Originally planned for our first full day in the city, we got a little sidetracked from our chaotic first day and had to plan El Badi Palace for day two. These ruins within the kasbah of Marrakech were one of the top places I wanted to see.
Early Morning in the Medina
We set off early morning for El Badi, carefully tracing our steps out through the medina. We did not want a repeat of our previous day getting utterly lost. Slowly, we made our way out towards Jemaa el-Fna as local shopkeepers prepared for the day.
As we entered Jemaa, we made a point to steer clear of the Henna ladies, who had bothered Briana the day before. At the entry to the square from the main street, we proceeded to the left along the large main street that lead towards the entrance to Bazaar.
I Got Us a Little Sidetracked
Our plan was to follow Briana’s plan exactly, but I lead us off track on accident because I saw a tall tower that I thought was part of the palace. Unfortunately, it wasn’t right. What we did find was the Moulay El Yazid Mosque. While a picturesque spot, it was not what we were looking for.
Just before we left, to retrace our steps and get back on track, we did see a sign for the Tomb of the Saadians. It wasn’t clearly marked, so we weren’t sure just how close we actually were to them, and decided to just keep to our schedule, despite it being later in our schedule. This would ultimately be a good decision, because we were then be able to give El Badi and La Bahia enough time later in the day.
We returned out to the large street and kept going down it, until we found a roundabout in the road. At this point we turned back into the Kasbah. Here, a square lined with cafes and restaurants opened up, with an arch at the rear. Proceeding through the arch brought us to the entrance of El Badi.
Entering The Incomparable Palace
The entrance to El Badi was modest, and not well marked. The dilapidated palace however still lives up to it’s name – “The Incomparable”.
We made our way to the ticket booth and paid the 10 MAD ($1 USD) entrance fee to enter. For an additional fee, you can enter the mosque, though we declined this. It should be noted that, as far as I am aware, this is the only mosque in Marrakech that you can enter – so if that is something you want to do, you should opt to see it.
The Green Pavilion
The first court we entered was rather empty. A long hall, with rising walls of red clay gave perch to storks nesting on top of the walls. A plaque informed us that this was the Green Pavilion. At one time, it contained fountains and sculptures.
Another plaque spoke to the origins of the Palace. Construction began in 1578 by the Saadian Sultan, Ahmed Al Mansour Addahbi. Construction took twenty years. Inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, the palace served state occasions and for festivals.
A friendly kitty decided to make itself at home in Briana’s lap while in the Green Pavilion.
A Little Backstory
The palace would not see long-term use however. Moulay Ismail ordered the destruction of the palace in 1677, less than a hundred years after its construction, to use its resources for the construction of new palaces in Meknes. From this point, the palace fell to ruin until 1953 when excavations began and plans for restoration were made. Today, the palace is still mostly ruins, but excavation and restoration efforts are well underway.
The Apartments and Forecourt
A staircase in the Green Pavilion descends underground, and gives way to guest apartments. These apartments once served as guest houses for visiting heads of state, important figures, and nobles. Today, these rooms now serve as a mini museum, with the walls lined with photographs, artifacts, and information.
These plaques were all in French or Arabic. So, if you want to make sense of them, you will need to brush up on your foreign languages or get a guide. For us, we were able to understand the French well enough to make sense of it all – though we certainly missed out on nuanced details. With that being said, some of the plaques throughout the palace were in English as well.
The apartments open up into a forecourt, which has been restored in recent years to showcase intricate mosaic tiles on the floor. From here, a stair case brought us back around to the Green Pavilion, inviting us on into the central courtyard.
The Grand Central Courtyard
The central courtyard is huge. It contains (drained) pools, the ruins of the throne pavilion, ruins of a hammam, and large orchards of citrus which have been restored. We spent a fair amount of time just wandering around the grounds here, admiring the colosal work of the walls.
A terrace above the walls provides for an excellent view of the entire courtyard.
As well as providing great views of the kasbah and even the Koutoubia in the distance.
The central courtyard also gives way to a small museum which houses recovered mosaics, colonnades, and other artifacts.
The Sultan’s Private Residence
Accessed via one of the corners, was the Sultan’s summer residence. Its primary use was, as the name implies, a summer residence. It is quite small, and harbored just a few rooms, as well as access to the mosque.
Since we did not buy the extra tickets, we weren’t able to enter the mosque. However, Briana did manage to take a few pictures of the local cats lounging in the shade.
Prisons of El Badi
Our final venture within El Badi, was the prison cells. During this time in Moroccan history, prisons did not exist – rather private residences and sometimes dungeons were used. El Badi housed the prison used for Marrakech.
Chains and shackles were on display. They were used to hold captives in the small rooms for fifteen days. During these fifteen days, guilt would have to be proven, and then punishment given out. Punishment would be either branding with a hot iron, or the removal of both arms or one arm and one foot. In some cases simple chaining or whipping was all that was done for punishment. If found innocent, the prisoner was released.
The prisons was divided into three distinct sections for Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The prison in El Badi was reserved for Muslims – while the Christian prison was noted for being much nicer, and the Jewish prison facing abuses from Christian spies.
Visit El Badi
Visiting El Badi was a nice reprieve from the chaos of the medina. We took it at a leisurely pace, and spent just under two hours. This is ample time to spend, and you can easily see the palace at a quicker pace. However, we found going slower here to be quite enjoyable.
If you want to visit El Badi, you can find it at:
Ksibat Nhass, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco. It is located south of the medina, within the kasbah.
Hours: 9AM – 5PM M-F
Cost: 10 MAD ($1 USD)