دار المخزن (فاس)( Royal Palace of Fez )
The Royal Palace or Dar al-Makhzen (Arabic: دار المخزن, lit. 'House of the Makhzen'; Berber languages: ⵜⴰⴷⴰⵔⵜ ⵏ ⵎⴿⵣⵏ) is the palace of the King of Morocco in the city of Fez, Morocco. Its original foundation dates back to the foundation of Fes el-Jdid ("New Fez"), the royal citadel of the Marinid dynasty, in 1276 CE. Most of the palace today dates from the 'Alawi era (17th-20th centuries). The vast grounds are home to multiple private structures, patios, and gardens, but historically also included administrative offices and government tribunals. Today, the most publicly visible parts of the palace are its main entrances at the Old Mechouar (to the northeast) and the highly ornate 20th-century gates at Place des Alaouites, near the Mellah (to the southwest).
The palace was founded and initially built, along with the rest of Fes el-Jdid, by the Marinid sultan Abu Yusuf Ya'qub in 1276. It served as the new royal residence and center of government for Morocco under Marinid rule. Before this, the main center of power and government in Fes had been the Kasbah Bou Jeloud on the western edge of the old city (at the location of the still extant Bou Jeloud Mosque). The decision to create a new and highly fortified citadel separate from the old city (Fes el-Bali) may have reflected a continuous wariness of Moroccan rulers towards the highly independent and sometimes restive population of Fes. The Grand Mosque of Fes el-Jdid, adjacent to the palace grounds, was also founded at the same time as the new city in 1276 and was connected by a private passage directly to the palace, allowing the sultan to come and go for prayers.
Although the original layout of the palace cannot be fully reconstructed due to centuries of subsequent expansion and modification, it was most likely concentrated further southwest within the current palace grounds. What is now the Old Mechouar (a large walled courtyard preceding the main public entrance to the palace) was at that time a fortified bridge over the Oued Fes (Fes River) at the northern entrance to the city, and was most likely not directly connected to the palace itself. In addition to the main palace structures at the center of the city, the palace was also flanked by a large park or garden area to the west which was characterized by elevated terraces and pavilions, most likely corresponding to the site of the present-day Lalla Mina Gardens in the current palace.: 310 These first gardens were known as the "Agdal" (not to be confused with the current Agdal Gardens further west) and followed a tradition already established in Almoravid and Almohad times, as exemplified by the older Agdal Gardens of Marrakesh. The western edge of these gardens was in turn bounded by the western walls of the city. A gate known as Bab Agdal still stands here today and preserves its old Marinid-era layout.
Abu Yusuf Ya'qub had also wished to create a vast pleasure garden outside the palace, perhaps in emulation of those he might have admired in Granada (such as the Generalife); however, he died in 1286 before this could be accomplished.: 290 His son and successor, Abu Ya'qub Yusuf, carried out the work instead in 1287, creating the vast Mosara Garden to the north of Fes el-Jdid. This garden was supplied with water from the Oued Fes via an aqueduct fed by an enormous noria (waterwheel) near Bab Dekkakin. Both the gardens and the noria fell into disuse after the Marinid period and eventually disappeared, leaving only traces.'Alawi period (17th century and after)
Following years of neglect, the original Marinid constructions mostly fell into disrepair and were only restored, rebuilt, or replaced when the 'Alawi sultans re-invested in Fes and made it the capital of Morocco again (with the exception of certain periods). As a result, the current structures in the palace mainly date from the 'Alawi period, from the 17th century and after. Sultan Moulay Rashid, the first 'Alawi sultan to unify Morocco, captured Fez in 1666. In 1671, he ordered the creation of a vast rectangular courtyard in the eastern part of the palace. The courtyard, still extant today, was adorned with green zellij tiles and centered around a large rectangular water basin.: 294 This addition extended the Dar al-Makhzen grounds up to the edge of the Lalla ez-Zhar Mosque, which had previously stood in the middle of a residential neighbourhood, and cutting off one of the local streets. This was one of several occasions where the expansion of the palace cut into the general residential areas of Fes el-Jdid. Moulay Rashid also built the vast Kasbah Cherarda north of Fes el-Jdid in order to house his tribal troops. The housing of troops here also liberated new space in Fes el-Jdid itself, including the northwestern area which became the new Moulay Abdallah neighbourhood from the early 18th century onwards.: 296 This is where Sultan Moulay Abdallah (ruled between 1729 and 1757) erected a large mosque and royal necropolis for the 'Alawi dynasty. Abdallah's successor, Sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah (ruled 1748 and 1757–1790), was responsible, according to some sources, for establishing the New Mechouar and the Old Mechouar.: 397 However, other studies and later authors attribute this arrangement to Moulay Hassan's reign a century later (see below).: 296 Mohammed ben Abdallah also built the Dar Ayad al-Kebira, one of the more imposing structures inside the palace grounds.: 310
Major expansions and modifications continued throughout the 19th century. Under sultan Moulay Abd al-Rahman (ruled 1822–1859) the Bab Bou Jat Mechouar or Grand Mechouar was created to the west of the Moulay Abdallah quarter, providing the palace grounds with another ceremonial entrance to the northwest. Moulay Abd al-Rahman also revived the gardens of the palace to the west, up to the old western Marinid walls of the city, by creating the Lalla Mina or Lalla Amina Gardens (on the site of earlier Marinid-era gardens) and building the adjoining Lalla Mina Mosque.: 90 West of these, beyond the old walls, an even larger walled garden known today as the Agdal was established by Sultan Moulay Hassan I (ruled 1873–1894). (According to one author, the Lalla Mina Mosque is also attributed to Moulay Hassan.: 148 )
It also seems to have been under Moulay Hassan that the Dar al-Makhzen grounds were extended northwards up to the south gate of the Old Mechouar, thus turning the latter into the main entrance of the palace instead of the main entrance of the city. This forced the diversion of the northern end of Fes el-Jdid's main street so that it now enters the Old Mechouar from the side. The new expansion included a vast rectangular courtyard to serve as an "inner mechouar", followed by several other courtyards extending up to the Old Mechouar's gate. This inner mechouar was lined by arcades and housed a number of public and administrative functions like the mahkama (courthouse). This mechouar also lay between the Grand Mosque of Fes el-Jdid and its former madrasa (the Madrasa Dar al-Makhzen), cutting them off from each other and resulting in the madrasa being integrated into the palace. According to scholars it was Moulay Hassan who then built what is now known as the New Mechouar on the north side Bab Dekkakin and of the Old Mechouar. Next to this he also built the Dar al-Makina factory on the west side of the new square in 1886. Lastly, Moulay Hassan also connected Fes el-Jdid and Fes el-Bali (the old city) for the first time with a large corridor of walls. Inside this space he commissioned a number of royal gardens (such as Jnan Sbil) and summer palaces (such as Dar Batha), which were separate but associated or connected with the palace.
Historically, members of the public and government officials only had access to the first few courtyards of the Dar al-Makhzen, from the Old Mechouar to the "Inner Mechouar", due to public government institutions and tribunals being housed here. The Old Mechouar and the adjoining courtyards were thus a reception and waiting area for those who had business inside the palace. The rest of the palace further west, on the other hand, made up the sultan's private residence and was not accessible to anyone but the sultan, his family, and his inner circle.: 95–96From 20th century to present day
After Moulay Hassan, his son and successor Moulay Abd al-Aziz (ruled 1894–1908) constructed a palace pavilion, known as Dar al-Fassiya,: 28 on the western edge of the central palace structures, on the north side of the Lalla Mina Gardens. It was adjoined by a marble-paved courtyard and some of its rooms had ceilings gilded with gold leaf, but it was later abandoned and even partly looted. His successor, Moulay Abd al-Hafid (ruled 1908–1912), began in turn the construction of a large multi-story pavilion which was the include the first elevators in the palace, but its construction was not completed and it stood unfinished for many years.: 96
Following the advent of French colonial rule in 1912, the capital of Morocco was moved to Rabat and never returned to Fes. Some of the outlying branches of the palace, such as the Dar Batha and Dar el-Beida near Fes el-Bali, were occupied by the offices of the French authorities and of the French resident-general. In the 1960s King Hassan II reoriented the entrance of the palace complex from the Old Mechouar in the north to a new southern approach facing the modern Ville Nouvelle ("New City") of Fes. A new grand square, Place des Alaouites (''Alawi Square'), was laid out and new ornate gates to the palace were built between 1969 and 1971. Although no longer the royal palace of the capital, the main palace complex in Fes is still regularly used by the King of Morocco today. The palace is thus not open to the public.