Badīʿ Palace (MEGT)
Marrakesh, Morocco
Key dates: 1578–1594 (Saadian foundation), 1672 (destruction)


The Badīʿ palace was built between 1578 and 1594 as part of Saadian sultan Aḥmad al-Manṣūr’s celebratory campaign after defeating the Portuguese in the Battle of Ksar al-Kabir (also known as the Battle of Three Kings), in which his brother had been killed and the throne passed to him. The palace was to be a splendid reception hall with a large, enclosed garden at the center. This organization of the space classifies the garden as an example of the riyad type, although at the height of sophistication and extravagance. The very name of the palace, al-Badīʿ (“incomparable”), speaks to the luxuriousness and prestige on display and, as one of the ninety-nine names for God, taps into the Saadian dynasty’s sharifian ancestry and relationship with Moroccan Sufism.
The courtyard garden takes up most of the palace’s quadrangle, measuring 110 m, north to south, by 135 m, east to west. Stretching along its central east-west axis is a large pool measuring 95 m by 20 m, built above ground in order to irrigate the surrounding gardens. A narrow walkway runs north to south and is connected to the square platform at the center of the pool. Underneath the courtyard, a system of brick-vaulted channels bring water from the central pool to the domed pavilions at either end of the rectangular enclosure, where they fed smaller pools underneath the pavilion domes. To the north and south of each pavilion are smaller rectangular basins positioned at ninety-degree angles to the larger central one.
Four sunken gardens border the central pool, each measuring 32 m by 42 m, set 2.5 m into the ground. An 11 m footpath separates each garden from the basin, with a narrower 5 m wide footpath running between the gardens and the edge of the enclosing walls and pavilions. The gardens were filled with a variety of citrus trees—namely citrus medica, citrus x limon, and citrus x aurantium—which were organized into staggered rows just visible over the edge of the bordering footpaths. Historical records also indicate the presence of myrtle, jasmine, and other aromatics, which would have combined to create a rich olfactory experience.
The surrounding pavilions served as opulent reception halls, each presumably having its own decorative program. The Khamsiniyya (loosely translated as the “Fifty-Sided Pavilion”) and the Qubbat al-Dhahab (“The Gold Pavilion”) hint at the use of stucco, muqarnas vaulting, gold, and faience tiling on the interior. Each pavilion featured a stucco cupola and colonnades facing toward the courtyard. The interior walls of the enclosure were covered in Carrara marble, and the ground was tiled in geometric patterns of zellīj (a type of local clay mosaic) tilework. The open-air nature of these pavilions allowed for luxurious views “of citrus trees, in winter, when the golden fruits reach maturity, amid the luxury of marble buildings and the snowy summits of the Atlas” (El Faïz, Jardins de Marrakech, 74).

Sources: Travel Account, 17th c. (Thomas le Gendre, Adriaan Matham) Court Chronicle, 17th c. (al-Fishtālī’s “Manāhil al-ṣafā fī akhbār al-mulūk al-shurfā”; Muhammad al-Ifrānī’s “Muzhat al-ḥādī bi-akhbār al-mulūk al-qarn al-ḥādī”)

-Abbey Stockstill


Le palais d’el Bedi’ à Marrakech et le mausolée des chorfa saadiens (Open in Zotero)

Marrakech, des origines à 1912 (Open in Zotero)

Jardins de Marrakech (Open in Zotero)

Le grand Riad du palais du Badi’ (Open in Zotero)

Originally published at: Stockstill, Abbey. “Badīʿ Palace.” Middle East Garden Traditions. Dumbarton Oaks, November 18, 2014. Archived at:

Marrakesh, Morocco
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Dates of attested life: 1578-1672
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Badīʿ Palace
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