Bahia Palace

Top choice palace in Kasbah & Mellah
Chris Griffiths / Lonely Planet

It may not be Marrakesh's oldest palace, but Bahia is definitely one of the city's most eye-popping sights. Built by Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s, it was later expanded and embellished from 1894 to 1900 by his son and successor Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. The salons of both the petit riad and grand riad host intricate marquetry and zouak (painted wood) ceilings, but the Cour d'Honneur, or Grand Cour, with its 1500 sq m floor of Italian Carrara marble, is the undisputed highlight.

Restored to its former glory in 2018, the Cour d'Honneur was converted into a harem by Bou Ahmed after he became Grand Vizier in 1894. Indeed, the expansion and beautification of Bahia Palace was driven by Bou Ahmed's desire to accommodate his four wives and 24 concubines.

Bou Ahmed died in 1900, and in 1908 the palace's beguiling charms attracted warlord Pasha Glaoui, who claimed it as a suitable venue to entertain French guests. They, in turn, were so impressed that they booted out their host in 1912, installing the protectorate’s resident-general in his place.

Despite the vast area on show, only a portion of the palace’s eight hectares and 150 rooms is open to the public. Its grand spaces sometimes play host to important cultural events.