Bab – a Gateway to the Wealth of Cities

In the Muslim architecture of the Middle East, Maghreb and Spain, the outer monumental gateway in the walls surrounding the cities, residential houses and some public buildings. It is made of stone and fortified, normally flanked by two towers with battlements. Yet its central entrance is intricately decorated with various types of rich and multicoloured ornaments and calligraphy. The main structural element of such a gate is a horseshoe arch, also called the Moorish arch and the keyhole arch. It can take either rounded or, more often, pointed form. Less common in similar gates are Moorish arches with the so-called lobed form.

Bab Lakhmis is the impressive gateway erected in the seventeenth century. It was used as the western entrance to the city of Meknes, Morocco. Copyright©Archaeotravel.

Most outstanding examples of such gateways can be found, for example, in the south of Spain (Andalucia), such as Antigua Lateral Gateway to the Great Mosque of Cordoba, and in royal cities of Morocco (see: Within the Walls of Imperial Cities). Such fortified gates were also incorporated into the ancient walls of Jerusalem, and referred to as the ‘bab’ after the Arab’s invasion in the seventh century, which is accurately recorded in the mosaic map of Jerusalem in Madaba church, in modern-day Jordan (see: The Holy Land Translated into a Mosaic).

Featured Image: The Bab Abi al-Jounoud or Bab Bou Jeloud is an ornate city gate in the old city of Fez, Morocco. Copyright©Archaeotravel.


“Horseshoe arch” (2020). In: Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia. Available at <>. [Accessed 28th January, 2021].

PWN (2007). Słownik terminologiczny sztuk pięknych, p. 29. Kubalska-Sulkiewicz K., Bielska-Łach M., Manteuffel-Szarota A. eds. Wydanie piąte. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN.

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