City Wall, Marrakesh
The walls of the Medina in Marrakech, also known as the ramparts, are what lend the city its famous shade of pink. They are made from orange-red clay and chalk, and shimmer red in the heat of a cresting sunset. These behemoths can reach nearly 20 feet in height, and stretch for 19 complete kilometers around the city, maintaining 20 gates and 200 towers within its circumference. The walls are pockmarked with distinctive holes. These aren't the loopholes used by Western castles for firing arrows, but the holes left by the wooden scaffolding used in its construction.
You can walk around the walls - there are good pavements for much of the way. With 19 kilometers of them probably best done in small segments, unless you really want to spend hours wandering around them. They do start to look a bit the same after a while. A poplar alternative to walking is to take a caleche at sunset and ride all the way around.
One of the highlights of a trip to Marrakech is to take a caleche at sunset and ride around the city walls. It's a popular trip, and the caleche drivers will probably offer you this whenever you get on, but especially around sunset when the walls glow a dark pinkish red as the sun falls low on the horizon. The round trip takes a little over an hour, depending on the traffic, and during winter the sun sets during rush hour which will make things more difficult. The cost should be around 150 dirhams, depending on your bargaining skills. Pick one up at Djemaa el Fna, or put yourself in a better bargaining position by calling an empty one from the street as they return from a fare.
The old Medina district of Marrakech is surrounded by city walls or ramparts. The two-metre thick walls date back to the 12th century and are 12km long. The walls were built to defend the city from attack, with limited success.
One good way to get a feel for the city is to take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the ramparts. Or perhaps take a walk on top of them early in the day, or just before sunset, to enjoy the beautiful light across the Medina.
There are between 17 and 20 gates through the walls (depending on which guide book or website you read!). The most attractive of these is said to be Bab Agnaou, which leads to the Kasbah. It has an impressive series of carved arches and floral designs.
We also had a look at Bab Doukkala, which is flanked by two big towers. It was previously used as a tollgate, but these days its thick walls are used to host exhibitions.
The city walls are beautiful, they change colour during the day. They were not quite, what I was expecting. I thought that you could walk on the walls but there did not seem to be any way to get up there.
The old city walls run for 19kms around the city and parts of the wall date back to the 12th century. There are some 200 Borjs or towers which break the line of the 2 metre thick wall, and 9 gates – the most famous being Bab Agnaou.
Since the rule of the Almohad and Almoravid dynasty, the Medina of Marrakech is surrounded by an unbroken circle of city walls, almost 20 km long. Today, the walls form the border to the newer city quarters Gueliz and Hivernage to the west.
Marrakesh's amazingly well preserved salmon-pink ramparts are an impressive sight and a constant reminder of the city's fascinating history. They measure about 33 ft high and 7 ft thick and are 15 km (9 mi) in circumference, and an intermittent 8 of their 14 original babs (arches) are still in use, leading in and out of the medina. Bab Agnaou is the loveliest and best preserved of these arches. Even until the early 20th century, before the French Protectorate, the gates were closed at night to prevent anyone who did not live in Marrakesh from entering. A leisurely calýche drive around the perimeter takes about an hour; a taxi ride is faster.
The Dar Si Said was built around the same time as the Bahia Palace but it’s a much smaller building with far less lavish rooms and courtyards. It’s now home to the Museum of Moroccan Arts and contains a variety of exhibits from different periods of Marrakech's past. Like almost all Moroccan museums, the building itself is as interesting as the exhibits it contains. The collection is housed over two floors and there is also a nice garden in a courtyard at the back. It costs 20 Dh to enter. Dar Si Said is not far from the Bahia Palace, hidden in the back streets off Rue Riad Zitoun el Djedid. However, it’s well signposted and easy to find.
The walls of la Médina, the old city of Marrakech, date back from the 12th century Almoravides period and successive restorations. They were built in the typical arabo-andalusian city wall style, but in the Marrakchi reddish-pink colour. As all mediaeval ramparts, the Marrakech walls are punctuated with city gates, or bab in Arabic. Each bab has a story to go with it, and I was told the best way to see them all would be to take a carriage ride around walls, something I did not manage to do. Attached are pictures of Bab Doukkala, Bab er-Rob, and a third which is possibly Bab Ksiba, three city gates I did see.
Bab Agnaou is the most imposing gate in Marrakech. It is also second only to the Koutoubia Minaret as the architectural symbol of the city. The beautifully ornate gate was built in the 12th century during Almohad dynasty and, for a long time, was the main access into the Kasbah, the fortified palace neighbourhood to the south of the Medina. Two towers originally stood on either side of the gate, but were destroyed long ago. Unlike most of Marrakech, the gate was built with blue-grey stones from Guéliz Mountain, rather than the reddish-pink stones used elsewhere, but overtime, pink dust accumulated over the grey stone giving the gate reddish tones. The origins of the gate's current name ("Agnaou") are unknown, but it replaced the old name Bab al-Qasr (Palace Gate).
The city walls, built in the XII century and subsequently destroyed and rebuilt, are about 15 kilometres long, reddish in colour and two metres thick. It has powerful ancient ramparts, various styles and many monumental doors, among which the Bab Aguenaou stands out for its magnificence. It dates back to the era of the Almoravids and leads to the quarter of the kasbah.
And there we went...The wide lanes of this parth
of the city are quit boring. The people you
meet here are dressed quit different , and
there is outward no difference between them
and the modern European.
Soon we arrived by the city walls. We decided to
enter the city at 'Bab Jdid'. Every of the 9 gates
have got a name. The walls have got that typical
red color that gives Marrakesh it's own character.
If you are the brave kind of persons that likes
long walks...19 km and your round the city.
(you can even choose to go left or right. ;-))
That is if you want to see every single one
of the 200 square towers.
The entire central city area of Marrakech is enclosed within solid, tall city walls, finished with local red mud. They run for 16 km!
Considering that the walls were first built in the 12th century, it reminds you what an enormous trading city Marrakech has always been.
There are a number of large gates leading through the walls. I stayed opposite Bab Doukkala, the arched gate to the north of the city.
On the south side of the city is the incredible ornate Bab Agnaou, by far the most splendid.
Marrakech's walls are often full of square holes. Originally I thought these were for birds to nest :-) However, the main reason for these perforations are to control the ventilation of the city. The city is protected from the strong winds and at the same time has a sophisticated medieaval air-conditioning system!
The Museum of Moroccan Arts is housed in Dar si Said - a multi-storey family home that was one of the grandest in Marrakech. It's got an excellent selection of exhibits from all over the country covering a time frame of a thousand years - jewellery, carpets, pottery etc. The displays are in small rooms surrounding a lovely garden courtyard. Exhibits include a 1000 year old Spanish basin and an old staircase used in mosques for preaching.
The medina (center of the city) is surrounded by pink walls of 19 km crossed by nine monumental doors of Hispanic-morisco style. One of the most wonderfuls is Bab Agnaou, at the south of the city ... Its a lovely walk the one that takes you from the Koutoubia to this door ... or you can take a horse cab ...
I made it walking and took me more than an hour ... as you walk ... you have the fabolous view of the snowed Atlas ... just like SirRichard's wall watercolor of his travel diary
I think is better take a cab or a taxi because the outside of the wall is surrounded by good roads ... and you will have to walk many inside the walls where no taxi or cab can go in many of the little narrowed streets.