Just before Christmas we went to Marrakech for our summer holiday, and one of my favourite discoveries was the El Badi Palace in the south of the Medina.
Commissioned by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, building began in 1578 and took twenty-five years to complete. However, the palace is now a ruin as it was ransacked and stripped of its jewels and gold during the reign of Ismail Ibn Sharif, 1672–1727.
It doesn’t feel as if much has changed over the centuries as the palace is still barren apart from the orange tree gardens filling two of the sunken courtyard spaces.
The emptiness shows how grand the palace must have been and the space is wonderful to immerse yourself in after the endless dark and winding alleyways of the Medina.
It was a very hot December day when we visited and the sun beat down and shone in the pools in the centre of the enormous courtyard. Cats lazed about all over the place and it was very peaceful.
Storks nest in the ruins of the narrow rooms surrounding the courtyard and very little has been done to turn the palace into a particularly tourist friendly attraction.
I loved this about Marrakech, everything was a little messy and there was no great attempt to present the city in a clean and tidy manner for the tourists.
Wandering around with a map was a stressful experience at times but I think we are supposed to take all as it comes. Once used to it I enjoyed wandering around a city where very little was shown in English. You get much more of a feel for a place if you aren’t obsessively reading all the signage, just accept the fact that you will get lost a few times.
It was also lovely to go out of season and to see a Marrakech with fewer tourists and even fewer English people who I don’t really want to see 1400 miles from home.
The palace has been developed enough so that one corner of the high walls could be accessed by two flights of stairs. As you look over the courtyard you look south past the Medina’s walls.
Look to the south-west and you see “the next-door garden, a royal mess with the King’s security equipment”, very Marrakshi!
View slightly north-west, the Koutoubia Mosque is in the distance.
So yes, I will stop waxing lyrical over this place now, just go, it is only 10dh and it is gorgeous.