On the right bank of the Bou Regreg opposite Rabat, Salé, Morocco
Hegira 7th century / AD 13th century
According to Al-Naciri, the architect was Muhammad ibn Ali of Seville.
Sultan Abu Yusuf (AH 656–85 / AD 1258–86), who actively participated in its construction.
The fortified port of Salé, which could be used as an arsenal and was linked to the Wadi Bou Regreg by a canal, was built between AH 658 and 668 / AD 1260 and 1270. Boats entered the dock through the arch of an enormous gateway, Bab Mrissa (the Gateway of the Small Port). Built into the adobe wall, the stone façade of the gateway is embellished by beautiful inscribed decorations and sculpted floral knotwork.
The two 3.50 m-wide oblong towers, projecting by 2.20 m, flank the large pointed horseshoe arch measuring nearly 9 m wide by 9.6 m tall despite the fact that the ground level has risen owing to the silting up and covering of the dock and the canal.
Its intended function explains why Bab Mrissa has no defensive chicanes.
The side structures consist of barrel-vaulted rooms below stairways that lead to the wall walk. These stairways are interrupted by landings with loopholes overlooking the vaults. Firing rooms, covered with domes supported on pendentives, were built into the towers. The loopholes are splayed at an angle to provide a line of fire over the canal that linked the dock and the river.
Between AH 658 and 668 (AD 1260 and 1270), a harbour connected to the Bou Regreg by a canal was built in Salé. It was accessed through an enormous gateway with a pointed horseshoe arch flanked by two oblong towers. The lower part of the flanking structures contain vaulted rooms and stairways leading to the wall walk. The towers had firing rooms covered with cupolas on pendentives and arrow loops looking out obliquely across the canal. The stone façade is carved with decorative inscriptions and floral interlacing designs. When closed, this gateway protected the harbour and the boats in it.
Rawd al-Qirtas, written by Ibn Abi-Zar in AH 726 / AD 1326, and History of the Berbers, written by Ibn Khaldun a quarter of a century later indicate that the construction of the fortified enclosure of Salé was started immediately after the town was plundered by Christian merchants during the festival of the breaking of the fast in AH 658 / AD 1260.
Brunot, L., La mer dans les traditions et les industries indigènes de Rabat-Salé, Paris, 1921.
Al-Naciri as-Salawi, A., Kitab al-Istiqsa, Cairo, 1954–6 (French translation in Moroccan Archives, XXXIV, 1936).
Marçais, G., L'architecture musulmane d'Occident, Paris, 1954.
Terrasse, H., “Les portes de l'Arsenal de Salé”, Hespéris, 1922, pp.357–71.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, p.244.
Kamal Lakhdar "Bab Mrissa" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2019. 2019. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;26;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 35
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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