Fez (Old Town / Medina), Morocco
Hegira 13th / AD 19th century
Sultan Mulay al-Hasan I (r. AH 1290–1312 / AD 1873–94) and his successor Mulay ‘Abd Al-‘Aziz (r. AH 1312–26 / AD 1894–1908).
Sultan Hasan I had this palace constructed and used it as a guest house for distinguish visitors and guests.
Between 1912 and 1916, it was home to the services of the general residence of the French Protectorate, before they were transferred to the new capital Rabat. It was then converted into a museum of local art before becoming the present-day Batha Museum, a museum of ethnography and a cultural centre.
The palace, a genuinely regal building, is imposing because of the space it occupies, the height of its walls and the beauty of its gardens (ryad). The wide main entrance, which extends into a double zigzag hallway, leads visitors to a wide expanse divided between two large buildings and a large garden. The garden, in the Andalusian style, occupies 58 per cent of the total area of the palace. Its size bears witness to the fact that the palace was used for pleasure and as a summer residence.
The rectangular garden is enclosed to the east and to the west by a raised courtyard. An east–west avenue and a north–south avenue, both paved with herringbone bricks, divide it into four parts of equal size, each planted with trees and flowers. A fountain stands in the centre of the garden and gives it a sense of equilibrium.
Along the north and south sides of the garden there are two galleries that give a good view of the flowerbeds. The porticoes of the galleries rest on 28 painted wooden columns. The ceilings are richly decorated with floral and geometric motifs outlined on the wood. Copper lamps of different shapes, reminiscent of the Orient, embellish the galleries.
The east and west courtyards of the palace are rectangular and paved with marble tiles separated by zellij (small tiles) bands. Each courtyard is decorated with a pool linked to two polygonal basins. To the east, the courtyard is surrounded by a gallery behind which there are rooms of unequal dimensions that were used for storage. The west courtyard is surrounded on three sides by a gallery that leads to a number of very large rooms, decorated with zellij and covered with richly sculpted wooden ceilings.
This royal palace stands to the west of Fez medina, in the Marinid expansion Fez-Jdid, near the Bujlud gardens. Started towards the end of the AH 13th / AD 19th century and completed during the reign of Sultan Mulay 'Abd al-'Aziz, it was used to accommodate the sultan's most illustrious guests.
Later occupied by the services to the residence of the Protectorate, then converted into a museum of indigenous art in 1916, the palace consists of two buildings separated by a beautiful riyad (interior garden). Now restored, it is still used as a museum and hosts cultural events.
Al-Naciri's Istiqsa and all historical sources date the start of the work to the reign of Sultan Mulay al-Hasan I, and its completion to the reign of Sultan Mulay 'Abd Al-'Aziz.
Al-Naciri, A., Istiqsa, Vol. IX, Casablanca, 1956.
Ibn Zaidan, A., Ithaf, Rabat, 1929–33.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, p.114.
Mohamed Mezzine "Batha Palace" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;22;en
Prepared by: Mohamed MezzineMohamed Mezzine
Mohamed Mezzine is a heritage historian and the director of an established graduate program at the university of Fes on the history, preservation and restoration of architectural heritage in ancient (Moroccan) cities. He studied at University Mohamed V (Rabat) and obtained a Doctorat d'Etat in history from the University of Paris (7). Pr. Mezzine has been a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Metz, Tours (URBAMA) and Aix-en-Provence. He has likewise co-directed a number of joint research heritage projects involving French and Spanish academics. He has authored books and articles on the architectural heritage of the Islamic world including Fès médiévale, ed. Mohamed Mezzine (Paris : Ed. Autrement, 1992) ; “Political Power and Socio-Religious Networks in 16th-Century Fes,” in Islamic Urbanism in Human History: Political Power and Social Networks, ed. Tsugitaka Sato (London: Kegan Publ. de la Faculté des Lettres Sais-Fès, 2003). Pr. Mezzine is also a member of the national “Commission for the Preservation of Fes.”
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: MO 31
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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