City walls and gates in Marrakech

City walls and gates in Marrakech

a special tour in the city walls and gates in Marrakech

 

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.

1 – 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 distin-ctive pinkish-red hue of the walls (below) is a result of pigments in the local earth.

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2- Bab Agnaou

 

The most beautiful city gate, the “Gate of the Gnawa”, is the only stone- built one (right).

 

It was erected during Almohad sultan Yacoub El Mansour’s reign.

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3- 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 mod-ern breach in the old walls.

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4- Bab Doukkala

 

This massive gate (top left) built by the Almoravids in the 12th century now stands isolated from the walls, thanks to 20th-century urban planning.

 

The cavernous interior rooms lend themselves for use as a sometime event space.

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5- 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.

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6- 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 bet-ween these two distinct zones.

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7- Bab El Khemis

 

The most northerly of gates (above) is also the most decorative, with a semi-circle of stalactite moldings arcing over the entranceway.

 

Outside the gate is a pretty little marabout or shrine.

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8- 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

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9 Calèche tours

 

 The best way to view the walls is by a calèche (see pp8–9). Take a complete circuit for the equivalent of a few dollars.

 

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The Red City Marrakech’s distinctive coloring is from pigments in the local soil, mixed to make pisé from which its buildings have traditionally been constructed.

In the last century, this was threatened by new building materials such as concrete.

Therefore, the ruling French decreed that all new buildings be painted pink. This rule continues to be in force even today, with pleasing results.

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