Bahia Palace

Marrakesh, Morocco | C.1867

Photo Credit: Julia Ploum

The Grand Courtyard of Bahia Palace is a remarkable 50×30 meters of paved Italian Carrara marble surrounded by a colorful wooden gallery. These galleries, now spare and empty, were never intended to display fine art, though they were spaces that held great beauty… as harems for concubines.

In the mid-19th century, the palace was built for Si Moussa, who had gone from being a slave to eventually climbing the ranks of the royal Moroccan government to become the Grand Vizier of the Sultan. When Si Moussa passed, he left his palace and title to his son, Ba Ahmed, who got to work on expanding his luxurious abode.

In addition to enlisting a renowned architect to add lush riad private gardens, he took pains to decorate each of its 150 rooms with truly elegant Moroccan-style stucco, cedarwood, and stained-glass. Why so many rooms? To accommodate his four wives, twenty-four concubines, and their many children, naturally.

When Ba Ahmed died abruptly in 1900, these freed women respectfully ransacked the palace; clearing out most of its removable valuables while somehow leaving the structure and gardens undamaged.

For a brief period after, an eager warlord claimed the space as his own, before the French Protectorate kicked him out and took over the vast, unfurnished, yet nonetheless brilliant palace (befitting its name). They continued using the space to occasionally host parties for the King of Morocco, and to receive foreign dignitaries and other royalty. As a globally-admired example of the country’s exquisite architecture, travelers today still visit the palace, and enjoy a nobly uncluttered experience.

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