Dar Batha is a former royal palace located in the heart of the medina of Fez. Converted into a museum in 1915, it is now home to a fine collection of some 6,000 pieces ranging from traditional Moroccan tiles to carpets and astrolabes.
Dar Batha was commissioned during the reign of Hassan I, the sultan of Morocco from 1873 to 1894. Built in the Arab-Andalusian style, with a calm garden and fine decorations, it served as a place for the sultan to entertain guests, a function it maintained during the following reign of Hassan I’s son, Abdelaziz.
From 1912 to 1915, Dar Batha was occupied by representatives of the French Protectorate. When they moved their accommodations to Rabat, Dar Batha was converted into a museum. Opened in 1915, it became the first museum in Morocco, initially as a museum of national art.
Today, Dar Batha houses a spectacular collection of Moroccan art, craftsmanship, and historic artifacts. Among these pieces are fine examples of Moroccan woodcarving, traditional zellige tilework, and sculpted plasterwork known as tadelakt, much of it brought from the city’s crumbling madrasas. You’ll also see Berber carpets, Fassi embroidery, old coins, antique instruments, and a room full of astrolabes, early scientific instruments used to identify celestial bodies and to determine latitude and time.
Arguably the most important and impressive exhibit is the museum’s collection of ceramics, which includes examples of the famous blue pottery of Fez. This style of pottery was first developed by artisans in Fez in the 10th century, who used a cobalt glaze to give their ceramics intricate blue patterns, a traditional style now known as Fez Blue.
Update as of February 2020: The museum is currently closed while undergoing renovations.
Know Before You Go
Dar Batha is located along Rue de la Musée, not far from the Bab Boujeloud, the ornate city gate that served as the main western entrance to Fes el Bali (the oldest walled part of Fez). The museum and grounds are open every day apart from Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is 10 dirhams (about $1 USD). More than half of the palace grounds are taken up by the Andalusian-style gardens, which offer a peaceful respite from the busy medina outside, and the chance to drink some tea and try some traditional sweets.