by the Saadian sultan Ahmed al-Mansur Dhahbi to celebrate the 1578 victory over the Portuguese army in the battle of the Three Kings. Known for its dazzling interiors studded with gold, silver and precious gems, it was considered a jewel in the crown of Islamic art.
If you've ever visited the famous Alhambra in Granada, Spain, you'll recognise that the designers of El Badi were heavily influenced by the Alhambra style. The name El Badi (or Badii) Palace translates to “palace of the incomparable.” When you walk around, you'll understand why it was given this fitting name. If bigger is better, then El Badi Palace must have been one of the very best. Everything is on a grand scale. You can explore the 130m long central courtyard, wander through sunken gardens planted with orange trees, or relax and reflect beside the cooling 90m pool.
Marrakech's ruined palace
In contrast to Bahia Palace in Marrakech, which has remained almost intact, the El Badi Palace now stands in ruins. Where once the floors were tiled with crystal, gold, and turquoise, now it is bare. This destruction first started just 75 years after it was completed, when many of the palace's riches were stripped to help fund the building of the imperial city of Meknes. The buildings have been extensively looted over the years, and despite restoration work, only traces of the original palace remain.
It's still pretty impressive, though, and your imagination can easily fill in the gaps. As you wander past the crumbling walls, you'll discover atmospheric spaces, including stables, dungeons and pavilions. In some places, glimpses of the original luxurious décor can still be seen. If you climb the ramparts, made from the baked red clay (pisé) that gives the ”Red City' its name, you can enjoy the views as well as get a look at the storks that nest here.
Discover treasures from Marrakech's past
One of the most popular things to see at the El Badi Palace is the Koutoubia Minbar, the original pulpit from the Koutoubia Mosque. Commissioned in 1137, it was originally covered with exquisite inlay work and gold and silver calligraphy and was considered one of the most important pieces in all Islamic art. Today, only patches of this once glorious artwork can be seen, but it is still regarded as an important historical piece.
Special events at El Badi Palace
If you're on holiday in Marrakech in July, you'll discover that the El Badi Palace is a venue for the city's Popular Arts Festival. Regional dances, music performances, and other cultural events take place with the palace as a stunning backdrop, ensuring a truly memorable day or night out.
Finding the El Badi Palace
The El Badi Palace is located just to the north of the Agdal gardens in Marrakech. If you're exploring the city on foot, you can reach in around 10 minutes' walk from Jemaa el Fna square.
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