El Badi Palace – The Incomparable Palace that Died

Located in Marrakech, Morocco’s red city, is the vast El Badi Palace, or at least, the ruins of what was once a magnificent palace. While El Badi Palace is but a mere shadow of its former glory, it continues to be one of the most popular Marrakech Tourist Attractions.

El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace, Marrakech.

The vast size of this site also means that it can accommodate a large number of visitors without any feeling of being overcrowded. It is also a wonderful choice if you feel you need a bit of a break after visiting some of Marrakech’s bustling attractions, such as the medina and Jemaa el-Fnaa for example.

The History of El Badi Palace

Panoramic view of El Badi Palace. Marrakech

Panoramic view of El Badi Palace. Marrakech.

Construction of El Badi Palace began in the late 1570s. It was commissioned by a Saadi Sultan named Ahmed el Mansour shortly after he came to power in 1578.

El Badi, in English, means “The Incomparable,” and historical records confirm just what a fitting name this was for the palace in its day. El Badi Palace took approximately 25 years to complete, and during its construction, no expense was spared.

Construction materials included things such as vast amounts of high-quality cedar wood; onyx; imported Italian marble; ivory, and copious amounts of gold.

By the time the palace was completed, it featured about 360 opulent rooms; a sprawling courtyard; an enormous central pool; dungeons, and several luxurious summer pavilions which are thought to have been used as summer houses.

Ahmed el Mansour brought in skilled craftsmen from around the world in order to create a palace which was grander and more decadent that any other palace built in Morocco before him. El Badi Palace was by all accounts, a vast display of the finest craftsmanship ever seen during this period of Morocco’s history.

Anyone and everyone, both locally and from abroad, who were privileged enough to be invited to the palace, were said to have been mesmerized by its unfathomable grandeur. Some important dignitaries from abroad even went as far as calling El Badi Palace the 8th Wonder of the World.

So, how was the Sultan able to afford such an inconceivably lavish residence?

Sultan Ahmed el Mansour and the Spoils of War

The incomparable El Badi Palace with Atlas mountains in the background. Commissioned by Saadian sultan Ahmad al-Mansur.

The incomparable El Badi Palace with Atlas mountains in the background.

Funds for building El Badi Palace came in the form of an enormous ransom paid by the Portuguese following the Battle of Alcacer Quibir, also often referred to as the Battle of the Three Kings because three different kings lost their lives during the battle.

At the time, Abu Abdallah Mohammed II, a former Moroccan king, joined forces with king Sebastian of Portugal for the purpose of trying to defeat the ruling king of Morocco, Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik I and his armies.

All three kings perished on the battle field, and the Portuguese were subsequently defeated.

Following their defeat, the Portuguese paid a substantial ransom to the new king, Sultan Ahmed el Mansour, who in turn used the money to have his “Incomparable Palace” built.

The Chilling Prophecy of the Court Jester

Gate in ruins of El Badi Palace in Marrakesh

Gate in ruins of El Badi Palace in Marrakesh.

During the official opening ceremony, while most attending dignitaries were complementing the Sultan on his opulent new residence, the court jester paid a somewhat different type of complement, saying that the palace would make a magnificent ruin.

Sadly, his prophecy came true.

Just 10 years after the El Badi Palace was completed, Sultan Ahmed el Mansour died, and with his death came civil war fueled mostly by different beliefs as to who should have become the sultan’s successor.

These tensions lasted for the next 25 years during which time the palace slowly but surely began falling into a state of disrepair.

At around this time, flaws and weaknesses within the Saadi Dynasty paved the way for the Alaouites to seize power, and in 1666 Moulay Al-Rashid became the new sultan, only to be replaced his half-brother, Moulay Ismail 5 years later.

Even before Moulay Ismail became sultan, he had already gained a reputation for destroying other grand buildings and structures in Marrakech so that he could harvest their riches and treasures which he then took to Meknes to be used for his own magnificent palace and other grand buildings.

Unfortunately, El Badi Palace was far too good an opportunity to pass by, and like so many other beautiful buildings in Marrakech at the time, El Badi palace was systematically destroyed.

In just 12 years, the palace was stripped of virtually everything of value, all of which ended up in Meknes. In the end, the court jester’s prophecy came true, and today El Badi Palace is indeed a magnificent ruin.

Visiting El Badi Palace

El Badi Palace features in many good quality Morocco tour packages and there is a good reason for that.

It is a very large site where visitors can wonder around at leisure for several hours, and its spacious layout and ample open space also make it a great choice for visitors who are traveling with young children. There is also a nice museum at the site, so you can be sure there are lots of things for everyone to see.

The El Badi Palace ruins are open to the public on most days from 09h00 to 16h30, other than on Fridays when it is only open from 15h00 to 17h45.

This site is also within walking distance from other extremely popular tourist attractions such as Jemaa el-Fnaa and Koutoubia Mosque.

Egypt and Morocco tours offered by Egypt Tours Plus, may or may not include a visit to El Badi Palace, but our tours can all be customized and tailored to meet your own personal needs and desires.

If you would like El Badi Palace to be included in a particular tour itinerary, simply let one of our tour managers know, and they will be happy to accommodate your wishes.