Bey’s Palace information
Much of the area around the headland overlooking the port is a military zone, but don’t let that stop you visiting the misnamed Chateau Neuf (New Castle), which is in fact the old, 14th-century fort of Merinid Sultan Abou Hassan. While some of the complex is closed, the Bey’s Palace is open, in spite of closed gates (you may have to shout for the guard). The massive walls were first built in the 1340s by Merinid Sultan Abou Hassan and reinforced by the Spaniards in 1509, by the Ottomans in the 1700s and the French in the 19th century. The location is perfect, above the town, port and sea, and the gateway is impressive, but there is little majesty left in the building, now dominated by the concrete shell of a stalled building project. The bey, Mohamed el-Kebir, moved his residence into the fort after the Spaniards vacated it in 1792; he was encouraged by the fact that this was one of the few places untouched by the disastrous earthquake of 1790. The main public room, the diwan, has a fireplace where the sultan’s throne once stood beneath a painted ceiling. In the inner courtyard, on the left is the room of the favourite concubine, a place of pleasure with elaborate stucco walls and painted ceilings, restored in 2002 and already peeling. The two-storey bey’s residence is now in danger of collapse.