City Walls and Gates - Marrakesh

The city walls date from the 1120s when, under threat of attack from the Almohads of the south, the ruling Almoravid sultan, Ali Ben Youssef decided to encircle his garrison town with fortifications. The walls he had built were up to 9 m (30 ft) high and formed a circuit of 10 km (6 miles), punctuated by some 200 towers and 20 gates. Despite changes made in the 20th century to accommodate motor vehicles, the walls remain largely unchanged.

Pisé

The walls are built from a mixture of mud, straw and lime (known as pisé), which becomes as hard as brick on drying. The distinctive pinkish-red hue of the walls (below) is a result of pigments in the local earth.

Bab Agnaou

The most beautiful city gate, the “Gate of the Gnawa”, is the only stonebuilt one (right). It was erected during Almohad sultan Yacoub El Mansour’s reign.

Bab El Rob

This was the original southern city gate (right). The gatehouse building is now occupied by a pottery shop and all foot and car traffic pass through a modern breach in the old walls.

Bab Doukkala

This massive gate (top left) built by the Almoravids in the 12th century now stands isolated from the walls, thanks to 20thcentury urban planning. The cavernous interior rooms lend themselves for use as a sometime event space.

Bab Berrima

Apart from being perimetre defences, other walls and gates divided up the interior of the medina. For instance, a wall separated the royal kasbah quarter from the city; Bab Berrima was one of the gates between these two distinct zones.

Bab Debbagh

This gate gives access to the tanneries, and when it’s open to visitors, you can ascend an internal staircase to the gatehouse roof for sweeping city views.

Bab El Khemis

Bab El KhemisThe most northerly of gates (above) is also the most decorative, with a semi-circle of stalactite mouldings arcing over the entranceway. Outside the gate is a pretty little marabout or shrine.



The Seven Saints

Just outside the walls stand seven stone towers each topped by a tree. This giant ensemble is in homage to the seven saints of Marrakech.

Dar El Haoura

West of the Agdal Gardens, this curious free-standing fortress used to be a garrison for cavalry and its horse ramp is intact to this day.

Calèche tours

The best way to view the walls is by a calèche . Take a complete circuit for the equivalent of a few dollars.

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