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The Moroccan king has numerous official residences all across Morocco. While visitors can generally only marvel at the heavily guarded buildings from the outside, often from behind imposing walls and high gates, there are several stunning former palaces around the nation that are open to tourists. Many were built on the orders of previous sultans, but there are also beautiful palaces that were once home to dignitaries, members of high society, and esteemed wealthy families. Here are some of Morocco’s most opulent and impressive palaces.
Meknes’s Dar Jamai was built in the 1880s by an influential local family after whom the property is named. Two members of the affluent family served as viziers (high-ranking officials) to Sultan Hassan I. The palace has many splendid traditional designs, including colourful tile work, sculpted plasterwork, carved wood, and arched windows. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, the palace is now home to a museum that displays traditional arts and crafts from around the country.
Now used as a military facility, and so not open to visitors, Palais Dar al Baida in Meknes was built in the 1700s on the orders of Sultan Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah. Once home to Alaouite rulers, the grand building was constructed to accommodate lavish tastes. There is a mosque within the complex, as well as two sweeping courtyards that are surrounded by numerous opulent chambers.
As with all of Morocco’s royal residences, the current official royal palace in Meknes is not accessible by the public. Visitors can get an idea of the architectural splendour, however, just from admiring the huge ornate main gateway set into the high outer walls.
Located in the former imperial city of Fez, El Glaoui Palace was built by the former pasha of Marrakech, a mighty and powerful man who constructed marvellous palaces in several Moroccan cities. Members of the public can peek inside the palace to admire the Andalusian designs, the enormous kitchen, and the old-fashioned bathroom. Dating back to the 18th century, it’s a fine example of an affluent Moroccan home.
Fez’s Royal Palace is shielded by imposing walls and gates. Royal guards patrol the perimeter, quick to shout at people who try to get too close or snap a sneaky photograph. (Photography is not permitted at any of the current royal residences, including the outer walls and ornamental gates.) The inner area covers 80 hectares, though visitors must be content with viewing the huge and heavy brass doorways surrounded by cedar wood and zellige tiles.
One of Marrakech’s top historic sites, El Badi Palace was once a spectacular palace in Marrakech. Today, however, guests must look among the ruins and remains and use their imagination to cast them back to times of splendour. It was built in the 1500s on the orders of Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour, who wanted to construct one of the most magnificent palaces of all time. The building once boasted exquisite tile work, glittering gold, shimmering jewels, and other luxurious design features.
Another of Marrakech’s architectural gems from times gone by, El Bahia Palace was constructed in the late 19th century. It was built for Ahmed Ibn Moussa, a city official and trusted adviser of the sultan who rose to power from his early years as a slave. A terrific example of Alaouite-era architecture, the stately palace has detailed tile work, cedar wood ceilings, painted ceilings, tadelakt walls, ornamental plaster work, internal fountains, elegant arches, and lots of natural light. The large gardens add to the beauty.
Dar Mnebhi Palace in Marrakech was previously home to a wealthy local family, the Mnebhi Family. The luxurious home dates back to the late 1800s. Located within the city’s medina, the palace was designed according to Andalusian styles. The main interior courtyard has a fountain at the centre, with several rooms around the edges of the courtyard. Carefully restored in the 1990s to fully show its original splendour, the building is now home to the interesting Marrakech Museum. The Mnebhis built another fabulous palace in Fez, which is now home to a high-class restaurant.
The former royal palace of Tangier, Dar el-Makhzen contains two museums today. Although Tangier never served as one of Morocco’s imperial cities, the palace was used by the royal family on their frequent visits to the northern coastal city. Overlooking the Straight of Gibraltar, the palace’s main rooms surround two large courtyards. Graceful columns, some of which date back to the Roman era, marble fountains, high wooden ceilings, traditional tile work, and other eye-catching elements can be seen around the palace. The palace was the place of exile of Moulay Hafid, complete with his family, harem, slaves, and staff members, after the French took control of the country.
Rabat’s Dar al-Makhzen is the official and main residence of the current Moroccan king. Constructed in 1864, it replaced an older palace in the city. Various significant events have taken place within the sumptuous palace, including the present king’s marriage to Salma Bennani. The large complex has a number of buildings, including those used as homes for royalty, guest quarters, and accommodation for the Moroccan Royal Guard. There are extensive gardens filled with orderly rows of flowers, bushes, trees, and topiaries, as well as water features and statues. There is also a large parade ground and a small mosque within the site. Moroccan flags fly high above the palace. It is not open to visitors.
Agadir’s Royal Palace is one of the present Moroccan king’s residences. It is, therefore, closed to the public. In a fairly quiet location, close to the town of Inezgane, the palace has direct access to the beach and ocean. A verdant park provides leisure opportunities for resident royals.
It is only natural that Morocco’s largest city of Casablanca has a palace for when the king and other members of the royal family visit. Outsiders are not allowed into the palace’s grounds, but the grand monumental gateway shows a little of what lies behind the rather plain outer walls. The palace itself is splendid piece of Islamic architecture, with a huge open courtyard at the front and fragrant citrus trees in the gardens. The royal home is located in the French-built Habous Quarter, also known as the New Medina.