The Ramparts of Marrakech include the majestic Bab Agnaou Gate, which is located in the Kasbah neighborhood of Medina.
This heritage is a living reminder of the opulent past of the Almohade Berber dynasty, which established its center of power in Marrakech in the 12th century.
Its Islamic Caliphate stretched from Tripoli in Libya to Cordoba in Andalusia.
The Bab Agnaou Gate in Marrakech
One of the 19 gates that give access to the city walls of Marrakech is called Bab Agnaou.
This gate, or “bab” in Arabic, comes from the 12th-century Almohad Berber era.
It served as a point of entry to the military and administrative complex of the Caliphal Kasbah, the city’s bastion of power, from the south.
It is one of Marrakech’s most spectacular gateways, flanked by two cannons.
Its massive urban architecture is made up of 4 successive semi-circular arches that appear to be superimposed on one another and is lavishly decorated with stone.
Bab Agnaou’s role is not just military but also symbolic of authority thanks to this enormous building.
It is made of blue-gray Gueliz sandstone and has geometric and floral carvings.
The Qur’anic words are framed by a frieze in kufic (angular) calligraphy.
The Name “Bab Agnaou”
There are two etymologies for the name “Bab Agnaou.”
One the one hand, it derives from “gnaoua,” a reference to the dark-skinned Berber Gnaoua people of the Sahara desert who traveled from the south to enter the Marrakech enclosure.
Another explanation is that Bab Agnaou was once flanked by two towers, but they are no longer there.
The “gate of the ram without a horn” would thus have been the name given to it.
The gate was also known as the “gate of the blacks” and “bab al Qasr,” literally the “gate of the palace,” during the Almohad era in reference to the palatial complex of the Caliphate Kasbah.
Ramparts and Gates of Marrakech: Bab Agnaou, Bab Ghmat, Bab Er Robb, Bab Ksiba
Beginning in 1122, Marrakech’s fortifications
The 19 km long, 200 watchtower-lined Fortified Walls of Marrakech are pierced by 19 gates.
They are up to 2 meters thick and 8 to 9 meters high.
They are made of a material known as “tabia,” which is reddish in color and comes from the Gueliz hill, where the new Marrakech is now located.
The Marrakech medina’s defense system is as old as the medina itself.
Ali Ben Youssef began construction on the ramparts and gates in 1122, under the Almoravid dynasty.
The latter was Youssef Ibn Tachfin’s (the 1st Almoravid caliph and founder of Marrakech in 1071) son.
The constructed enclosure served as a defense against the threat posed by the Almohad tribes, who came from the High Atlas.
Bab Agnaou did not yet exist under the Almoravid Empire because the Kasbah neighborhood, which is located just south of the medina, comes from a later Almohad era.
The Marrakech Ramparts were less open at that time.
The names of the various tribes that came to trade or defend themselves inside the ramparts are sometimes inscribed on the 19 gates, or “bab” as they are known in Arabic.
Not only that, though.
Bab Aghmat is a gate from the Almoravid era that is situated in the far south-east corner of Marrakech’s medina and looks out into the road leading to Ouarzazate.
It gets its name from the Berber city of Aghmat, which is 32 kilometers from Marrakech and situated close to Ourika.
The Almoravids inhabited this area prior to the completion of Marrakech’s construction.
The Almohads entered Marrakech through this entryway in 1147.
Aghmat, which predates the coming of Islam, is the oldest city in Morocco and is still a significant archaeological site.
A gate from the time of the Almohads is called Bab Ksiba.
By its south-western end, it provides access to the caliphal complex of the Kasbah, Morocco’s first citadel.
Ksiba is a Berber word for “little fort.”
It is also referred to as Bab El Makhzen, which means “the entryway of the Sultanate” in Arabic.
Bab Er Robb (Ar-Rubb)
A gate from the Almohad era named Bab Er Robb (Ar-Rubb) is nearby Bab Agnaou in the Kasbah neighborhood.
It starts off facing south, toward the Atlas Mountains and the road to Ourika.
It served as the lone alcohol beverage checkpoint.
A type of cooked wine, robb is an alcoholic beverage created from figs and raspberries.
Additionally, a gory incident was witnessed by this door.
For instance, 600 beheaded Merinid foes’ heads were displayed in 1310, under Sultan Abu Thabit.
Based on the Almoravid Empire Remains, Bab Agnaou
The Almoravid Berbers, who were originally from the Western Sahara (now Mauritania), united and benefited from the trade that passed through their region from sub-Saharan Africa to the Western Maghreb.
They mastered the caravan gold trade between Ghana and the Maghreb in 1054–1055.
The Almoravid Berber chief Youssef Ben Tachfin, the third emir and first sultan of the dynasty, founded the city of Marrakech in 1071, the year 463 of the Hegira. His mausoleum, which is also clearly visible next to the Koutoubia Mosque, was built at this time.
In 1086, the Almoravids conquered Muslim Spain (Al Andalus) and Morocco with an army of 24,000 soldiers.
Their vast dominion stretched southward from Senegal from western Algeria in the east and northward from Andalusia in the north.
Religious and cultural development are occurring in Marrakesh.
The Khettaras, pipelines that allow water to be extracted from the water table, enable Marrakech to be naturally watered from the Atlas mountain slopes at the end of the 11th century.
Ali ben Youssef succeeded his father Youssef Ben Tachfin in 1106, and he built a number of mosques, including the one that was formerly located where the present-day Koutoubia now stands (made in 1120) and the one next to the Medersa Ben Youssef (built between 1121 and 1132).
The Gates and Ramparts of the Almoravid Marrakech Fortification
In 1122 and 1123, he had Marrakech fortified by constructing the First Ramparts out of concern for the Almohad rebels’ escalating attacks.
The Marrakech Medina is entered through a huge number of gates, however Bab Agnaou is not yet present.
It is a portion of the Almohads’ construction of the Caliph’s Kasbah, a fortified perimeter south of Medina.
The Construction of the Bab Agnaou Gate by the Almohads
Around the same period, in the High Atlas city of Tin Mel, the Almohad movement was established (150km south-west of Marrakech).
It was a military and religious group that advocated a return to a strict and austere form of Islam.
First Caliph Abd Al Mumin builds an army to fight in a holy conflict.
He expands Almohad dominance by annexing Andalusia and all of North Africa.
Al Andalus is conquered by the Almohads in 1145, and Sevilla becomes the second seat of the Caliphate.
In 1146, Fez was lost.
The Almohades invade Marrakech in 1147 and make it their capital. They do this by coming through Bab Ghmat in the southeast of the city.
They eliminate the final Almoravids, hunt them down, and then they ruin numerous monuments.
They enlarged the ramparts of Marrakech around the new Caliphal Complex of the Kasbah while maintaining them, and they pierced additional gates like Bab Agnaou.
The Almohad Heritage of the Time of Bab Agnaou
The Almohad dynasty is carried on by Abd Al Mumin’s son Abou Yacoub Youssef (r. 1163–1184), and by his grandson Abu Yussef Yaqub Al Mansour (the Victorious), 3rd Caliph (r. 1184-1199).
They constructed spectacular structures like the Koutoubia in Marrakech, the Giralda in Seville, or the Hassan Tower in Rabat, all of which were finished in 1196. (unfinished because of an earthquake).
The Gardens of the Agdal and the Gardens of the Menara, which were established in 1156, are remnants of the Almohad era.
They were positioned to the south and south-west of the city, respectively, and used as water storage facilities to irrigate the nearby olive orchards.
These gardens are accessible from the bab Ksiba and bab Agnaou gates.
Accessible from Bab Agnaou is the Kasbah neighborhood and the Caliphal Citadel.
Bab Agnaou, Gateway to the Royal Palace
Abd Al Mumin, the first Caliph of the Almohad dynasty, opted to stay in the Caliphate in the Kasbah neighborhood.
The Caliphate’s military and administrative duties are combined in the palace complex.Not directly facing the alley that leads to the Kasbah Mosque is Bab Agnaou.
A second wall confronts Bab Agnaou after passing the impressive gate.
One enters the Kasbah district through an offset entry in the shape of a chicane that allows for the integration of a checkpoint and reinforcement.
It’s fascinating to see the imposing bab Agnaou edifice.
The historical background explains it.
The Kasbah Mansourienne
After Abd Al Mumin, his grandson Abu Yusef Yaqub Al Mansour and son Abu Yacoub Yussef will carry on his work.
At the time, Morocco’s frontiers stretched all the way from Tripoli to Cordoba.
Then Marrakesh established itself as the key metropolis of the Muslim West during the Middle Ages.
Under the Caliphate of Abu Yusef Yaqub Al Mansour, the Almohad Court drew a large number of artists, thinkers, and authors and reached its pinnacle.
Various exchanges, including embassies, between the East, Europe, and the Maghreb arose.
Then it is referred to as Kasbah Mansourienne.
The eminent Andalusian physician Ibn Tufayl practiced in the hospital that was part of the entire Kasbah of “El Mansouria,” which is now the name of a sizable hospital in Marrakech.
The third Caliph’s advisor, Averroes, also known by his Arabic name of Ibn Rochd of Cordoba, was a brilliant philosopher and lawyer.
The mosques in Marrakech named after Abu Yusef Yqub Al Mansour are Moulay El Yazid (of the Kasbah) and Mouassine.
All of the Almohad Caliphate’s secrets are contained in Bab Agnaou, but the ruins of Marrakech’s Gates and Ramparts continue to preserve, almost a thousand years later, the valuable heritage left by the ruthless Almohad Berber Dynasty.
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