The Bahia Palace

Bahia, or ‘The Beautiful,’ was built in the 19th century by the very best of Morocco’s craftsmen and is the blueprint for opulent Islamic style.

TravelCurious Tip

Like several historic sites in the Medina, signposting here is minimal so take a guided tour if you want to learn more about the history of the rooms.

The Beautiful

Built initially under Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s, Bahia Palace’s embellishments were completed by Vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed, a one-time slave who housed his 24 concubines and four wives in the palace’s harem. Both in scale and in its intricate decoration, Bahia Palace is truly dazzling.

The palace comprises around 150 lavishly ornamented rooms, and two enclosed gardens or riads. Visitors enter through an arcaded courtyard to the smaller riad, which is decorated with stucco and carved cedarwood; at the heart of the palace is the large riad, alive with orange, jasmine and cypress trees filled with songbirds. The surrounding halls feature magnificent zellij (mosaic) fireplaces and painted and ceilings with exquisite marquetry. It is difficult to overstate how impressive a residence this is: the most talented artisans were at work here for 14 years.

Gilding the lily

While not all of the palace’s rooms are accessible, the spectacular harem is open to the public. The chambers of Ahmed’s favourite Lalla Zineb are the most impressive, with a ceiling painted with bouquets of roses, beautiful stained-glass windows and woven silk panels.

The palace was stripped bare on Ahmed’s death, and the French, impressed after they had visited the warlord Pasha Glaoui here in 1908, claimed it for themselves in 1911 as the residence of their Commissioner General. The rooms as seen today are absent of any furnishings and consequently rather empty, but it’s not hard to imagine the place in its heyday - and the humbling effect it would have had on visitors.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Marrakech
Djemaa El Fna Square
Teeming with dancers, musicians and snake-charmers, this chaotic plaza is the beating heart of Marrakech.
The Medina
Enclosed by ancient walls, the oldest quarter of the city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Saadian Tombs
This ornate mausoleum was built in the 16th century as the final resting place of the Saadi dynasty.
Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret
The largest mosque in the city, Koutoubia’s minaret has inspired architecture throughout North Africa.
Ben Youssef Medersa
A koranic theological college, the Medersa is often labelled the most beautiful building in Marrakech - quite an accolade.
The Almoravid Koubba
Just south of the Ben Youssef Mosque, this small shrine is the oldest monument in Marrakech.

Related Tours

The Best of Marrakech: Private Half-Day Highlights Tour
Experience the exotic sights, smells, and sounds of Marrakech, a thrumming, vivid city in Western Morocco, famous for its imperial past and Moorish minaret of the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque. 

On your private tour, you will:

  • Discover the fascinating roots of this former Imperial City with its grand dome-topped mosques, towering minarets, lavish gardens, and medieval walls;
  • Enjoy the buzz of the Bazaar and its maze of cobbled alleyways where crowds gather around stalls of richly woven rugs, coffee pots, jewellery, and shawls;
  • Admire the Royal Residences at Bahia Palace still used by Morocco’s King as you explore the luxuriously appointed ornate rooms that once housed the Vizier Ahmed’s 4 wives and 24 concubines;
  • Marvel at the Ancient Tombs - a stark contrast to the palace's opulence;
  • Wander through the crumbling remains of nearby Badi Palace once home to royalty;
  • Explore the spooky atmosphere of the darkened necropolis of ancient Marrakech’s mausoleums, the elaborately carved Saadian Tombs;
  • Stroll past beautiful mosaic-clad riads and leafy courtyards as you soak up Marrakech’s ambience;
  • Visit the famed towering spire of the Koutoubia minaret from which the melodic calls to prayer sound five times daily, to draw worshipers into the Mosque.

Founded around 1062 by the Almoravids, Marrakech has been home to Berbers since the Neolithic era, and is one of Morocco’s four Imperial Cities, along with Méknes, Fes and Rabat. By the 12th century, it had become the capital of the Almohad caliphate sprawling across Africa and encompassing Spain. 

During this period, Marrakech was blessed with its thick, red sandstone walls - an architectural influence carved with great domes and arches that blended styles from the Sahara and West Africa to create a unique, fine-looking settlement dubbed the “Red City”. 

Over the centuries, Marrakech flourished as a cultural, religious and trading centre, the home of wealthy sultans, chic French colonists, vast palatial complexes and opulent mansions. Today, the French language is still spoken by many Moroccans. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, Marrakech became a Shangri-La for curious pleasure-seekers, beat poets, writers and rock legends who sought spiritual enlightenment on a pilgrimage along the so-called hippy trail. Today this Kasbah city evokes a magical mix of an aged past and forward-thinking present, blending European influences and moderate ideologies with a proud Islamic heart that still beats to an ancient rhythm. 

Marrakech may be home to some of the world’s most sumptuous small hotels yet it uses a thousand-year-old irrigation system and it is these seductive contrasts that make it such an alluring city.
Marrakech in a Day: Private All-Inclusive Full-Day Tour
Experience the exhilarating riot of sights, sounds and smells of the ancient city of Marrakech. Bubbling with irrepressible energy, Marrakech is one of Morocco’s four imperial cities. Filled with UNESCO World Heritage designated palaces, mosques and markets it is situated on the edge of the Sahara Desert and nestled at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. 

On your private full-day tour, you will:

  • Enjoy the personal attention of your expert private guide, with private transport included throughout;
  • Immerse yourself in the historic yet buzzing atmosphere of the souks, cobblestone alleyways, palaces and mosques of the Medina before seeking out the tranquil, sweet-smelling gardens beyond the walls;
  • Pass outside the city’s largest mosque, the highly-decorated Koutoubia Mosque with its 77-metre minaret (253 feet);
  • See the fortune-tellers, snake charmers, poets, and storytellers on the historic square Jemma el Fna; 
  • Discover the cultural importance of Marrakech’s UNESCO World Heritage sites;
  • Visit the Bahia Palace ‘The Beautiful’ (tickets included) a stunning, and sprawling, architectural masterpiece in the heart of the Medina, built in the 19th century;
  • Watch the silk spinners, spice sellers, rug stalls and basket weavers at work in the Souks of the Medina;
  • Have a go at haggling in the souks! 
  • Wander around the beautifully preserved ruins of the 16th-century El Badi Palace, constructed for Sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur, of the Saadian dynasty (tickets included);
  • Visit the only surviving remains of the Saadian dynasty (1524-1659), and admire the intricately decorated sepulchres of the Saadian Tombs;
  • Learn about the construction of the ramparts using Pisé, a reddish-pink clay, which glows spectacularly in the setting sun;
  • Enjoy the enchanting gardens of Jardin Majorelle created by French painter Jacques Majorelle (tickets included);
  • Finish back at your hotel, or drop off at a central location of your choice.

Marrakech is where Europe, Africa and the Middle East intermingle in an exhilarating riot of noise, smells and colour that defines the character of the great city of the Maghreb. Founded a thousand years ago, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, it is famous for the colourful pinkish hues of its walls and palaces, framed dramatically by the surrounding snow-dusted peaks of the High Atlas Mountains. 

Your full-day private tour of Marrakech begins in the historic Medina, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985. Wander through the puzzle of historic streets, and maze of cobbled back alleys; experience the vibrant hustle and bustle and bartering at the souks, and the displays of street charmers, fortune-tellers and poets at the renowned Jemma el-Fna. Step back in time as you witness the mules towing pushcarts piled high with saleable wares, and admire the fine historic palaces juxtaposed to these street scenes. 

You will visit the renowned Koutoubia Mosque, the Bahia Palace ‘the Beautiful’, and the ruins of the Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs. You’ll also pass by the famous Ben Youssef Medersa, all of them steeped in ancient stories. 

After lunch, take a luxury private transfer to the Majorelle Gardens (tickets included). 
This is a stunning and unique 2.5-acre garden designed and created over a period of 40 years by the French artist Jacques Majorelle. Wander through this tranquil place with its marble pools, banana trees, cubist villa, coconut palms, raised pathways and peaceful groves of bamboo: a tranquil contrast to the sights and sounds of the morning!  Your guide and driver can return you to your hotel or drop you off at a location of your choice. 


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