Watching History and Making History in Marrakech

visiting Bahai Palace in Marrakech, Morocco

An Easy Morning

The Most Visited Site in Morocco

The Bahai Palace was built for Si Musa, a man who was once a servant (from a family of slaves) but who climbed the ranks to Grand Vizier and served as part of the Royal Government. Construction started in 1859 and continued over many years as the site grew and was extended, with some rooms added a decade or more later. Musa’s son continued development of the site at the end of the 19th century, adding new sections as he purchased surrounding land. He was only sixteen when he took over from his father but became the effective ruler of Morocco until his own death in 1900. After Ba Ahmed’s death his palace became royal property. Indeed just hours after his death, Sultan Abdelaziz (who subsequently took full power over the country) ordered the palace to be looted for valuable items and stripped of its contents and even today all the rooms are empty of all adornment or furniture.

Inside the palace walls feature stucco carved with Arabic inscriptions and geometric patterns. floors are paved with marble and zellij tiles and rooms are topped with colourfull painted cedar-wood ceilings. The building was made with materials from all over Morocco.

Bahai Palace in Marrakech

Today the palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Morocco; government figures reported 410,141 visitors from January to April 2019 alone! First, if lunchtime is quiet then we would hate to be here when its busy. The place was bursting at the seams. There were large groups on tours and hundreds of visitors just like us; in short it was busy.

So Crowded!

We usually love this kind of visit but i have to say we weren’t feeling it today. Yes the building is beautiful and the craftsmanship is wonderful but :

1) WOW! It was far too crowded and perhaps they need to consider limiting numbers as other major attractions do? It was simply impossible to see the building in places, we just couldn’t access some areas because of the crowds, and the noise from all the guides and general hubbub was pretty distracting.

2) Having visited much older sites like the Alhambra in Granada this felt a little like a modern replica. Of course, we could appreciate the art but we couldn’t shake that feeling.

Needless to say, whilst we are glad we visited, we did go away feeling the site was a little overrun.

Back in the Souk

But time was marching and our plan was to walk right through the souk in the hope that we’d come out in Jemaa! And we pretty much did that. It was nice to have no timescales, we could just follow our noses. The plan worked and we found a restaurant with a terrace that seemed a good choice for at least the start of the footie.

We ordered cold drinks and a late lunch and watched the crowds gather under the big screen. We decided that we would sit out the first half and move down into the party if things were going well later. We ached a bit last time, standing through the entire match and extra time and penalties and we always ended up behind giants… so we waited on our terrace.

Morocco Changed the World Today

Who expected Morocco to beat Portugal? Wow what a match. When the final whistle blew there was for a second calm, like nobody quite believed they’d actually won. And then it went crazy! Oh Marrakesh was a happy place to be. My face ached from smiling.

Respect the Culture and Leave no Trace

We’re here in a country where modesty is part of the culture, kissing and hugging in ‘not so modest clothing’ is kind of disrespectful. I know that it could be said that women should be free to wear what they want and I agree (really I do!) but also I feel it’s like visiting an acquaintance. I might not agree with everything they do but if I choose to accept an invitation then I should go along with their rules?

I’m saying this because we were there, in the thick of it, and folks from all over were just enjoying the party… lots of families and groups of friends, lots of tourists joining in, we even saw one chap in a Ronaldo shirt; seriously, it was fabulous. Beside me a girl and her partner/boyfriend appeared in the midst of the throng. She was wearing ripped skinny low cut hipster jeans and a short cropped bright green sequin vest top… and no bra. I know this because she danced around in a circle, clearing a space around her as she span, whirling dervish style, arms outstretched, showing the numerous bags full of shopping, whilst juggling in such a way that her bra-less-ness was obvious to all concerned. She was undoubtedly pretty, with long flowing locks and a big big smile but the smile instantly disappeared 20 seconds later as she went to check the footage on her partners phone. I’m sure the footage looked amazing but from where we stood the whole thing felt really uncomfortable.

I’m left wondering why they didn’t just enjoy the moment? It was seriously wonderful to be there in Marrakech as the Moroccan team made history! It was crazy and joyous and we couldn’t help laughing and joining in. And oh my it was seriously a night to remember! #gomorocco.

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