Bab Agnaou

Bab Agnaou (Arabic: باب اكناو‎; Berber languages: ⵜⴰⵡⵓⵔⵜ ⴰⴳⵏⴰⵡ; sometimes transliterated as Bab Agnaw[1]) is one of the best-known gates of Marrakesh, Morocco. Its construction is attributed to the Almohad caliph Abu Yusuf Ya'qub al-Mansur[2] and was completed around 1188[3] or 1190.[4]

Bab Agnaou
باب اكناو (Arabic)
ⵜⴰⵡⵓⵔⵜ ⴰⴳⵏⴰⵡ (Berber)
Bab Agnaou.jpg
Alternative namesBab al Kohl, Bab al Qasr
General information
TypeCity Gate
Architectural styleAlmohad, Moroccan
LocationRue Moulay Ismail, Marrakesh
Coordinates31°37′03″N 7°59′27″W / 31.6175°N 7.9907°W / 31.6175; -7.9907Coordinates: 31°37′03″N 7°59′27″W / 31.6175°N 7.9907°W / 31.6175; -7.9907
Completed1188–1190
Technical details
Materialsandstone, brick

The gate was the main public entrance to the royal kasbah (citadel) in the southern part of the medina of Marrakesh.[5] The Kasbah, built by Yaqub al-Mansur, is the site of the nearby El Mansouria Mosque (or Kasbah Mosque) and the Saadian Tombs behind it, as well as the El Badi Palace and the main Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen) of the city.[2]

EtymologyEdit

The word bab (/bɑːb/, Arabic: باب‎) comes from the Arabic word meaning 'Gate' or 'Door'. The name agnaou is believed to be of Berber origin and had multiple historically reported meanings including "mutes" and, later on, "Black people" (or the Gnawa); however, it's unclear what exact connotation the name had in this case.[2]:230 It might also be translated to "a sheep without horns".[6][5] The potential reference to the Gnawa might be explained by the fact that the gate is in the southern part of the city and faces partly southwards, thus away from Berber North Africa and more towards sub-Saharan Africa.[5]

The gate was also called Bab al-Qasr ("Gate of the Palace") and Bab al-Kuhl ("Gate of Kohl").[2]:229–230

DesignEdit

 
Bab Agnaou in the 1920s
 
The carved decoration of the facade, including the floral motifs and the Kufic Arabic inscription

It is located just inside the walls of the main city (medina), near Bab er-Robb, at the northwestern corner of the Kasbah. The function of the gate was primarily decorative, given its location already inside the city walls.[7][2] The gate was nonetheless originally flanked by two bastion towers crowned with merlons and the passage inside was a bent entrance (meaning it turned 90 degrees before exiting) passing through a large vaulted vestibule.[2]:230–231 On top of the gate was a terrace reached by an interior staircase.[2] This original layout made it similar to other monumental Almohad gates such as Bab er-Rouah in Rabat.[3] The flanking towers and the covered vestibule, however, have since disappeared, and the archway of the gate has been partly filled-in with a smaller and simpler brick arch. The reduction of the archway likely dates from the time of the Alaouite sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdallah, who carried out numerous works in the area of the Kasbah.[2]:480 The current small open courtyard behind the gate is the result of later work.[2]:217

Nonetheless, the gate has preserved its rich stone-carved decoration from the Almohad period, again comparable to that of Bab er-Rouah and of Bab Oudaia in Rabat.[2] The façade consists of sandstone, likely quarried in the Gueliz area near Marrakesh.[8][4]:260 The original arch of the gate is surrounded by alternating semi-circular bands that alternate between radiating lines and interlacing arch motifs.[4] The spandrels (corner areas) are covered in floral motifs (arabesques), each with a carved shell in the middle.[4] All of this ornamentation is in turn framed by a long frieze carved with an inscription from the Quran in foliated Kufic letters.[7][2] The inscription includes excerpts from the Surah al-Hijr.[4]:266 On either side of the decorated facade are pilasters which are sometimes thought to have supported a canopy or awning but which is believed by many scholars to have been merely a decorative transition between the decorated facade and the flanking bastions of the gate.[2][9][4]:266

State of conservationEdit

The stone materials of the gate has suffered over time. Some of the upper stone decoration has deteriorated.[2]:231 The causes of the decay have been attributed to the presence of soluble salts, particularly chlorides and sulfates, present in the mortar used to fix the stones. Local air pollution is also having a negative effect on the state of the gate.[8]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Bab Agnaw". Archnet. Retrieved 2020-06-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Deverdun, Gaston (1959). Marrakech: Des origines à 1912. Rabat: Éditions Techniques Nord-Africaines.
  3. ^ a b Bennison, Amira K. (2016). The Almoravid and Almohad Empires. Edinburgh University Press. p. 324.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Salmon, Xavier (2018). Maroc Almoravide et Almohade: Architecture et décors au temps des conquérants, 1055-1269. Paris: LienArt.
  5. ^ a b c Rogerson, Barnaby (2001). Marrakesh, Fez, Rabat. CT, USA: The Globe Pequot Press. p. 107.
  6. ^ Humphrys, Darren (2010). Frommer's Morocco. NJ, USA: Wiley Publisher, Inc. p. 126.
  7. ^ a b DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Morocco. London: Dorling Kindersley Limtied. 2002. p. 239.
  8. ^ a b Lazzarini, Lorenzo (July–September 2007). "Insight into the conservation problems of the stone building "Bab Agnaou", a XII cent. monumental gate in Marrakech (Morocco)". Journal of Cultural Heritage. 8 (3): Pages 315–322. doi:10.1016/j.culher.2007.02.002.
  9. ^ Marçais, Georges (1954). L'architecture musulmane d'Occident. Paris: Arts et métiers graphiques.