Souvenirs from Morocco, Marrakech
Keeping Moroccan heritage alive, Marrakech is a splendid city of mosques, elegant palaces and magnificent Islamic constructions such as the Bahia and El Badi Palaces and the Gate of Gnaoua or Bab Agnaou. This famous landmark is among the nineteen gates to the city of Marrakech and an astonishing monument erected in the 12th century during the Moroccan dynasty of Almohad. Designed by Yacoub El Mansour, Bab Agnaou is a magnificent example of Muslim art: with sophisticated mosaic floors, elegant columns, beautifully decorated walls and marvelous wooden carvings, it also offers a wonderful view of the Medina of Marrakech with the Royal Palace, ancient ramparts and the Atlas Mountains. Visitors marvel at its majestic beauty in a place of intense symbolism; a resin fridge magnet souvenir available now online celebrates this landmark’s elegance and power.
Gnaoua, a Masterpiece of Islamic Art
Built by sub-Saharan slaves, the Bab Agnaou was revolutionary in its time as one of the first stone buildings of the City; the unique art behind its bas-reliefs and the color of its stone with changing shades make the Monument a spectacular versatile construction. Bab Agnaou marks the entrance to Kasbah which used to be one of the City’s most beautiful districts, named the ‘door ram without horns’ because its two towers were destroyed. In the past, the old Moroccan aristocracy used separate gates: the Monument still holds an inscription which translates:’ Enter with blessing, serene people’. Bab Agnaou is a visually contrasting structure: the gate’s color ranging from bluish-green to golden stands out on the red soil and in the past the heads of criminals were displayed as a proof of justice. Nevertheless, the gateway to Medina remains a splendid construction of the Almohad dynasty.
Bab Agnaou, the Gateway to Marrakech
The name Agnaou originates in an old Berber word suggesting ‘black people’; the gate was also called Bab al Kohl or Bab al Qsar (‘palace gate’) in several written sources. The Monument’s symbolism is powerful: with its three panels depicting verses from Quran in the Maghribi dialect (the same one as Spain’s Al-Andalus), the monument is splendidly decorated with floral carvings uniquely shaped around a shell design. During sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah, the Bab Agnaou was radically transformed: its opening was made smaller with horseshoe arches revealing the same architectural style as Spain’s Mezquita or modern Rabat designs. The gate elegantly leads the way to the Royal Palace Complex kasbah, the masterpiece of sultan Yaqub al-Mansour with its mosque, El Badi Palace and the Saadian Tombs. If you happen to visit the gate during a starry night, you’ll be amazed to see the contours of Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s tallest building.
Marrakech, the Splendid City of Almohad
During its construction, the gate was part of a complex fortification system which aimed at protecting Marrakech, back then the capital of Almoravid Empire from its enemies. Eventually the Almohads successfully conquered the City and invested even more in its protection thus the whole project (including the 19 gates) was finished in eight months. The initial design included a 15-faced polygon but after the Almohad conquest, the City stretched beyond the 9 km of Almoravid walls. Twelve of the gates started to be built in 1126 whereas later ones date from the Almohad conquest of 1147. The fortifications also included protection towers and huge ditches which increased the ramparts height. Because the transportation of stone was inefficient, the fortifications were built using the pise technique in which the red wet soil of Marrakech was placed into matrixes to create a compact mud wall structure.