Badii Palace

GatehouseIt reputedly took armies of labourers and craftsmen 25 years to complete the Badii Palace. When it was finished, it was said to be among the most magnificent palaces ever constructed, with walls and ceilings encrusted with gold and a massive pool with an island flanked by four sunken gardens. This grand folly survived for all of a century before another conquering sultan came along and stripped the place bare (a procedure that itself took 12 years) and carted the riches to his new capital at Meknès. All that survives today are the denuded mudbrick ruins.

Sultan Ahmed El Mansour

The palace was built by Sultan Mansour who took to the throne after the Battle of Three Kings (1578), in which the Moroccans vanquished the Portuguese. Great wealth was accrued from the ransom of Portuguese captives and from further successful campaigns in Mali. These riches were poured into building the Badii Palace.

The gatehouse

The palace is approached along a narrow way between twin high walls (below). On its completion, the gatehouse carried an inscription to the glories of the palace. Now it is a ruin and entry to the complex is through a breach in the crumbling walls.

Basins & gardens

The palace’s central courtyard is dominated by five basins and four sunken gardens planted with orange trees. Of the five basins, the central one has an island that comes alive every July for the annual music festival. It is also used as a venue during the International Film Festival.

A sinister omen

At a banquet to celebrate the palace’s completion, a guest declared, “When it is demolished, it will make a fine ruin.” El Mansour was rendered speechless; the guest’s sinister omen has come true.

Pavilion of 50 Columns

Ruins around the sides of the courtyard were probably summer houses. The Koubba El Khamsiniya on the far western side is named after the 50 pillars used in its construction.

Underground passages

Beside the annexe, a path leads down into the former stables and dungeon (above). Though you can enter, the chambers are only partially lit.

Mosque minbar

An “annexe du palais” in the southeast corner displays the 12thcentury pulpit (minbar) from Koutoubia Mosque. Intricately carved, this is a celebrated work of art of Moorish Spain.

Rooftop terrace

*Rooftop terrace At the northeastern corner is the only intact tower with an internal staircase to the roof where it’s possible to get a sense of the immense size of the complex.

Khaysuran Pavilion

A pavilion on the north of the great court, once the palace harem, now serves as an exhibition hall with shows of work by local and locally-based foreign artists.

Storks

The protrusions in the crumbling walls are wellloved by city storks who have made their nests here. Considered holy, an old Berber belief has it that storks are actually transformed humans.

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