Widely considered North Africa's most beautiful gate, this huge horseshoe-shape triumphal arch was completed in 1732 by a Christian convert to Islam named Mansour Laalej (whose name means "victorious renegade") and looms over the medina square. The marble Ionic columns supporting the two bastions on either side of the main entry were taken from the Roman ruins at Volubilis, while the taller Corinthian columns came from Marrakesh's El Badi Palace, part of Moulay Ismail's campaign to erase any vestige of the Saadian dynasty that preceded the Alaouites. Ismail's last important construction project, the gate was conceived as an elaborate homage to himself and strong Muslim orthodoxy of the dynasty rather than a defensive stronghold—hence, its intense decoration of green and white tiles and engraved Koranic panels, all faded significantly with age. French novelist Pierre Loti (1850–1923) penned the definitive description of Bab Mansour: "rose-hued, star-shaped, endless sets of broken
lines, unimaginable geometric combinations that confuse the eye like a labyrinthine puzzle, always in the most original and masterly taste, have been gathered here in thousands of bits of varnished earth, in relief or recessed, so that from a distance it creates the illusion of a buffed and textured fabric, glimmering, glinting, a priceless tapestry placed over these ancient stones to relieve the monotony of these towering walls."