Monday, April 25, 2016

Bahia Palace - Marrakech, Morocco

The Bahia Palace in Marrakech was built between 1859 and 1873 for Si Moussa, grand vizier of Sultan Sidi Mohammed ben Abd Al Rahman. Then a second phase of construction occurred during the lifetime of Si Moussa's son, Ba Ahmed, who was Grand Vizier of Sultan Moulay Abd al-Aziz, between 1894 and 1900.

For me, it is probably the most beautiful example of Islamic art and architecture I've seen. Islamic art is not restricted to religious art, but includes all art of the cultures of Islamic societies. It covers many lands over a period of 1,400 years  and is not restricted to any particular medium, as it includes painting, calligraphy, glass, pottery, textiles, architecture and others. It has been influenced by Roman, early Christian, Byzantine and pre-Islamic Persian art, with Chinese influences in painting, pottery and textiles. John Esposito, in Islam: The Straight Path says, the "concern not to compromise the unity and transcendence of God led to an absolute ban on any image or representation of God or Muhammad. Many Arab Muslims extended this ban to any representations in art of the human form for fear that such statues and paintings might lead to idol worship. This attitude resulted in the use of calligraphy (Arabic script) and arabesque (geometric and floral design) as dominant forms in Islamic art." Islamic art is characterized by abstract decoration, curved and interlaced lines, brilliant colors and greatly varied styles. Even animal representation is eschewed and floral designs tend not to be highly realistic. 

Following I share some of the wonderful scenes from this incredible building. First, I start with the flooring. 
These colors occur a lot: orange, red, blue, green and orange-ish yellow. 

A pattern similar to the one above, but using different colors and different sizes of squares.
I really loved this floor, dominated by varying shades of orange and brown, interspersed with white, then green, then black and then gold square tiles. 
These can be viewed as white hexagons or stars with six green rays. 
This looks similar to many above, but adds some interlocking lines and odd shapes at the very top. 
Next are pictures showing doors and courtyards. No one does courtyards like the Moroccans.
The outer edge of a scalloped arch with an orange tree in an inner courtyard.
The lush greenery really adds to the beauty.
A bougainvillea above a blue tiled roof visible through an arch. I thought this was stunning. 
Two doorways in succession with so many different materials. And Moroccans always add wonderful light.
Judy's colorful shirt fits in here. Beautiful, colorful wood on the sides of the door way. 
I'm not sure if any of this has gold leaf, but it looks like it may.
A similar door opening, but different materials and styles.
Varying shades of green and other color in the courtyard.
I loved this banana in a courtyard.

The top of the doorway is just visible at the bottom. Above are lacy patterns in the middle, sided by two protruding door supports scalloped in many different colors.
Colorful wood door lintel above this open door.
The walls are next and offer more wonderful variety:

The year 1316 (under the Islamic calendar) is centered between the tile below and the scalloped plaster above. 
Tiles inset in a wall.
An inset quarter-circle in a wall, either above a window or an alcove.
This inset quarter-circle is a above a window with beautiful yellow grill and ornate wood shutters. 
I am not sure if this is plaster, or wood, a combination, or something else, But it is beautiful. 
A corner piece.
Tile incorporated into a fire place. 
A corner and two side-sections. 

Colored glass in a window.
So many different types of tiles and pattern.
Here, the lacy white patterns are now infused with color.
Incredibly, the most beautiful part of the palace may be the ceilings, and they are often not readily apparent unless you force yourself to look up. Ceilings varied greatly. They were sometimes flat, but often had recessed elements and wooden slats.
This ceiling has wood slats, like 2x4s running vertically through it (from the vantage of this photo) and each slat is painted on the sides as well. 
More wooden slats seen from a different perspective, catching much more of the painting on the side of each slat. 
I love the purple elements in this ceiling.
This one has a little more yellow in it.
Here the wood slats are not on the top of the ceiling, but angled down from the top (the hanging lamp is anchored in the very top). So the wooden slats are acting more like ribs here.
Here the wooden slats are acting like ribs, but fan out at the end.
I adore this ceiling.
Hard to believe this is hidden on the ceiling.
A very detailed and intricate patterned ceiling with varied shapes.
A recessed ceiling without slats.
A recessed star pattern holds a hanging light and has smaller recessed star patterns on each side.

This looks quite plain after the ones above it, but the rich, reddish wood is striking.
I also loved this ceiling - very bold with solid colors accented by the window grills to the side.
I am hard-pressed to think of any more beautiful building in the world. 


  1. It seemed like every building we went in was more beautiful than the last, but this truly ws the king of them all. It would be a wonderful place to spend a day reading a book or meditating. It was also a great place to spend a few hours and take a thousand pictures, right?

  2. Oh my. These beautiful tiles works are reason enough to visit this country.

  3. bob im also writing a blog post about morocco- would you mind if i use your photo of men praying outside the mosque if i credit you?

    1. Sorry to get back to you so late. It is fine to use it. Thanks.