As you tour Morocco, you will find that almost every palace is different in one respect or another even if they all indicate former glories once enjoyed by royal courts. The El Bahia Palace in Marrakech is certainly no exception. This beautiful building is an excellent example of Eastern Architecture from the 19th century and, while some may label it as being vulgar or distasteful, the majority of visitors appreciate that it represents tastes and standards of the rich who lived at that time. Even though the detail may not be as rich as that found in earlier palaces, a visit to the El Bahia Palace in Morocco is never a waste of time.
The El Bahia Palace was built for Ahmed Ibn Moussa (or Ba Ahmed) between 1894 and 1900 in the Alawi style that was popular at the time. Craftsmen were brought from Fez to work on this monumental task which took approximately fifteen years to complete and it was initially meant to be the largest palace in the country. It is said that the palace was built as a home for Ba Ahmeds official concubines and it has also been said that the importance or favor of each concubine increased along with the size of their bedroom. The name Bahia means palace of the beautiful and this would certainly seem to fit the purpose of this massive palace. There are 160 different rooms in the palace which are sprawled out in an open, rambling fashion. The reception halls and private quarters are lavishly decorated and there are several tiled courts often complete with water features that serve as open air areas where the women could have washed and rested themselves. Decorations take the form of subtle stucco panels, zellij decorations, tiled floors, smooth arches, carved-cedar ceilings, shiny marble (tadlak) finishes and zouak painted ceilings. As if this wasnt enough, the palace is surrounded by an eight-hectare garden where visitors can literally lose themselves in the beauty of the place.
Though the entire palace is sometimes closed when the royal family come to town, it is usually open for touring. Because of its size you may want to hire a guide who will not only ensure that you dont get lost, but give you fascinating snippets of information to make your tour more interesting. The El Bahia Palace is open daily between 8:45 and 11:45 and then again between 14:45 and 17:45 and it costs 10 DH to get in (price subject to change). If you use a guide you should expect to tip between 30 DH and 50 DH for his services (price may be change).