Photograph: Khalil NemmaouiPhotograph: Khalil NemmaouiPhotograph: Khalil NemmaouiPhotograph: Khalil NemmaouiPhotograph: Khalil NemmaouiPhotograph: Khalil Nemmaoui

Name of Monument:

Palace of the Kasbah


Tangier, Morocco

Date of Monument:

Hegira 5th–6th centuries / AD 11th–12th centuries; completed AH 1122 / AD 1711

Architect(s) / master-builder(s):

The work was supervised by Ahmad Al-Rifi, Governor of Tangier, to whom the palace was given as an official residence.

Period / Dynasty:



‘Alawid Sultan Mulay Isma‘il (r. AH 1083–1140 / AD 1672–1727).


Conscious of the growing international importance of Tangier, in both diplomacy and trade, Mulay Isma'il ordered the governor of the town, Ahmad al-Rifi, to build a complete kasbah, including palace, outbuildings, mosque, stables, court and prison. Although the mosque was significantly disfigured by later alterations, in particular in 1921, the palace has retained its authentic character and original features, despite the restoration work carried out in 1889 on the occasion of the visit to Tangier of Sultan Hasan I (r. AH 1290–1312 / AD 1873–94), who made the town the diplomatic capital of the kingdom and the residence of European consuls.
The palace consists of three parts: the seigneurial residence with garden and outbuildings (al-dar al-kabira), the first floor apartment (dwirat qubbat sidi-al-bukhari) and the ceremonial room known as the treasure room (bit al-mal).
The seigneurial residence, built on a rectangular plan, consists of seven rooms arranged around a large courtyard paved with zellij (small tiles) at the middle of which there is an octagonal pool containing a marble basin.
The courtyard is surrounded by a portico with columns whose composite capitals, produced in Italy by a supplier to the Court of Constantinople, are decorated with crescent moons, an emblem of the Ottomans.
The north and south wings of the portico include zellij panels. The two main rooms of the residence, elongated with alcoves at their ends, have recesses set in their centre decorated with an arcature and a dome, both in ornate muqarnas (honeycomb-work) wood.
The walls of these two rooms are covered with mosaics and sculpted plaster with repetitive epigraphic and geometric motifs.
On the first floor, the apartment consists of two rooms and a courtyard. The entire building is decorated with zellij tiles and plaster sculpted in a web pattern. An inscription in carved zellij copies an extract from a poem.
The ceremonial room is accessed by a three-arch portico that leads to a two-leaf wooden door painted with geometric motifs and fitted with iron bars.
The uncovered walls are crowned with a wooden muqarnas frieze, while the ceiling is decorated with a painted wooden dome embellished with interlaced polygonal stars.
The palace is currently home to the regional museum of ethnography and archaeology.

View Short Description

The 'Alawid Sultan Mulay Isma'il had an entire kasbah built in Tangier, with palace, mosque and outbuildings. Now the Tangier Museum of Archaeology, the palace has:
- a seigneurial residence built around a vast courtyard with a surrounding portico, zellij (small tile) paving and a pool with a basin
- a first-floor apartment with two rooms and a courtyard, all decorated with zellij and sculpted plaster
- a ceremonial room with a painted wooden door, unadorned walls crowned with a wooden muqarnas (honeycomb) frieze, and a painted wooden cupola.
The main rooms all have domed alcoves decorated with muqarnas.

How Monument was dated:

A black on white zellij inscription located in the northern gallery of the palace states the building was completed in 1122 / 1711.

Selected bibliography:

Michaux-Bellaire, E., “Tanger et sa zone”, Villes et tribus du Maroc, Vol.7, Paris, 1921.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.195–7.

Citation of this web page:

Kamal Lakhdar "Palace of the Kasbah" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024.;ISL;ma;Mon01;18;en

Prepared by: Kamal LakhdarKamal Lakhdar

Linguiste et sociologue de formation, c'est en autodidacte que Kamal Lakhdar s'est adonné aux études d'histoire du Maroc et du monde arabo-musulman, en axant tout spécialement ses recherches sur l'histoire de Rabat.
Sa carrière de haut fonctionnaire l'a conduit à occuper des fonctions de premier plan auprès de différents ministères. Il a notamment été membre du cabinet du ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur, conseiller du ministre des Finances, conseiller du ministre du Commerce et de l'Industrie, directeur de cabinet du ministre du Tourisme, chargé de mission auprès du Premier ministre et directeur de cabinet du Premier ministre.
Parallèlement, Kamal Lakhdar mène des activités de journaliste et d'artiste peintre – il a d'ailleurs été membre du Conseil supérieur de la Culture.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 24


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