El Badi Palace


El Badi Palace

This 16th-century palace was once a playground for Saadian princes and visiting diplomats—a mammoth showpiece for opulent entertaining. Today it's a romantic set of sandstone ruins, policed by nesting storks. Sultan Ahmed el Mansour's lavish creation was ransacked by Moulay Ismail in the 17th century to help him complete his own palace at Meknès. But it's not hard to see why the palace, whose name translates as "The Marvel," was once among the world's most impressive monuments. A huge swimming pool in the center (still there today, but empty) is flanked by four others, along with four sunken orange orchards. The main hall was named the Koubba el Khamsiniyya, referring to its 50 grand marble columns. Along the southern wall is a series of belowground corridors and underground dungeons. It's a vast, calm, and mystical place. Also on display is a collection of goods from the Minbar (pulpit from which the Imam gives services) of the Koutoubia Mosque. If you use an on-site guide (otherwise unpaid), who can bring the place to life, you should also tip 30 DH–50 DH. The palace is currently hosting the Marrakech Museum for Photography and Visual Arts until its modernist complex, designed by David Chipperfield, is completed in 2016 at a site near the Menara Gardens.


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