The medina’s walls are over 9 metres high, 2 metres thick and are about 20 kilometres in length.
They once provided protection for the inhabitants of the city and up until the early 20th century, the gates were all securely closed at night. Now they loom over the perimeter of the medina and are home to countless birds who are most active (and vocal) around dawn and dusk. The oldest parts of the ramparts date from the 12th century; the walls were extended south and north in the 16th century.
The walls are made from pisé, a reddish pink clay, which glows spectacularly in the setting sun. A common question concerns the many holes dotted all over the ramparts. They are not for nesting birds, or from the days of riflemen as some locals will have you believe, but are in fact holes to facilitate the wooden scaffolding that is erected regularly for the upkeep of the walls.
A popular way to circumnavigate the ramparts is in a calèche – a horse-drawn carriage. The whole trip takes about an hour. Take a map with you so you can follow where you are – the driver may not speak English.