The Bahia Palace is one of the most important highlights of the city of Marrakech, located in the Western side of the kingdom to the South of Rabat, the capital. The Bahia Palace, situated at the Northern section of the Jewish neighborhood of Marrakesh, welcomes many tourists who spend their vacations in Morocco.
Morocco trips will probably include visiting cities like Rabat, the capital, Meknes, the spiritual capital, Casablanca, and Marrakesh.
The construction of the Bahia Palace
No historian or scholar was able to determine the exact date of the erection of the Bahia Palace. Some of them asserted that the building of the palace has started between the year 1859 and 1873 and the work was finished before the year 1900.
The Bahia Palace was erected during the reign of the Alaouite dynasty in the 19th century. The construction work of the palace was launched by Vizier Ahmed Ibn Musa, nicknamed as Ba Hamad, in the ruling period of Sultan Abdel Aziz in 1884. Ibn Musa brought the best skilled craftsmen and artisans to erect the palace. Unfortunately, Ibn Musa, who also acted as the director of the state's affairs, passed away six years later before the construction work of the palace was completed.
Ba Ahmed, during his long journey building most of the sections of the palaces, has imported materials needed for construction form many regions all around North Africa and Europe. Some of the marbles used in coating the walls and the grounds of the palace were imported from Meknes. The finest kinds of wood, including cedar, were brought from the Atlas, and the ceramics needed for ornaments were produced and brought from Tetwan.
The engineer who was supervising the construction work of the Bahia Palace was Mohamed Ibn Al Makky Al Messewy who studied wood production and decoration in Meknes, the spirtal capital of Morocco. He was also taught the art of Gypsum engraving by a French officer who was the head of the French mission at the time.
After the death of Ba Ahmed, the founder of the Bahia palace, many several important figures lived in the palace. In 1906, Al Kalawi Pasha, one of the high governmental officers, stayed in the palace and erected a structure that was added to the second floor of the eastern section of the palace.
In 1912, the Bahia palace witnessed many modifications because it became the official residence of the Colonial Head, Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey, the first French Resident-General to stay in Morocco from 1912 to 1925. The palace was refurnished and heaters and air-conditions were added to many of its rooms and halls making it a much more wonderful avenue amazing travelers who visit the palace as part of their Morocco trip.
The description and the design of the Bahia Palace
The Bahia Palace was actually erected in stages as the whole land needed to build such a great structure was not available from the beginning and the kings used to provide more lands for their viziers from time to time to finish the whole design of the palace. Because of this fact, the design of the palace is rather irregular in comparison to many other royal palaces in Morocco and Northern Africa that tourists who travel to Morocco are fond of admiring the beauty of this type of architectural art.
Many travelers going on a Morocco travel tours come to view the marvelous beauty of the Bahia Palace that includes several royal suits, halls, extensions, pools and garden. This is besides the main orchard that hosts the famous water reservoir known by the name of the founder of the palace, Ba Ahmed.
The palace takes the shape of a semi rectangle with the longest side being 340 meters from East to west and between 45 and 95 meters wide from North to South.
The overall surface area of the Bahia Palace is around 22 thousand square kilometers but the size of the palace was reduced because of many institutions and facilities that were established in its buildings and that were separated from the palace.
Among the suits that are open for public in the Bahia Palace is the "small royal suit" and it is considered to be one of the most distinctive sections. It was built in the classical ancient style of Madrasa architecture with hallways that have high colorful richly decorated ceilings.
This section of the palace was the Divan of the Vizier Ba Hamad where he used to meet the governmental officers and statesmen. This was also where Lyautey, the French Resident-General, stayed and he made it his house and office.
The courtyard of this suit is rich with marble and colorful ceramics with a fountain in the middle and many sub halls that contain remarkable decorated ceilings.
Afterwards, there is the small arena of the suit with a large marble fountain and the Sahn of the suit that contains a marvelous mixture of ceramics and marbles. This small arena opens into four large halls with many corridors and arcades and they were used as offices for the French officers.
The section of the Bahia palace that was first established is the part that used to belong Dar Si Moussa. It consists of a wide open courtyard, wonderful orchards with many water fountains, fruit trees, roses, and flowers.
This wonderful garden is surrounded with two richly decorated rooms hosting fabulous ceilings, one of the features of the Moroccan architecture. Some wall engravings in one of these two rooms indicate that the Bahia Palace was constructed in 1867.
Most of rest of the construction work of the Bahia Palace can be attributed to Ba Ahmed who was able cleverly to add a part after another to have this magnificent piece of art at the end.
The grand court of the Bahia Palace, that is 30 meters wide and 50 meters long, is considered to be the most astonishing section of the whole palace. Being marvelously ornamented with marble and colorful tiles, the design of this part is magnificent in comparison to other sections of the palace that seem rather asymmetrical if one looks at the whole plan.
The grand court of the palace has open verandas all around. If the guest enters into any of these balconies, he would be amazed with the green color dominating the scene and he would surely wonder if this green color is coming from the plants and trees in the garden or from the green ceramics decorating the ceilings of the balconies.
The Eastern section of Bahia Palace consists of a wide yard and it is among the largest arenas of the palace. It contains 52 wooden columns and the ground is coated with marble. The section has three small fountains and one water reservoir. This section was often used for hosting musical ceremonies and fine arts exhibitions that some tourists explore during their holidays packages to Morocco.
The Northern hall is the most important place in the Eastern section and it is the largest hall in the Bahia Palace. Half of the walls of this hall are coated with colorful ceramics with windows overlooking the amazing greenery of the Andalusian Garden of the palace.
The ceiling of the hall is decorated in the Italian style with many colors and different shapes. This northern hall is the last part erected in the palace and the date of construction, in the year 1899, is recorded on a plate on the wall.
The visitor can reach the large royal suit of the Bahia Palace through an ornamented lounge. The large suit of the palace contains beautiful poems Patterned on Gypsum.
The Southern section of the Bahia Palace, the one that belongs to the wife of the owner of the palace, is usually closed for public visits. This section consists of an open Sahn, or courtyard that is covered with wooden ceiling. It contains two halls and two lobbies.
The Bahia Palace is one of the most attractive historical sites to be visited in Marrakesh as a part of a Morocco tour. It is famous for its extensively decorated doors and windows, and its remarkable gardens and orchards.
The Bahia Palace was categorized lately as one of the historical sites attracting tourists from all over the globe who spend their holidays in Morocco to view and admire the Moroccan architectural arts especially wood inscriptions.