Bab Agnaou, also found in the Kasbah, is one of the nineteen gates of Marrakech. It was built in the 12th century in the time of the Almohad dynasty.
The name Agnaou, like Gnaoua, in Berber refers to black people (cf. Akal-n-iguinawen – land of the black). The gate was called Bab al Kohl (also referring to black people) or Bab al Qsar (palace gate) in some historical sources. Albeit.. if you ak a local Guide he will totally contradict this definition and out forward “The gate of the one legged black sheep”.
The function of the gate must have been representation, first of all. However if you walk through Bab Agnaou and look-up it was obviously the first line of defence into the Kasbah. The surrounding walls would have been an ideal platform for Archers and moulten oil etc. Also the Gate does not stand true to the Kasbah mosque, it is dog-legged. My assumption is that historically the gates to the right of Bab Agnaou did not exist and the only access to the Kasbah was through Bab Agnaou. Thus the Kasbah would have been quite impenetrable in it’s day. This “false entrance” technique can also be found at Al-Hambra in Spain.
The corner-pieces are decorated with floral decorations extending around a shell. This ornamentation is framed by three panels and on these panels is an inscription from the Quran in Maghribi, foliated Kufic letters, which were also used in Al-Andalus. Bab Agnaou was renovated and its opening reduced in size, during sultan Mohammed ben Abdallah. Forerunners of this horseshoe-shaped gate with its corner-pieces, framed by inscriptions from the Quran can be found in the Mezquita in Cordoba. It shows many similarities to the contemporary (much simpler) Bab Er-Rouah in Rabat.
When House Hunting we considered Bab Agnaou as a rendezvous point.
Bab Agnaou is the most impressive and most photographed of all the entrances into the Medina.
It even has Bronze Cannons.
To see if Bab Agnaou was a suitable rendezvous point, I sent Fiona to go and sit on a Cannon. Naturally she obliged….. under duress.
I found a different local chap who did not know what my wife looked like, to go and find her and escort her back to the Riad where we were staying.
Interestingly…. it worked, in fact it worked too well. Which is no real mathematical surprise when one considers that there are only 2 Cannons and only 1 person, suffering the middle-aged indignity of sitting astride one of them.
Fiona, however, was furious. “I have never felt so silly. I looked like a twisted Annie Oakley. If I had shouted Yee Haaa and slapped the back of the Cannon, I could not have attracted less attention”.
Describing to Fiona that standing next to a Cannon would have been sufficient did not apease her viewpoint any lesser, in fact I simply added fuel to the fire.
My own fault as an argument usually follows when things go wrong and my instructions weren’t carried out to the letter.
Fiona’s most significant observation was valid. The road in front of Bab Agnaou is used as a taxi rank.
Prior to her making a direct assult onto a Cannon she foud herself accidentally forming an orderly que !!
Our local chap escorted her…….. but not by the normal route along Rue de la Kasbah.
For expedience he led her along a very pleasant walk, following the outside Medina ramparts and re-entered the Kasbah through a pretty Bab call Bab Ksiba.
We had found the perfect rendezvous. Bab Ksiba !!
Bab Agnaou is a great entrance to the Royal Kasbah. The Kasbah, built by the Almohad sultan Yaqub al-Mansour, is the site of El Mansouria (the Kasbah mosque), the El Badi Palace, the Agdal Gardens and the Saadian Tombs.