Palais Royal

Fes, Morocco | C.1276

Photo Credit: Matúš Slavkovský

Behind the magnificent gates of the Palais Royal in Fes, Morocco, lush courtyards, gardens, and fountains make up nearly 200 acres of grounds. Yet, only those who obtain special invitation will witness its beauty. The Royal Palais, built in the late 13th century, is the palace of the King of Morocco.

Originally built in 1276 under rule of the Marinid sultan Abu Yusuf Ya’qub, the Palais Royal is located in Fes el-Jdid, the fortified royal district of Fes, and takes up much of the city area. While the capital of Morocco has since been moved to the city of Rabat, the Palais Royal remains in use by the King.

What most onlookers have seen or will see of the Royal Palais are the mechouars, or official squares at the palace’s entrances. The gates at the Old Mechour greeted visitors from the Palais’ construction until the 1960s, when King Hassan II updated the palace entrance. He reoriented the entrance from the Old Mechouar in the north to a new area in the south. The new square, Place des Alaouites, features the ornate gates seen above.

Constructed from 1969 to 1971, the gates of the Place des Alaouites are grand doorways in gold-finished bronze, also called ormolu. Considered fine examples of modern Moroccan craftsmanship, the gates are decorated with mosaic tilework, carved cedar wood, and geometric patterns. Lemon trees are planted in front, and tour guides often demonstrate how the gilt bronze doors can be cleaned by the lemon juice.

Although the Royal Palais isn’t open to the public, many can still marvel at the beauty of its exteriors. In addition to the Place des Alaouites, there are three additional historic mechouars: the Old Mechouar, the New Mechouar, and the Bab Bou Jat Mechouar.

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