A caleche (horse drawn carriage) is the best way to circumnavigate the ramparts of the medina of Marrakech. This takes about an hour. Although prices are advertised in these carriages the visitor is advised to settle on the price before departure. We departed on the tour from Djemma al Fna, in front of the Club Mediterranee. It’s also useful to take a map with you, as although our driver spoke French his English was limited. He did point out the babs (gates) in the walls and explained where they led to.
The oldest parts of the ramparts of Marrakech date from the foundation of the city in the 12th century. In the 16th century they were extended to the south and north. Even nowadays the old city wall encircles the whole medina and is 19 to 20 km long, 2 metres thick and up to 9 metres high. The ramparts are made of pisé (red clay) and are reddish-pink in colour, spectacularly so at sunset. The ramparts have a lot of holes in them and (despite a certain amount of leg pulling by local people – where riflemen defended the ancient city, and homes for nesting pigeons and swifts – the truth is rather more prosaic: they are for wooden scaffolding in order to facilitate the constant repair of the ramparts themselves. The walls themselves cannot be walked on.
There are 19 babs in the ramparts. The oldest dates from the 12th century. Some of them are rather simple and plain, but others are really good examples of Moorish architecture. Perhaps the most beautiful and impressive city gate is Bab Agnaou, once the entrance to the Almohad Palace. It is beautifully decorated and is built of red and gray/blue sandstone and limestone. Bab Agnaou is at the southern entrance to the kasbah and nearby the El Mansour Mosque.
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