on October 3, 2012
Another place handily in the Kasbah and near to the Saadian Tombs is the Bahia Palace. The palace wasn't constructed during the real heyday of Moroccan architecture but as recently as the 1800s by Abu Ahmed, a rather scarily determined character who obtained power and wealth through sheer hard work and manipulation. He was chief aide to a sultan but who appeared to relish and enhance his position wherever he was able. Apparently Abu Ahmed was a nasty egotistical character who used to hold court in one of the rooms of the palace surrounded by a couple of henchmen who he would whisper his decision. Anyone wanting to ask Abu Ahmed a question had to gaze up at him in a dimly lit corner of a courtyard and be told of his decision after the audience. Ahmed also liked the best of everything and lavished a fortune on his palace; buying up adjoining properties so he could expand his pad and bringing in the best craftsmen. The result is stunning if a little OTT; some of the rooms work in isolation, but together it is all a little extreme.I liked the strong white and green coloured terracotta flooring and the grand sweep of garden planted with exotic plants. It must have been an impressive entrance to be invited to the Palace. There are renovation works ongoing at the Palace at the moment and so not all rooms are open to the public. The most interesting courtyard we saw was the one devoted to his four wives behind the more showy public rooms; each had a quarter facing into the courtyard and there was much competition amongst the wives to be the "favoured one" i.e. the one that produced the first mail heir, who as well as having the most secure position got the most favourable apartment. I also liked the story that Ahmed hired some British builders to construct chimneys in the Palace; he wanted to be so posh to build chimneys and fires for the half dozen or so days in Marrakech where it might be cold enough to require some kind of heating; the result are some very Victorian style and proportioned fire places in and amongst all of this brightly coloured and flamboyant Moroccan styling. The palace isn't perhaps the most "authentic" place for the Marrakech visitor to see, but it has some character and history to the place and at 10 Dirham entrance (approximately 70p) is an absolute steal.
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