Completed in Hegira 593 / AD 1197
Ya’qub al-Mansur drew the contours of the city himself.
King Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur (r. AH 580–95 / AD 1184–99).
When he wanted to build a new Almohad capital in the image of Idrisid Fez and Almoravid Marrakesh, Ya'qub al-Mansur chose a site on the left bank of the Wadi Sala (present day Bou Regreg) and drew the contours of the new city himself, which was to be called Ribat al-Fath, a name already given by his grandfather 'Abd al-Mu'min to the old religious and defensive fortress erected in the area. He surrounded an area of 450 ha with a powerful enclosure wall flanked with 74 square towers. Stretching for 5,263 m, with an average thickness of 2.40 m and at a height varying between 7.55 m and 8.40 m, these ramparts constituted a powerful fortification on the west and south sides of the town, which was already protected by cliffs, the river and the ocean.
After the death of Ya'qub al-Mansur, his town-planning project was abandoned and it was not until 1912 that Rabat became the capital of Morocco.
After eight centuries in existence, the wall has resisted the passage of time and the elements admirably, thanks to the quality of its construction material: concrete made of crushed bricks, small round stones and lime, a mix which made it as hard as freestone.
The Almohad wall of Ribat al-Fath originally had only five gateways: Bab al-'Alu (the Gateway of Height), Bab al-Had (the Sunday Gateway), Bab Rwah (the Gateway of Departure), Bab al-Hedid (the Iron Gateway) and Bab Zaers (the gateway that leads to the territory of the Zaers tribe). In the 20th century, a number of other apertures were opened in the wall to accommodate the traffic, but as a whole the wall has continued to be carefully maintained according to the original masonry design.
Like Idrisid Fez and Almoravid Marrakesh, Ribat al-Fath was intended to be the Almohad capital, with Ya'qub al-Mansur himself draughting the line of a 5,263 m wall surrounding an area covering 450 ha. With an average thickness of 2.4 m and a height of between 7.55 m and 8.4 m, these ramparts constituted a formidable fortification for the town. After the king's death, his project was abandoned, and Rabat did not become the capital of Morocco until 1912. A number of openings have been added to the original five gateways in the wall, all carefully maintained using the masonry design of the time.
Medieval and modern sources agree in attributing the great project of Ribat al-Fath and its commencement to Ya'qub al-Mansur, although some authors state that the original idea belonged to his father, Abu Ya'qub Yusuf (r. 558–80 / 1163–84).
Caillé, J., La ville de Rabat jusqu'au protectorat français, Paris, 1949.
Terrasse, H., Histoire du Maroc, Casablanca, 1949.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.222–3.
Kamal Lakhdar "Almohad ramparts" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;24;en
Prepared by: Kamal LakhdarKamal Lakhdar
Linguiste et sociologue de formation, c'est en autodidacte que Kamal Lakhdar s'est adonné aux études d'histoire du Maroc et du monde arabo-musulman, en axant tout spécialement ses recherches sur l'histoire de Rabat.
Sa carrière de haut fonctionnaire l'a conduit à occuper des fonctions de premier plan auprès de différents ministères. Il a notamment été membre du cabinet du ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur, conseiller du ministre des Finances, conseiller du ministre du Commerce et de l'Industrie, directeur de cabinet du ministre du Tourisme, chargé de mission auprès du Premier ministre et directeur de cabinet du Premier ministre.
Parallèlement, Kamal Lakhdar mène des activités de journaliste et d'artiste peintre – il a d'ailleurs été membre du Conseil supérieur de la Culture.
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: MO 33