Ghardaïa is the capital city of Ghardaïa Province, Algeria. The commune of Ghardaïa has a population of 93,423 according to the 2008 census, up from 87,599 in 1998, with an annual growth rate of 0.7%.
It is located in northern-central Algeria in the Sahara Desert and lies along the left bank of the Wadi Mzab. The M’zab valley in the Ghardaïa Province (Wilaya) was inscribed under the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982, as a cultural property evaluated under the criteria II (for its settlement affecting urban planning even to the present century), III (for its Ibadi cultural values), and V (a settlement culture which has prevailed to the present century).
Ghardaïa is part of a pentapolis, a hilltop city amongst four others, built almost a thousand years ago in the M’Zab valley. It was founded by the Mozabites, an Ibadi sect of the Amazigh Muslims.
It is a major centre of date production and the manufacture of rugs and cloths. Divided into three walled sectors, it is a fortified town. At the centre is the historical Mʾzabite area, with a pyramid-style mosque and an arcaded square. Distinctive white, pink, and red houses, made of sand, clay and gypsum, rise in terraces and arcades.
In her 1963 book, La Force des choses, the French existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir described Ghardaïa as “a Cubist painting beautifully constructed”.
The M’Zab valley, in limestone plateau, was inscribed under the UNESCO Heritage List, is a unique conglomeration of five cities confined in area of 75 km² situated 600 km to the south of Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
The original architecture of the semi desert valley is dated to early 11th century. It is ascribed to the Ibadis, with their cultural identity originally traced to the Maghreb; they had their capital at Tahert as an Ibadi Kingdom. They were forced to leave Tahert consequent to a devastating fire in 909 (it is reported that destruction was caused by the founder of the (Shi’ite) Fatimid Dynasty). They first moved to Sedrata and finally to the M’Zab valley. They settled in five fortified villages located on rocky outcrops, known locally as “Kosars”, although they could have lived in one larger village encompassing all the five. The habitation was planned with meticulous details to precise layouts defined by set principles of community living within a defensive environment. Ghardaïa’s foundation has been dated to 1048 or 1053.
Each village was planned in a diverse topography comprising a small island, a ridge, a hilltop, a peak and a recess. The villages were fortified in such a manner that they were inaccessible to the nomadic groups. The five villages set up with identical planning concepts were Ghardaïa, Melika, Beni Isguen, Bou Noura and El Atteuf. The identical “miniature citadels”, as they are termed, each had their own mosque with minaret functioning as watch towers, and the houses built around the mosque in concentric circles and surrounded by a high walls (extending up to the ramparts). The buildings together gave the feel of a fortress to each village. The mosque also provided for storage of grains and arms for defence.
However, during the summer season the inhabitants migrated to a “citadel” outside the fortified villages, in an informal setting of artificial palm grove, a cemetery and a mosque.
The ksar was created in 476/1085 by two tribes : the Aoulad Ammi-Aïssa and the Aoulad Ba-Slimane. Each tribe contained different fractions, a specific area and a cemetery. Ghardaïa is the richest city of the M’Zab Vallée. It already had a dynamic commercial and craft activity. On the social aspect, it is the only Ksar, along with Melika, that housed not only Ibadites Berbers, but also Malekits Arabs and a Jewish community until the Algerian Independence.
To build the Ksar, the founders of Ghardaïa, a small group of people, under a Cheikh, chose a hill 200m south of the M’Zab Oued for defensive purposes. Farther west, they created a palm grove for subsistence farming. The Ksar of Ghardaïa, as it is today, did not appear in one time. According to the public agency in charge of protecting the M’Zab Heritage, Ghardaïa has seen four phases of evolution until 1882, when it was annexed by the French army.
Top Historical Monuments to visit in Gharadia
The Ksar : The Mzab planning has several features, despite the austerity imposed by the rigor due to the social ideal of rationality and functionality that is dictated by the harshness of the environment. The perspective image that the Mzab city (Ksar), offers the look, is built with a mass standing on a rocky place, its houses order clustered tightly and smoothly stepped terraces at the highest point, the minaret drawn up into the sky announcing the city and protecting it, it is the guarantor and the nervous system. By its order and its compactness, the city reflects the coherence and cohesion of its social body.
Cities as creations of men who have a long urban experience, were organized from the beginning, and urban structure indicates its priorities : mosques, walls, streets of every city are all similar to others in their texture ; their elements, color, and particularly their understanding of the site. Ghardaïa holds on all sides a peak in the middle of the river. Melika is the tip of a ridge along the rocky plateau, Beni-Isguen occupies a convex, El-Atteuf is built on a ravine, and Bounoura originally established on the top of a plateau on the edge of the river, and descended on the western side it no longer occupies the lower part.
Every town draws a line concentrically around the mosque and is surrounded by a wall of medieval type, is a belt of semi-detached houses, making their own office wall.
Each Ksar, has a distinguished defensive system. In addition to the famous wall of Béni-Isguen, which is the first classed monument in Mzab on 1957, we will quote the front of the Ksar of Bounoura and the bulwark of Ghardaia. There are also garlanded ford towers, throughout the valley, some dwellings in the environment and the palm groves, including the famous gateway cities. The whole constitutes with the minaret of the mosque an integrated defensive system.
The next step after choosing the location of the city, is establishing the delimitation of its walls. These are interspersed with gateways and towers. The walls foreshadowed the outlines of the city. Once the houses walls were, in part, an element of defense infrastructure.
The cities are protected by ramparts and walls of houses, as well as defense watchtowers. The enclosure was monitored by bordj(tower)-shaped doors, forming the end point of the streets.
They are located outside the city. There are many, they are generally situated outside the M’zab old cities but organized by them and according to them. The cemetery is an integrated area with a real city of the dead. Its area is large and contains areas of funeral prayer, connected to buildings open to the air, serving as a place of worship for reading the holly Quran especially in winter, during which a rotation for the accomplishment of these rituals and service offerings are imposed on these areas every Friday.
Each area of the cemetery is named after a famous scholar religious or social person, in general, is buried. The burial place is determined by family affiliation, according to a custom rigorously followed.
THE PALM GROVES
The palm groves are located near cities, they have many hydraulic structures, dams absorption, underground tunnel, wells, streams or artificial channels (seguia). These oases are becoming real towns of summer. More and more houses have been built to benefit from the relative freshness provided the shade of palm trees and water in the hot season.
The palm of Mzab is more than a pleasure garden, it is the result of hard work, and formerly Mozabites possessed no fixed habitation in the oasis. We met there a few watchtowers or watchmen, armed, stood guard to prevent the population in case of danger and make it flow back to the ksours. then it came to build simple zraib (mud huts) covered with branches and then made houses of mud and (therefore circa 1880), Mozabites, houses were built similar to the city.
Divided into garden plots, they are located near each Ksar, but on some ksar they spread longitudinally to fill long distances. The oases are an integrated architectural and urban planning. The gates are narrow, as being limited by the garden walls, built of clay, they are used to channel water from wadis flowing periodically in Mzab. At the base of the walls, the openings are drilled rigorously standardized and managed by a group of Amines responsible for the supervision of the irrigation of the palm.
THE HYDRAULIC STRUCTURES :
The system of water sharing in Mzab is based on the principle of equitable and maximum utilization of rainwater and its fair distribution across the palm. In addition to system, there are towers and spaces that allow continuous monitoring of floods in order to ensure proper distribution of water and avoid any damage that may be caused. These facilities are critical in creating the palm of Mzab. They continue to assume the same role in their preservation. This is why in large part, this irrigation system has been subject to periodic restorations.
THE TRADITIONAL DISTRIBUTION OF WATER FLOODS:
M’Zab Valley is arid and desert site where the water is of great rarity, this has forced the founders of Ksourian Mzab civilization to undertake the implementation of a hydraulic structure, and they created a very effective system to capture flood waters that supplies wells and groundwater by water reserves for the taming of the M’zab Wadi flood.
It features a sound management system of high precision and extreme rationality.
This system consists of several dams of water, wells and water sensors canal streets and underground channels that direct water to the palm.
The path distribution in channels is up to a distance of three to four kilometers from the source, this ancestral masterpiece is still functional .
This complex hydraulic system from the 14th century consisting of, dikes, canals, seguia, tissanbad, rasfates, wells etc. has been managed since its inception by a committee of wise experts, called “Oumana”.
Mosques of the ksars, mosques of the oases and surfaces of funeral prayer. The interest of these buildings lies in the simplicity of their form contrary to the other mosques in the Muslim world which are distinguished from the urban setting of their establishment and by their imposing form and their excessive decoration.
The mosques of Mzab on the other hand merge in the ksars without being distinguished from the whole of the homes around them.
Regarded as the directing and structuring element of the city, it sits in the center of the ksar, imposing the city by its volume and dominant position. This position as well as the obviousness of its minaret (of an imposing, pyramidal lengthened form), shows the importance of the mosque; and its minaret occupies the highest point. In the mosques of Mzab, simplicity was scrupulously adopted, at all levels; inside and outside.
In Mzab, the dwellings in the ksars revolve all around the mosque. Their forms are different and irregular. The surface of the majority of them does not exceed the 100m2, their external height and the distribution of their dependences are adopted in accordance with the customs and habits of the society, the nature of the area and religious, social, medical standards… etc
The habitat is composed of two floors and a terrace
The space of a dwelling is structured the same process of setting in a network of simple cells. The house is connected to public space (dead end or street), by an entry out of baffle. The patio is the vital place of the house, from which the distribution of spaces and the functions is carried out. The central opening in the middle of the ceiling allows air circulation and ensures lighting. On this space the room “tisefri”, or the women’s living room, with a corner arranged to be a kitchen and another to be a bathroom. A staircase gives access to the next stage which, is structured in a similar way to the ground floor and is provided with two gantries.
The market yard
They are built by the places of the market (souk) established in the ksars. Each one of these places is characterized by particular characteristics. As a whole, they still undertake the role of structuring the economic activity since their creation. In their turn, they were the target of multiple operations of restoration.
The souk is an adjoining place to the main entrance. It is an intermediate space between the inside and the outside of the city to keep its vocation of space of junction to the end of the city, its site develops according to the evolution of its ramparts.
The souk is the activity center of the city and the public center; place of attraction, transaction, noise, and meetings, it is deliberately situated at the periphery of the city. Its position concerns on one hand, its mission in terms of goods supply that requires an easy access, on the other hand, of a social representation of the space which separates life privacy from public one, like the holy from the unholy.
Inside the cities, circulation is carried out through generally narrow lanes, they are partly covered sometimes, protecting from the hard frosts and the solar rays, and allowing the air circulation which softens the temperature according to the nature of the ground; they are often tortuous and very inclined.
In the contours of the hill settlement, the streets of Ksar are sinuous at the discretion of relief.
THE CONSERVED AREA
M’zab Valley is a region of northern Algerian Sahara, looking like a vast rocky plateau cut in deep and intricate valleys hence the name of “Chebka” meaning net. The cretaceous plateau is formed by hard limestones of the Turonian. It is furrowed in every direction by fluvial erosion of the early Quaternary and crisscrossed by a complex network of wadis which form the four major valleys. The M’zab river crosses it Northwest. Southeast. This configuration has earned the region the Arabic name “Chebka” which means lace, net.
Ghardaïa, its main city, is located at a distance of 600 km southern the capital Algiers. It is the capital of the wilaya of the same name. It runs along the M’zab river over an area of 25 km.
The wilaya of Ghardaia has experienced different historical periods, from prehistory to the present day, through the Islamic period. The remains and monuments that bear witness are, for the majority, in fairly good condition. With its rich historical experience and cultural values that have distinguished the region (particularly M’zab Valley) has been classified as “national heritage” by the Algerian State (1971) and part of the “universal heritage” “(UNESCO -1982), and conserved area in 2005.
M’zab Valley contains towns and oases, which are distinguished by their urban appearance remarkable and unique. As such, it has unsuspected potential for tourism and economy.
Human activity in the M’zab region experienced several historical stages, starting with prehistoric times through the Islamic Period that left remains existing today.
In three and a half centuries, the eleventh century to the fourteenth century, a process of urbanization of the valley led to the creation of five cities: El-Atteuf, Bounoura, Ghardaia, Ben-Isguen and Mélika. Each city has a palm grove, an irrigation system and cemeteries. Living isolated from the outside world with the sociological, religious, economic, cultural and linguistic specificities, M’Zab population was able to overcome all interference and sociocultural invasions for ten centuries.
KSAR OF ELATTEUF
KSAR OF ELATTEUF “TADJNINT”
El Atteuf, the eldest of the Ksour, was founded in 1012 downstream of the M’zab Valley by Sheikh Khalifa bin Abghour. The Ksar is the starting point and the start of a process of urbanization in the M’zab valley. Among the peculiarities of the Ksar, the existence of two mosques in its precincts. Each of these has its own pyramidal mosque minaret.
El Atteuf has celebrated its millennium in December 1996 under the slogan : “Cheerfulness, Hope and Love of Algeria”. It was a real snap, allowing a true urban and architectural. So the Ksar has been given a special attention to safeguard and promote local architectural and urban heritage via the rehabilitation of old construction techniques.
SQUARE OF EL ATTEUF MARKET
It is located on the north-eastern the Ksar. This is a place of friendly exchanges and business transactions via the auction sale. This market has an estimated area of 560 m², the market place is surrounded by galleries and arcades of different sizes and dimensions within which there are fractions of houses.
On the occasion of the millennium the place has been subject to a large-scale restoration that has affected all of its components by making the necessary architecture corrections.
It is in this place where the festivities were held to commemorate the millennium of the city of El Atteuf and M’Zab Valley in 1996.
MAUSOLEUM OF SHEIKH AMMI BRAHIM
Situated below on the south side of the Ksar, founded in the 15th century, this monument is a mosque and burial fraction adjacent to the tomb of Sheikh Ammi Brahim.
This mosque has a room half of which underground. It is surmounted by a small room in half level as compared to the ground and the ceiling of the whole. The great hall at ground level outside is opened by arches on one side, and a wide screen wall above the tomb of Sheikh Ammi Brahim. A whole wall is pierced with niches and half-moon shaped openings. Pillars with irregular implementation bear bows and battens that support palm-trunk girder.
Terrace covers all accessible by a staircase outside and surrounded by a parapet wall that the perimeter of the mosque. An area prolongs the prayer hall.
The Ksar of Bounoura
The Ksar of Bounoura “AT BOUNOUR”
It was founded in 1048 on the top of the hill at the foot of that cross the M’zab Oued with one of its tributary “Oued Azouil”.
Reading urban organization reflects the existence of two Ksours on this site. The first part now in ruins except that the mosque and the fortifications were restored, occupied the highest part where you can still make out the narrow alleys and size of homes that are smaller than those of the extension made during the thirteenth century and currently inhabited.
The characteristic of this second Ksar is the use of the boundary of the rocky plate with the Wadi as a base for rampart houses forming a true defensive front to the west, reaching a height of 20 meters. On the opposite side, at half-height of the small hill, the fortifications of the first core are the eastern boundary of the current Ksar.
As for each of the M’zab pentapole Ksar, Bounoura is surrounded by vast cemeteries that span large areas and almost surround the city. These real cities of the dead occupy a very important place in the collective memory and by respect they are the only areas where construction does not exist. This fact prevents suffocation of Ksar guaranteeing it an area free of construction.
THE FRONT OF BOUNOURA
Located in the western part of the Ksar Bounoura. It is in the form of a belt of ramparts houses perched on a rock overlooking the M’zab Wadi on the western part of the Bounoura Ksar. It is presented as a kind of natural trapping.
The dwellings are houses ramparts perched on a huge rock carved by the river, the exterior walls of the houses are pierced with small openings which are just the windows of homes, they are reduced to the status of watching for, as in other ksar houses, they take their lights and ventilation central patio.
THE MOSQUE OF THE OLD KSAR
Founded in the eleventh century. The Bounoura’s old mosque located in the center of the original core of the Ksar Bounoura.
The dimensions of the mosque and its minaret are smaller than other cities of the Pentapolis, since proportionately less important to the needs of first settlement, it is now in ruins, was inhabited mostly by families who have emigrated to the ksar of Mélika, following a civil war, many centuries ago.
Due to the effect of abandonment and natural aging, the mosque has fallen into disrepair.
However, thanks to the regain of consciousness of the ksar citizens and collaboration of specialized architects a great Touiza campaign has been organized to restore it.
The use of traditional techniques and building materials recovered on site, on the basis of a comprehensive study of its structure and organization have allowed the restoration of this monument by restoring its original status.
Irregularly shaped, the mosque consists of a prayer hall, whose pillars and arches, very simple shapes, bear the cover on the terrace, and a large prayer area surrounding it.
THE KSAR OF GHARDAÏA
THE KSAR OF GHARDAÏA
It was founded in 1057, Ghardaïa “Taghardaït” also called the pearl of the oasis and the capital of the M’zab Valley, is located upstream of the M’zab Valley, and is organized around a hill.
At the top, and in the middle, is the great mosque, which is considered the focal point around which gather all other elements of religious and wordly life.
Ghardaïa is the largest city where are found the largest concentration of facilities and social cultural and economic infrastructure. It has an almost perfect radio concentric geometry marked by rising and climbing streets all converging to the end of the journey to the Big Mosque.
In the first nucleus of the Ksar, the market called “Rahba” once specialized in the sale of pottery, now devoid of its function. The current market place against a very dynamic one is part of the outer extension of the city.
The Ksar is surrounded by several cemeteries, real dead cities that remain to date the only areas not affected by the operations of extension. These cemeteries contain funerary mosques, places of worship that are not covered (m’çolla) and tombs of illustrious scholars and men of worship.
The Ksar recently received special attention consisting of backup plans in the permanent objective of the development of historical monuments in addition to its restoration and rehabilitation. The initiative has been a continuous task to cover all community buildings and homes that also require a support point of view protection and restoration for better preservation of architectural character of the site and improving the living environment of its inhabitants.
THE BIG MOSQUE
At the foundation of the Ksar of Ghardaia in 1048, it was the first building to be built on the highest point and most dominating of the hill.
In addition to two prayer rooms, several other infrastructures built around the mosque including “Mahdrates” located to the north and are reserved places for learning the Holy Quran, as well as a management and monitoring defense system of the city.
The mosque also has two minarets, the first, oldest, and much smaller in size, not exceeding six feet in height, and it currently remains at the top, the bottom being cleared to allow passage , the various works of extension. The second minaret, founded in the 16th century, the era of Sheikh Said Ammi, it stands as a pyramid, in turn at 23 meters from a base of about six square feet.
The different corners of the great mosque remain lively even after hours of prayer.
However, and unlike other mosques in the world, the mosque has a very specific feature related to the M’zab usually it is devoid of any decorative or superfluous elements.
THE SQUARE OF GHARDAÏA MARKET
The marketplace of Ghardaia called “Azghar Ougharme” meaning outside the city, is located on the southwestern outskirts of the Ksar. Frequented by caravan traders from distant lands, this place remains to this day the most dynamic market of the entire region. The market square was founded around the year 1884.
Rectangular in shape with a surface to about 3400 m2 this place is surrounded by a shopping arcades in various shapes and dimensions, in which we find shops and small businesses.
The streets leading to the market place have an economic role in their nearest part of the souk. In the past, each type of commercial activity was in an limited area and there were vegetables on the street, the street grocers, street tailors, embroiderers that, etc. while the place was open for the sale of products from outside such as salt, spices, wheat, wool, livestock, etc.
The market place had in the past an area of prayer “M’çalla” elevated and facing the west side. The middle of the northern half of the square is the “Houita” which is a line of boulders embedded in the ground and arranged in a semicircle of about 5m radius. These stones were once the seats of each member of the “Djemaa” (assembly of notables of the Ksar) who settled there to discuss the affairs of the city.
In October 1997 the market place – for the first time in its existence, knew a large-scale rehabilitation and restoration thus restoring its true historic face (meeting place for exchange and conviviality).
This has affected all components of the market place starting with the architectural treatment of facades corrections, restoration of damaged elements, consolidation of beams and ripe, plastering, tiling. The main purpose of this operation being promotion and rehabilitation of the local architectural heritage.
SYSTEM OF FLOODWATER DISTRIBUTION
Distribution system of rainwater has been implemented more than eight centuries ago, the two scholars: Sheikh Ba Mhamed Abu Sahaba in 1273 and Sheikh Hammou Oulhadj in 1707 settled the rainwater distribution system, the storm water is found at the bottom of the palm upstream about 4 km west of Ksar.
Rainwater is channeled from the watershed of Oued M’Zab extending upstream for several hundred kilometers, in a natural way to a place called “Amlaga” which is the focal point and meeting place of two of the most important Wadis. Labiad Wadi and Laader Wadi.
At this level the Oumana “Men who have responsibility for the management of the watershed” has built the first hydraulic structure whose function is to slow the speed of flood waters and then distribute it to the irrigation of gardens and Bouchene dam to supply the water, the surplus is diverted to the bed of the M’zab Valley Wadi up Al-Etteuf.
The watershed to the gardens is formed by a system called “Tissenbad N’Bouchéne” which consists of three major underground channels equipped with ventilation Fougaras that allow access for cleaning. Each of these canals opens into an alley-channel at the palm groves allowing the flood water to reach the gardens through slots carefully sized for the number of palm trees and on the surface to be irrigated. It should be noted that the palm which is an artificial oasis, owes its thanks to that efficient and ingenious system.
THE KSAR OF MELIKA (ATMLICHET)
THE KSAR OF MELIKA (ATMLICHET)
Melika, founded in the early eleventh century, is located halfway between Beni Isguen and Ghardaïa, on the east side of the bed of M’Zab river. It remains a symbol of brotherhood, coexistence and good neighborliness between peoples of different origins.
Unlike other cities, Melika has a market square adjoining the mosque which is at the center of the Ksar, at the intersection of two main north-south and east-west. It is also the only Ksar of the valley, due to the physical seat of his land, that has not been extended.
The people of Melika were known in time to hold the exclusive business of the manufacture of green pottery.
The Ksar has been granted a specific study plan consisting of a permanent backup in addition to various restoration operations that affect certain monuments and works regularly in a community goal of preserving the urban character of the Ksar and improved living environment of residents.
TOMB AND MAUSOLEUM OF SHEIKH SIDI AÏSSA
The tombs of Sheik Abu Mahdi ben Aissa Smail, and his disciples are in the north of Ksar of Melika, within a large cemetery regarded as a true city of the dead.
Cheikh Sidi Aissa, came from the highlands of Ouled Nail, in 1500 he had many disciples in the valley and other M’Zab from Djerba in Tunisia and in Lybian Jabal Naffoussa. He left many writings in various fields such as fiqh, literature and other sciences.
Mélika, his adopted city, remained loyal to him dedicating the privilege of raising his tombstone and his disciples ones making them in small works from Timchemt (local plaster). These works treated as surreal sculptures, with their pinnacles of varying heights offer a unique and unparalleled plastic image.
In front of these tombs is spread an area for prayer where Melika people gather at the funeral and “ziyara” or visit. This one is held annually in the spring by “Azzaba” (council of elders), and consists essentially of local history and disclose to perpetuate knowledge of the collective memory.
The Sidi Aissa mosque, on the edge of the cemetery and near the walls of Ksar was an integral part of the overall architectural landscape of these places, but unfortunately it was destroyed in the sixties.
THE KSAR OF BEN-ISGUEN (AT-ISDJEN)
THE KSAR OF BEN-ISGUEN “AT-IZDJEN”
It was founded in 1350, Since its foundation Beni Isguen (At Izdjen) preserved completely its organizational model, including all of its walls lined on the inside by an alley along its perimeter with watchtowers. It is a city rich with library rooms in houses where you can see many manuscripts and books on various aspects of society and its Ibadite legislation (agriculture, law, fiqh, hydro, architecture, etc.).
The Ksar of Beni Isguen is located on the side of a peak halfway between Melika Ksar and Bounoura ksar at the confluence of the M’zab Valley Wadi and the Ntissa Wadi, the latter being its natural limit. The two main doors located in North and South (Bab Chergui and Bab Gherbi) and three gates leading to the different cemeteries. Access to the top of bordj Boulila, located on the highest point, allows a panoramic view of the palm and a reading of its privileged urban organization. All streets lead to the market place of triangular shape where every day, in the late afternoon, except Friday, held the ancestral auction sale.
The water supply was provided by the perforation of wells, distributed among the various districts, to allow the supply of the inhabitants. To cover the cost of maintaining the wells, it was planted next to each one of which palm dates are sold at the market.
The Ksar of Beni-Isguen has benefited from several backup, restoration and rehabilitation. These mainly affected the entire defensive works, in conjunction with the launch of operations for the restoration of old houses to safeguard the architectural and urban planning of the city and to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants.
THE BOULILA TOWER AND THE BENISGUEN RAMPART
The city of Beni-Isguen is surrounded by a great wall of 1525m in length and 3m in height with a thickness of up to 1m at the base and 20 cm at the top.
Built in the fourteenth century, the bulwark of Beni-Isguen has reached its present form only after the last extension in 1880.
The wall has watchtowers, whose larger Bordj Boulila two main gates, Bab El Chergui and Bab El Gherbi and three other gates.
The wall, and watchtowers have been targeted recently by a series of restoring operations. The operation is still in progress in parallel with a consistent and continuous monitoring in space and time.
THE MARKET PLACE
Around the year 1860, according to the process of gradual and continuous extension of the city of Beni-Isguen, the market place was moved to the place “Lalla Achou” the current market place at the auction sale, this name of a holy woman known as “Lalla Achou” which borrowed the place formerly used as agricultural land, and converted for use as a market Ksar.
This market place is far from downtown and located on the outskirts of the Ksar. It is triangular in shape (30, 59.56) distances of the sides, with an area of 806 m², on which the open shops and deposits are surrounded by masonry benches, well fitted to its most acute angle.
Béni-Isguen market has not experienced a break in its traditional business and it was flexible renovations.
The biggest feature of this place is definitely the auction sale held just after the daily prayer of “Aasr” except Friday. Business transactions are conducted under the watchful eye of members of the assembly of “Azzaba”.
OTHER CLASSES SITES
THE KSAR OF BERRIANE
It was founded in 1690, and it’s is located 552 km south of Algiers, is located on an isolated rocky hill with a total estimated area of 27 ha
The grading perimeter:
it covers the Ksar with the surrounding oasis. The Ksar of Berriane materializes the overall concepts that led to the construction of M’Zab Valley ksour, its style is similar to that found in the cities of Mzab. It does still resist the novelty onslaught due to its deep anchoring in the daily life of people besides the quality of link with the environment.
The regions of Sidi Mbarek Ballouh and are characterized by the presence of stations of rock carvings dating from the prehistoric age. The palm groves are irrigated by the Oued Ballouh dam.
The Berriane craft is well known, historian Sheikh Mohamed Ali Debbouze was one the great scholars of the city of Berriane. It was classed national heritage in 1998.
THE KSAR OF GUERRARA
It was founded in 1630, and it has a particular importance, since it represents the first transplantation, a hundred kilometers away from the M’zab valley.
It is worth noting also that the oasis of Guerrara has a large number of facilities that require preservation as they reflect the history of this region.
It is also worth noting that the region contains many remnants of ksour before founding the Guerrara such as Ksar of Lahmer and that one of Lambarthakh as it is a trove of rich natural sites that offer a variety of impressive panoramas including many Sahara “Meida”.
It was classed national heritage in 1998.
THE KSAR OF METLILI
The Ksar of Metlili, located 40 km south of Ghardaia, built on a rocky knoll on the banks of the river, covers an area of approximately 8.5 hectares, occupying a quadrangular space. It is bordered by rocky hills to the north and east, by the highway to the west, and by the river of Metlili to the south. In its the lower part, the structure of the tracks are fairly regular, there are two main directions, while in the upper part we find the steep rocks and cliffs, which print their movements to the streets. Generally roads are set, the main streets are wider, they are lively and the most important one with many squares.
Among the most important landmarks in the Ksar we find the mosque with its minaret, the place of “Zaouïa Sidi Hadj Bouhafs” and the series of squares with their shops.
Each spring locals celebrate in, “MEHRI festival“. During the festivities, visitors flock from across the country and all over the world to attend, and some race their MEHRI.
The ksar of Metlili was classed national heritage in 1982.
THE KSAR OF EL MANEA
Located at : 270 Km southern Ghardaia, the old Ksar is located in the eastern part of the El- Menéa city within the “Lemmedhi” district distant about a kilometre from downtown.
The old Ksar is built on a pyramid-shaped hill rising to about 75 m from the Oued M’guiden river’s bed; the Ksar dominates the palm grove and the accesses to surrounding areas of El Menéa.
The El-Menéa’s old Ksar was founded in the early tenth century by the Zenetes from the regions of Timimoun and Gourara; many peoples have inhabited the old Ksar. Its first inhabitants were the Zenete. The Ksar has lived under the authority of a Zenete queen “M’Barka BENT EL Khass”.
The Zenete era was characterized by great achievements of palm trees planting which led to great prosperity in the region, the Ibadite merchants of the “At Khefianes” tribe also inhabited the Ksar, but starting from the sixteenth century until its capture by the French army, the Ksar has been occupied by “Chaamba Lemmadhi”.
The Ksar is built on a dominating isolated hill and appears as an island of overwhelming sand dunes; its conception is essentially defensive and expresses the genius of its builders.
The old Ksar is the only historical witness in the region of El-Menéa and represents, thus, the only historical and architectural heritage; it has a confirmed historical, archaeological and architectural value.
It was classed national heritage in 1995.
The pressing need for people to adapt themselves with the site and the harsh climate, which distinguishes from the considerable variations of heat, forced the population of Chebka of Mzab to come out with the optimization of using available local materials. They will provide thus the requirements of solidity and of the isolation without neglecting the esthetics which will distinguish any realization.
White, extracted the layer of limestone constituting the surface rock. It is presented under various dimensions. It is adapted to the transport requirements towards the workplace, its final size will be the work of the builder who will bring the appropriate adjustments to the nature of the house. Once raised, the wall will be covered with a layer of lime mortar, which will harmonize its form.
Available in the area to abundance. Its extraction takes place from the surface layer of the hills. It is laid out in ovens a height of almost two meters. Its burning takes place
same manner that the plaster Timchemt, but consumes from 05 to 06 times the quantity necessary to the plaster. What makes the spot more expensive.
3) Plaster (Timchemt):
Local plaster, ashy-white color extracted from a surface layer or fields with a maximum depth of one meter. This plaster is burned in an oven having a bottom opening. The latter is provided out of wood and various scrap. The gibs is piled up on the dome of the oven on a depth of almost one meter and half to be burned during twenty-four hours. When the quantity of wood is consumed, the stone becomes soft; the plaster must be separated from waste and ready for consumption.
4)-The adobe (Tleght )
Bricks are manufactured out of argillaceous ground. After being soaked in water, it is mixed to be then poured into molds. The manufactured bricks are left to dry under the sun lights. Sometimes a quantity of hay is mixed with the paste to get more resistant bricks.
THE INTANGIBLE HERITAGE
The 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage defines “intangible cultural heritage” by all the practices, representations and expressions, knowledge and skills that communities and groups and, in some cases individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Such heritage, sometimes called “the living cultural heritage”, covers the following areas.
Oral traditions and expressions including language as a vehicle for the intangible cultural heritage, performed arts, social practices, rituals and festival events, knowledge and practices related nature and universe, and the know-how linked to traditional crafts.
Transmitted from generation to generation, the intangible cultural heritage is permanently recreated by communities and groups depending on the environment in which they live, on their relationship with nature and on their history. Intangible cultural heritage provides people and communities a sense of identity and continuity, and the safeguarding of such heritage promotes nurtures and boosts the development of cultural diversity and creativity.
In fact, Ghardaia is known for a long time by the variety of crafts, including weaving of the carpet (high wool Carpet, flush carpets, Berber carpet, little carpets, cushions, and hambels etc.), thistraditional weaving known for its uniqueness, authenticity, its forms … The work of wool clothing provides several types of family ‘kachabias, bathrobe, Mozabite gandoura, Khomri … another form of handicrafts: brassware, pottery, tannery…
FESTIVITIES AND MOUSSSIME OF THE WILAYA OF GHARDAÏA
THE « YENNAR » FESTIVITY :
January, Amazigh New Year: celebrated every year by preparing a sweet dish called “Arfis”.
« FOURAR » FEBRUARY :
On the edge of the spring season, the locals carry out visits to shrines and holy burial in the region where Dikr circles and donations are made on the occasion.
Each year during March, the region of Ghardaia famous by organizing a parade of tanks decorated with carpets from different regions of a fair of crafts, games and folk songs.
THE MONTH OF HERITAGE:
Throughout all the towns in the region and accross the Maghreb several scientific and cultural heritage are held between April 18th “Heritage World Day” and May 18th “International Day of the Museum” both decided following the Casablanca Conference in 1995.
THE BIRTH OF THE PROPHET “MOHAMED”:
This region’s popular festival is celebrated, in the presence of the inhabitants of the region, by religious hymns and family visits. In Ben Izgen, it is a tradition that the children lit oil-based torches. In addition, an amount of oil is traditionally offered to the mosque.
In early June heat, the inhabitants of Ksar move to summer residences located in their palm groves and gardens. On the occasion of this transhumance, children are dressed in traditional clothes, cleaning campaigns for palm groves are conducted under the authority of “Oumana”, an assembly of notables responsible for the management of water and traditional network distribution.
EL MENEA KSAR CELEBRATION:
The celebration of the birth of the Ksar of El Ménea feast : built up in the 10th century on a site called Taourit and classified national heritage this celebration takes place in a festive atmosphere imbued with folk groups and baroud.
COLLECTIVE MARRIAGE OR GROUPS:
The region of Ghardaia is famous for organizing collective marriage in solidarity with the poor couples.
PALM DATE COLLECTION:
This festival is celebrated through all the groves and gardens of the area where there are over 150 varieties of dates including: Bent Akbal, Tamdjouhart, Deglet nour, a fair of date is also organized.
” ACHOURA ” FEAST:
It is a religious festival celebrated in the month of Mouharem of each lunar year, a dish called “Ibaoun” is prepared on the occasion, “Abianou” and “Abina Nouh” songs are sung by children, family visits are also conducted.
“ALLAY” FEAST: RETURNING FROM SUMMER RESIDENCES TO THE KSAR
In the beginning of the winter period starting from November, residents living in the palm groves return to the Ksar, a dish called
“IOUZAN CHEIKH HAMOU EL HADJ” is prepared with wheat seed and girls are dressed in traditional clothes.
EL HADJ SEASON:
Is also celebrated in Ghardaia with departure and arrival of hadjis pilgrims from and to the holy places of Islam by religious songs in the mosques and the site of El Moustadjab.
MEHRI “DROMEDARY CAMEL” FEAST:
Celebrated each year in Metlili City.
The local gastronomy presents a rich and varied range of traditional dishes and spices.