Marrakech Walls, built in the 12th century, are emblematic of Morocco’s rich history. Encircling the old city, these red sandstone fortifications stretch over 19 km and feature 202 bastions and 20 gates. Originally erected to defend Marrakech, they now stand as a testament to the city’s storied past.

View of the Marrakech Walls at a rooftop bar.

Design of the Marrakech Walls

The walls exhibit a consistent structure reminiscent of medieval designs found in Morocco and al-Andalus. Ranging from 6 to 8 meters tall, they are bolstered by square towers or bastions every 25 to 30 meters. The walls’ thickness oscillates between 1.4 and 2 meters, and the towers are between 8 and 14 meters thick. In earlier times, a narrow pathway crowned the walls, guarded by battlements with merlons. Many of these structures no longer exist. Historical traces suggest the presence of a ditch or moat encircling the walls, although its defensive significance might have been minimal.

Construction & Maintenance

The Marrakesh walls, akin to those in Fes and other historic Moroccan cities, were constructed using rammed earth, a time-honoured method prevalent across the Near East, Africa, and beyond. Commonly referred to as “pisé” in French or “tabia” in Arabic, this technique was cost-effective and relatively efficient, employing local materials like mud, soil, straw, or lime for better adhesion. Marrakesh walls contain up to 17% lime, in contrast to Fes and Meknes walls which have up to 47%. The method persists today, though material ratios have evolved due to cost dynamics.

Construction involved layering. Material was compacted into sections, each 50-70 cm long, held by wooden boards. Once set, the boards were removed, and the next level began. This technique often left visible rows of tiny holes. Sometimes, walls were coated with lime or stucco for a smoother finish and enhanced protection.

However, these walls required constant care due to their susceptibility to rain erosion. In areas near the Sahara, structures without durable composition, often missing lime, deteriorate rapidly if abandoned. Hence, while some wall portions appear newly restored, others are in decay.

History of the Marrakech Walls

Almoravids (11th – 12th Centuries)

In 1070, the Almoravid leader, Abu Bakr ibn Umar, founded Marrakesh. Initially, its primary fortification was the Ksar al-Hajjar (“Palace/Fortress of Stone”), a citadel constructed next to where the Kutubiyya Mosque now stands. As the first significant Almoravid structure, this citadel symbolized their shift from nomadic to settled life.

By 1126, a subsequent Almoravid amir, Ali ibn Yusuf, felt the need for greater defences, likely due to the rising Almohad threat. Influenced by Abu-l-Walid ibn Rushd, a Cordoban qadi and grandfather to the renowned Ibn Rushd (Averroes), he initiated the city’s surrounding walls. Interestingly, these walls, completed in early 1127, were reportedly built in just 8 months at a cost of 70,000 gold dinars. Before construction, astrologers were consulted for an auspicious start date, and ropes mapped out the walls’ path.

Much of today’s medina walls still follow the Almoravid blueprint, albeit with modifications to the north and south. The design, resembling a slightly irregular quadrangle, may have been influenced by existing sacred sites or spontaneous decisions to encompass more land. Notably, many current city gates trace back to this era, either in position or original form. Among them are Bab Fes, Bab Debbagh, and Bab Aghmat, to name a few. Some gates, such as Bab ash-Shari’a and Bab Moussoufa, no longer exist but are documented in historical texts or remnants.

Almohad Era (12th – 13th Centuries)

When Abd al-Mu’min, the Almohad leader, took Marrakesh in 1147, he razed numerous Almoravid structures, particularly mosques. Yet, the Ksar el-Hajjar and Ali ibn Yusuf’s palace remained, serving as the Almohad rulers’ official residences for a period. Ya’qub al-Mansur, the Almohad caliph reigning from 1184-1199, initiated an expansive construction campaign to establish the Kasbah, a new royal district attached to the city’s southern side. This expansion, completed between 1185 and 1190, was driven by Marrakesh’s burgeoning population and the need for more urban space. Al-Mansur might also have been inspired by other influential Islamic leaders who built distinct palace-cities, reminiscent of the Ummayyad’s Madinat al-Zahra near Cordoba or the Abbasid’s Samarra in Iraq.

Today, the Kasbah’s current western and southern boundaries, including its fortifications, largely reflect the original Almohad design. Its primary entrance, Bab Agnaou, functioned as both a defensive structure and a ceremonial gateway. Located near the city wall adjacent to Bab er-Robb, it provided the primary access point into the Kasbah for the inhabitants of Marrakesh. The Almohads also introduced expansive gardens near the Kasbah, notably the al-Buhayra garden, now recognized as the Agdal Gardens, set apart by their distinct fortifications.

The Saadian and Alaouite Era (15th Century)

After the Almohad era, Marrakesh experienced a period of decline as the subsequent Marinid dynasty shifted their focus to Fes, their new capital. The city’s resurgence came with the Saadian Dynasty in the 16th century. They not only made Marrakesh their capital but also embarked on significant construction. The Saadians revamped the Kasbah, extending its northern perimeters with new palaces such as El Badi. Sultan Moulay Abdallah al-Ghalib moved the Jewish community to a new Mellah district, further expanding the kasbah. Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur rejuvenated and expanded the Agdal Gardens.

Subsequent rulers, particularly from the Saadian and Alaouite dynasties, commissioned the development of the zawiya and mosque complex near the mausoleum of Sidi Bel Abbes, located beyond the city’s northern gate, Bab Taghzout. Recognized as Marrakesh’s patron saint, Sidi Bel Abbes’ zawiya became a magnet for settlers, resulting in a thriving neighbourhood outside the city’s walls. By the 18th century, under Alaouite sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah, the city’s walls were extended to encompass this area, marking the city’s new northern boundary. Concurrently, he merged the Kasbah and Agdal boundaries.

Additionally, the Alaouite sultans further enhanced the city’s walls and gates. Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah played a pivotal role in rejuvenating the royal palace (Dar al-Makhzen) after periods of neglect, crafting its contemporary appearance. The Kasbah’s southern side was broadened to house gardens, residential areas for palace workers and military, and a series of walled squares known as mechouars. Numerous gates were added, with Bab Ahmar showcasing a distinctive design featuring an elevated platform for artillery. After the Rehamna destroyed the Agdal Gardens’ western wall in 1862, Sultan Muhammad ibn Abd al-Rahman rebuilt it, also adding the Sqallat al-Mrabit fort to safeguard these fortifications.

Gates of the Marrakech Walls

The primary gates of Marrakesh, excluding those of the Kasbah, originate from the Almoravid era when the city’s fortifications were first established. However, throughout the years, many of these structures have been altered or refurbished. In medieval times, a significant number of these gates featured intricate “bent entrances” which were strategically designed to enhance their defensive capabilities.[2] In contemporary times, to facilitate smoother traffic flow into and out of the medina, straightforward archways have been introduced adjacent to several of these historical gates. Moreover, to cater to modern infrastructural needs, new openings have been created in the city walls to accommodate the development of roads.

Here’s a list of the prominent historical entrances within the medina, setting aside the Kasbah to the south for now. Let’s embark on a journey, beginning from the medina’s northeastern edge and navigating clockwise around its storied walls.

Nestled in the northern to northeastern section of the city’s protective walls, this gate carries the legacy of the Almoravid era. Once upon a time, it bore the name Bab Fes, translating to the “Gate of Fes”. However, by the Marinid times, this name gradually faded from common parlance. Today, it goes by the name el-Khemis, a nod to the historic open-air market or souk that convened here every Thursday (with “al-Khamis” being the Arabic term for Thursday). Interestingly, the trading spirit endures with a vibrant market stretching its arms almost every day just beyond the gate’s threshold. A bit further, you’d find the permanent flea market, Souk al-Khemis, welcoming you a few hundred meters to the north. Another noteworthy landmark right at the gate’s doorstep is the qubba, a domed mausoleum, which enshrines a revered local Muslim figure.

Architecturally, the gate is framed by square bastions on each side, adding to its grandeur. Historically, entering this gate required a sharp, 90-degree turn, leading one from the northern approach to a western exit into the city’s embrace. There’s an intriguing piece of lore suggesting that the door panels were a triumphant trophy from Spain, courtesy of the valiant Yusuf ibn Tashfin. Later, during the Almohad dynasty, architects reimagined the gate, adding a series of sharp turns before one could exit towards the south, reminiscent of other majestic Almohad gates, like Bab er-Rouah. One can still discern the traces of the gate’s original exit, now sealed, on its interior western facade. An extensive facelift in the early 1800s, commissioned by Sultan Moulay Slimane, is commemorated by an elegant marble plaque inside the gate. Fast forward to the 20th century: to accommodate the bustling traffic, the gate was reconfigured, offering a straight path through its heart, reflecting its present design.

Nestled towards the east, Bab ad-Debbagh, also fondly referred to as just Bab Debbagh, stands as one of the two sentinel gates in that direction, with its roots tracing back to the illustrious Almoravid era. The name is quite telling – it translates to the “Gate of the Tanners”, a homage to the longstanding tanneries in its vicinity, a legacy again from the Almoravid days. Navigating through this gate is like walking a labyrinth. It boasts the most intricate design of all gates with its passage meandering five times, much like tracing an ‘S’, and leading you through two airy courts and a sheltered chamber. If you’re curious, a set of stairs tucked away in the southeastern niche of this grand structure will lead you to its rooftop. Delving into its architectural history, experts deduce that only the heart of the gate, the arched chamber, is truly Almoravid. It’s believed that the Almohads later added the courtyards flanking this core. This implies that originally, the gate had a more straightforward design with just a single 90-degree bend.

Positioned to the east, just south of the renowned Bab Debbagh, is Bab Aylan. This distinguished gate borrows its name from the Aylan tribe, referred to as Haylana in Arabic. This tribe was an integral part of the Berber Masmuda confederation. A pivotal historical moment, the Battle of al-Buhayra, unfolded right here in 1130, seeing the Almoravids repelling an offensive by the Almohads. This battle took its name from a nearby garden, Buhayrat al-Raka’ik, located in close proximity to the city’s eastern gates. Architecturally, the original Almoravid gate featured a straightforward bent passage – meaning, it simply took a 90-degree turn – and this was encompassed within a bastion on the rampart’s exterior. As the sands of time-shifted post the Almoravid era, another twisty passage was integrated on the gate’s inner side. As a result, when one enters the gate from the south, they meander through two turns (a left followed by a right) before gracing the city with their northward-facing presence.

Situated in the direction of the south/southeast, the gate is named in honour of Aghmat, which served as the Almoravids’ capital prior to Marrakesh taking over the title. There’s a possibility that this gate was once referred to as Bab Yintan, though there’s some ambiguity regarding this. It’s also speculated that the name might have been associated with another nearby gate, which unfortunately no longer stands today.

Like many of the city’s Almoravid gates, this one too has witnessed considerable changes since its inception. In its original design, the gate likely had a unique bent passage that resulted in a full 180-degree turn, creating a balanced structure alongside the wall’s axis. Visitors would make their entry from the west, manoeuvring through an external bastion of the city wall and a covered vestibule, only to then make their exit towards the west via the internal bastion, while passing an open-air courtyard.

However, as time progressed, architectural amendments were made. A courtyard, visibly different in design from the rest of the gate, was appended to its external end, compelling visitors to make an additional 180-degree turn. However, it’s worth noting that in recent years, the northern boundary of this courtyard has been removed to enable a straighter route. For those keen on exploring the heights, a staircase tucked away in the gatehouse’s northeastern corner will lead them to the roof. Additionally, right outside the gate, one can find the vast Bab Aghmat Cemetery, stretching over a considerable expanse.

Bab er-Robb stands out in the city due to its unique positioning. It’s distinctively set in a corner of the walls, a feature not seen with other gates. Historians Deverdun and Allain postulate that this gate originated during the Almohad era, specifically under the reign of Ya’qub al-Mansur, basing their beliefs on its proximity to the Almohad Kasbah. However, Quentin Wilbaux, a more contemporary historian, suggests it could have been an Almoravid construction given its overall positioning in the urban layout. An intriguing consensus among these historians is that Bab Neffis, another gate often mentioned in historical texts and linked to the nearby Neffis (or N’fis) River, might just be an alternative name for Bab er-Robb. The name “Robb” or “Rubb” stems from a specific kind of fermented wine, cultivated in the vineyards along the Neffis River. Consequently, this gate was likely a key point for monitoring and regulating its import. Additionally, a significant water basin once existed outside the gate, covering an area of around 70 by 40 meters. This basin, now replaced by a cemetery, served as a swimming training spot.

In terms of its architectural design, Bab er-Robb is primarily a bastion containing a bent passage. One would enter from the north, make a complete 180-degree turn, and exit facing north again. The current configuration of walls around the gate’s bastion is such that both of its entrances, which face north, are now within the city boundaries, making its primary role as a city entrance less obvious. But, back in 1912 when French scholars delved into its structure, the wall layout was distinct. Instead of meeting the gatehouse’s side, the city wall intersected the gate’s northern facade midway between its two entrances. As a result, the eastern entrance lay outside the city wall, while the western one was within. What’s even more interesting is that given this design, the outer entrance wasn’t directly accessible for individuals approaching from the south. They had to take a longer route, circling to the bastion’s far side and making their entrance from the north.

Wilbaux, based on his studies and comparisons with other city gates, presents a captivating theory. He believes there might have been a reconfiguration of the city ramparts in this area. He posits that the gate’s entrances were once inverted: the 1912 outer eastern entrance was previously inside the city limits, and the inner western entrance was outside. This hypothesis suggests that Bab er-Robb’s bastion was once directly over the city wall, making its design somewhat akin to Bab Aghmat, another significant southern gate of the city.

Bab al-Makhzen, positioned west of the illustrious Kutubiyya Mosque, stands as a testament to the city’s rich Almoravid heritage. Its moniker is believed to be inspired by the Dar al-Makhzen palace, which once graced the nearby region as part of the storied Ksar el-Hajjar. Featuring distinctive octagonal towers, the gate has undergone substantial changes over the years. While it initially boasted a subtly curved entrance that swivelled northward by 90 degrees, the current iteration is far more streamlined, showcasing a mere archway. Intriguingly, in the early days of the last century, this gate was sealed off, but now, it’s bustling again with a thoroughfare coursing through it.

Bab al-‘Arisa, which can be translated to “Gate of the Bride” and is occasionally referred to as Bab Larissa or Bab Lrissa, holds alternative names like Bab al-‘Arais (“Gate of the Fiancés”) and once, Bab ar-Raha. The latter, “Raha,” might allude to concepts like “abundance” or “well-being,” and is also recognized as a surname in Marrakesh. Situated north of Bab el-Makhzen, this gate, also stemming from the Almoravid era, is tucked in a corner of the city ramparts. Much like its southern counterpart, Bab al-Makhzen, it’s adorned with octagonal towers. Historically, the gate featured an elegantly curved entry, pivoting northward by 90 degrees, but its design has evolved over time. While it was sealed at the dawn of the 20th century, nowadays it stands open, with a local road meandering through its arches.

Bab Doukkala serves as the medina’s northwestern entrance. Intriguingly, the name “Doukkala” is twofold in its reference: it’s both a nod to a Berber tribe and the title of a region nestled between Marrakesh and Casablanca in present times. Constructed during the Almoravid era, what sets this gate apart is its enduring integrity; it has largely been spared the major architectural alterations common to its counterparts. Visitors are treated to an intricate entry experience — upon entering from the west, one pivots south and then east before stepping into the city’s embrace. To aid in seamless movement, the gate today is complemented by adjacent straightforward passageways in the wall.

A handful of additional gates, potentially up to five if we consider Bab Yintan, once graced the circumference of the medina’s city walls. However, over time, these have either vanished or become outdated. Here’s a list of those gates.

Originating from the Almoravid era, this gate once marked the northern boundary of the city. However, in the 18th century, Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah expanded the city walls to include the Sidi Bel Abbes neighborhood to the north. While the exact historical roots of its name “Taghzout” remain a mystery, it’s a common Berber term with several meanings. Some believe it might denote a nearby village or possibly the Tensift River valley. This gate is also referred to as Bab Sidi Bel Abbes, named after the adjacent shrine. In its original design, the gate was quite similar to the nearby Bab el-Khemis, marked by two square bastions and a unique entrance that allowed individuals to enter from the north and leave towards the west. However, as time passed, it underwent changes; its bastions and distinctive entrance have vanished, leaving behind only a grand archway which stands prominently over the main street, south of the Zawiya of Sidi Bel Abbes.

Bab Moussoufa, sometimes referred to as Bab Massufa, is an intriguing Almoravid gate. While its precise historical context remains a bit of a mystery, many believe its location was in the city’s northwest corner. This would place it to the north of Bab Doukkala and to the west of Bab Taghzout, in close proximity to the Riyad al-‘Arus neighbourhood. Interestingly, the gate’s name is derived from an Almoravid Berber tribe.

Bab ash-Shari’a, translating to the “Gate of Justice/Law” (Shari’a), stands as a testament to the city’s rich Almoravid history. Found near a bend in the walls just to the west of Bab er-Robb, it was originally the principal southwestern entrance to the city. During the Almohad period, as the city grew, Abu Ya’qub Yusuf directed his son, the soon-to-be al-Mansur Ya’qub, to shift a section of the wall further south to make way for an emerging neighbourhood. This renovation, which took place in the late summer of 1183, led to the inauguration of a new Bab ash-Shari’a gate by Abu Ya’qub Yusuf. Presently, the spot where this gate once stood is marked by the mausoleum of Imam as-Suhayli, one of the celebrated Seven Saints of Marrakesh, with remnants of the gate still visible beside it.

Adjacent to the gate in times past, there was an expansive outdoor prayer space, referred to as a musalla or msalla. This revered area was frequented during both the Almoravid and Almohad reigns, though its location might have been altered by the Kasbah’s construction. In addition, close to this gate was a hippodrome designated for horseback games and exercises, boasting a pavilion for the amir or caliph to enjoy the spectacle. Fast forward to today, and the vicinity is dominated by an extensive cemetery extending from Bab er-Robb.

One of the southern entrances of the Almoravid city was named in honour of the Saliha Gardens situated to the city’s south. Its position was later occupied by the development of the Almohad Kasbah district, which probably led to the gate’s disappearance.

The identity and precise location of this gate remain subjects of debate among historians. It might have been situated on the southern side of the city, potentially close to the area that later became the Jewish Mellah, adjacent to the eastern side of the Kasbah. However, it has since vanished without distinct remnants. There’s also speculation that it might have been another designation for Bab Aylan or, more plausibly, Bab Aghmat. Notably, the French historian Gaston Deverdun leaned towards this latter theory.

Several other gates, mostly from the last few centuries, are dotted around the city, each bearing its unique name. Additionally, there are numerous minor openings in the walls introduced to facilitate seamless movement in and out of the medina. A few of these include:

Bab Nkob: Established during the French Protectorate era (1912-1956), Bab Nkob was designed to link the old medina with the newly minted city districts, or Gueliz, created by the French. Today, it primarily serves as a breech in the walls, accommodating a principal road.

Bab Jdid: Known as the “New Gate,” Bab Jdid is a relatively modern gateway situated to the west of the Kutubiyya Mosque, adjacent to the Mamounia hotel and its surrounding gardens. A contemporary road runs through this gate.

Bab Qchich: Alternatively referred to as Bab Kechich or Kechiche, Bab Qchich is a newer gate nestled between Bab el-Khemis and Bab ad-Debbagh, situated at the northeastern edge of the old medina. This humble archway, through which a modern road courses, derives its name from the past owner of a garden in its proximity.

The initial gates of the Kasbah were established during the Almohad era, yet several gates emerged from subsequent enlargements of the Kasbah and the royal residence, Dar al-Makhzen, in the following centuries.

Bab Agnaou, a prominent and striking gate in Marrakesh, served as the primary public and ceremonial access to the city’s Kasbah. The term “agnaou” is thought to have Berber roots, historically associated with meanings such as “mutes” and later “Black people” or the Gnawa. Nevertheless, the exact implication of this name remains a subject of discussion. The gate also bore names like Bab al-Qasr, translating to “Gate of the Palace”, and Bab al-Kuhl, or “Gate of Kohl”. Its construction is credited to Ya’qub al-Mansur, the man behind the foundation of the Kasbah, in the year 1188.

Situated within the confines of the medina walls, it’s in proximity to Bab er-Robb. Originally, two bastion towers flanked this gate, and its interior showcased a bent entrance, which would twist 90 degrees prior to its exit, leading through a grand vaulted antechamber. A terrace atop the gate was accessible by an inner staircase, aligning its design with other iconic Almohad gates like Bab er-Rouah in Rabat. However, changes over time have seen the disappearance of the adjacent towers and the covered antechamber. Additionally, the gate’s archway has been modified with a reduced brick arch. Yet, its intricate stone engravings from the Almohad era remain intact, mirroring the artistic prowess seen in gates like Bab er-Rouah and Bab Oudaia in Rabat.

Bab Berrima, sometimes spelt as Bab Barrima, stands as a gateway connecting the main city, the medina, to the northeastern section of the Kasbah, positioned presently at the southern tip of Place des Ferblantiers. Its origins trace back to the Saadian dynasty. Its inception might have been essential to facilitate the movement of labourers during the construction of the nearby Badi Palace. Architecturally, the gate is marked by a straightforward arched pathway carved into a tower along the Kasbah’s boundary wall. Historically, the tower boasted sawtooth-shaped merlons reminiscent of the Saadian times, but these features no longer exist. Modern additions to the gate’s surroundings include a series of boutiques lining its sides.

Situated at the northeastern edge of the existing Royal Palace, within the boundaries of the Kasbah, this gate was commissioned by Sultan Moulay Hassan (who reigned from 1873 to 1894). Its construction aimed to simplify access to the palace from this direction. The gate derives its name from the qadi who supervised its construction.

Bab Ksiba, also known as Bab Qusayba, stands as a minor gateway on the western side of the Kasbah district. Historically, this gate marked the entry point to an adjacent smaller kasbah or qusayba. This adjunct was integrated with the primary Kasbah to safeguard the western flank of the Grand Mechouar, a sprawling open square that remains today at the Royal Palace’s entrance, as well as the Derb Chtouka neighbourhood. The exact timeline of its establishment remains ambiguous. It was in existence in the early 19th century and might have been constructed under the reign of Muhammad ibn Abdallah during the 18th century. Nonetheless, it is almost certain that this gate was not a component of the original Almohad Kasbah.

Several gates that once graced the original Almohad kasbah are no longer standing today, but we are aware of them thanks to historical records. The kasbah notably housed various inner gates that facilitated movement among its three principal districts. In addition to these inner passages, there were also a handful of outer gates, with Bab Agnaou being a prominent exception. These gates encompassed:

Bab Agnaou served as the primary public gateway to the Kasbah for everyday citizens. However, for the esteemed officials and royal family members of the Almohad dynasty, there was a distinct entrance: Bab as-Sadat, which can be translated to “Gate of the Lords” or “Gate of the Nobles”. This entrance was strategically positioned in the Kasbah’s outer western barrier, enabling these distinguished individuals to directly step into the Kasbah without navigating through the bustling city. Once inside, this gate opened to the main square, known as the Asaraq, situated in the core western section of the kasbah. This square further provided an avenue to the palatial residence of the caliph. Notably, in close proximity to this gate, beyond the fortifications, lay a significant burial ground.

Named “Gate of the Porticoes”, this entrance was strategically situated on the main thoroughfare that bridged the primary square, the Asaraq, located in the Kasbah’s central western region, to another significant square nestled before the Kasbah Mosque to its north. Porticoes or galleries decorated the entirety of this street, which is what inspired the gate’s name. Serving as the principal northern entryway to the Asaraq, this gate was conveniently positioned in close proximity to Bab as-Sadat.

Known as the “Gate of the Drums”, this entrance stood at the northern extremity of the chief porticoed avenue that originated from Bab as-Saqa’if. It led to a prominent square situated right before the Kasbah Mosque. Records suggest that this gate, in one version or another, remained intact even into the 16th century.

Termed as the “Gate of the Riad”, signifying a palace boasting an inner garden, this entrance was exclusively for the caliph to his royal residence. Adjacent to this gate was an observation pavilion, a vantage point for the caliph to witness festivities and ceremonies unfolding in the Asaraq.

Named as the “Gate of Betrayal”, the true essence of this gate remains somewhat enigmatic. Historical records mention it, with one particular account recalling an event where Almohad caliph al-Murtada had to demolish the gate in his efforts to escape the city around 1266-67. It’s speculated that this might have been a smaller, secondary gate located on the southern flank of the Kasbah.

Known as the “Gate of the Cobblers”, this gate essentially served a functional purpose for the kasbah. Situated on its northern facade, it provided a passage to the main city, primarily for the procurement of essential supplies. Given its utilitarian nature, this gate was probably of a simpler design.

Named as the “Gate of the Garden”, this entrance was positioned at the southern extremity of the palace district. Its primary purpose was to facilitate movement between the palace and the Agdal Gardens, which lie to the south of the Kasbah. The renowned French historian, Deverdun, theorized that the gate’s location might coincide with the primary entrance of the contemporary royal palace, given its alignment with the gardens.

During the reign of Muhammad ibn Abdallah, who began as the governor of Marrakesh in 1746 and later became the sultan from 1757 to 1790, there were significant renovations and enlargements to the Royal Palace, or Dar al-Makhzen, situated in the Kasbah. The primary focus of this expansion was towards the south. Here, the sultan constructed multiple mechouars, which are official squares positioned at the entrance of the Royal Palace, designated for royal ceremonies and gatherings. These squares span a vast area, bridging the gap between the palace in the north and the Agdal Gardens to the south. To access these mechouars, there are several gates, each bearing its own distinctive name. Though many of these gates might not be historically or architecturally significant, they are lined approximately from the east to the west.

Bab Ahmar, also referred to as “Red Gate” or occasionally spelled as Bab Hmar, serves as the eastern gateway leading into the southern sections of the kasbah and its associated mechouars. You can find it neatly positioned at the southernmost point of the Bab Aghmat Cemetery. Historically, the inception of this gate can be traced back to the period of Muhammad ibn Abdallah. Notably, Ahmad al-Inglisi, known for his architectural contributions and restorations across Morocco, might have had a hand in its creation. Functionally, Bab Ahmar doubled as an expansive guardhouse equipped with a terrace fit for deploying light artillery. The community residing close to this gate predominantly consisted of Black African attendants and military personnel in the service of the Royal Palace.

Positioned between the Bab Ahmar district on its east and the Outer Mechouar (sometimes referred to as Mechouar al-Barrani) on its west, this gate is aptly named the “Gate of the Breach”.

Situated as a connector between the Outer Mechouar and the Barrima neighbourhood to its north, this gate carries the moniker “Gate of the Silos” or alternatively, “Gate of the Granaries”.

Acting as a conduit from the Outer Mechouar to the viceroy’s palace, the provenance of this gate’s name remains somewhat ambiguous.

Spanning from the Outer Mechouar to the Inner Mechouar, often referred to as Mechouar al-Wastani, on its western side, this gate is named the “Gate of the Wind”. The roots of this nomenclature, however, remain a mystery.

Situated on the western flank of the Inner Mechouar and directly opposite Bab ar-Riyal, there’s a grand gate. Above it, a pathway runs atop the wall, offering a direct and private route between the palace and the southern Agdal Gardens. Gaston Deverdun mentioned this gate by the name “Tla ou Habet”, which translates to “climb and descend!” Notably, post its original construction, the gate underwent refurbishments under the reign of Sultan Moulay Hassan between 1873 and 1894. Beyond this fortified barrier lies the expansive Grand Mechouar.

Dubbed the “Green Gate”, it served as the primary entrance to the Royal Palace, centrally positioned on the northern edge of the Inner Mechouar. This northern segment of the palace also bore the name al-Qasr al-Akhdar, translating to “the Green Palace”.

Bearing the name of a qadi responsible for overseeing construction projects within the palace, this gate serves as the primary entryway to the Royal Palace from the Grand Mechouar, which lies to the west of the Inner Mechouar. This gate, historically significant for welcoming ambassadors, is strategically situated in the northeastern quadrant of this mechouar.

To the west of the Grand Mechouar, concluding a primary street nestled between two walls stands a gate referred to as Bab Ighli, or sometimes spelt as Bab Irhli. Its name is attributed to the mason who crafted the original gate. Directly south of this gate, one finds the Cemetery of Sidi A’mara. Moving to another gate, the name of which remains uncertain, positioned at the eastern terminus of the same street and bordering the Grand Mechouar, it’s distinguished by a unique tower on its northern facade. This tower, crowned with a pyramidal green-tiled roof and adorned with a petite wooden balcony, is actually the minaret of the erstwhile Mosque of Derb Chtouka. This name references a street within the neighbouring area. The mosque, a creation from the 18th century under Sultan Muhammad ibn Abdallah, has regrettably vanished over time.


  1. “The Stories Behind Marrakech’s City Gates.” Culture Trip. Accessed [13.09.23].
  2. “Walls of Marrakesh.” Wikipedia. Last modified [10.09.23].