Ghardaïa, Algeria

Registration Year

1982

Registered Sector

M'Zab Valley

Historical Function

Defense,

News

Location and site

The Mozabite site of 75 sq.km. includes five fortified villages (ksour), as well as seasonal facilities (summer "citadels"), cemeteries and palm groves. In the north of the Sahara desert and in the northeast of the Great Western Erg, the M'Zab Valley was carved out of a limestone plateau. Each of the five villages (Bounoura, Beni-Jzguen, Melika, Ghardaïa, and El-Atteuf) occupies a chosen site within the varied topography: a small island, a ridge, a hilltop, a peak and a recess. The site was beyond the reach of the more restless nomadic groups.

Historical Reference

  • In the 10th century A.D. the Ibadis (a sect based on Kharidjism which brought together a number of non-Arabic Muslims, including the Berbers) dominated part of the Maghreb.
  • The capital of the Ibadi Kingdom was Tahert, the holy city and home of this sect, whose doctrine opposed both Sunnism and Shi'ism.
  • In 909, Tahert was destroyed by the founder of the (Shi'ite) Fatimid Dynasty. The power of this dynasty was at its peak around the end of the 10th century, and in 972 its capital city was relocated to Cairo, where it remained until 1171.
  • After their defeat, the Ibadis fled. Their search for a new territorial base led them to establish themselves, in the 11th century, in the isolated M'Zab Valley, which constituted a better defensive site.
  • From 1056 until 1147, the Almoravids, who were Sunnite Berber sovereigns, reigned over both the Maghreb and Muslim Spain.

Urban Morphology

The combined populations of the five fortified villages could have been accommodated in a single city of a larger size. Each of the villages is laid out in a series of concentric circles extending from the mosque to the ramparts. Each possesses a summer "citadel" outside its walls; this site of summer migrations, with its less formal landscape, includes an artificial palm grove, a cemetery and a mosque.

The harmonious white and blue landscape of each of the fortified villages is organised around the fortified mosque with its minaret, which serves as a watch tower. The architectural landscape is made up of simple plaster-covered mud brick dwellings, cubic in form, with narrow, thin openings, terraces, horizontal lines and vaulted passages. Outside the walls, in the summer "citadels," the dwellings appear to be built for defense.

Registration Criteria

"The settlement of the M'Zab Valley has exerted a considerable influence on the architects and city planners of the 20th century, from Le Corbusier to Pouillon." (II) The ksour with their summer "citadels" bear witness, in a most exceptional manner, to the Ibadi culture at its height." (III) These same elements "serve to illustrate an example of a traditional human settlement which [...] is representative of a culture which has continued into the 20th century." (V)

Contact

M. Chikh Salah Bahmed
Président O.N.G
Fondation Ghardaïa
Rue Ibn Rostom
47000 Ghardaïa, Algérie
Tel:
+213 29.88.13.71
Fax:
+213 29.88.10.56
Email:
csbahmed@yahoo.fr
Monsieur Ballalou Zouhir
Directeur, architecte des monuments historiques
Direction Wilayal de la Culture - Wilaya de Ghardaia
Direction de la Culture Wilaya de Ghardaia
Ghardaïa, Algérie
47000
Tel:
+213 29.88.44.54
Fax:
+213 29.88.25.48
Email:
zouhiropvm@yahoo.fr