City walls and gates in Marrakech

city walls and gates

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.


city walls and gates

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.


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.


city walls and gates
city walls and gates

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.


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.


city walls and gates
city walls and gates

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.


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.


city walls and gates
city walls and gates

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.

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


city walls and gates
city walls and gates

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.


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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