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The M’Zab Towns

Beni Izguen

The M’Zab Valley is situated in the Algerian Province of Ghardaia in the Sahara desert .It is made up of five towns: Melika, Beni Izguen, Bou Nara, El Atteuf and Ghardaia where the women clad entirely in white and show one eye only. It is Four hundred miles south of Algiers, just over an hour by plane and it is one of the towns of the UNESCO World Heritage. 

   The M'Zab valley is the absolute centre of the Algerian desert. In such hostile natural environment, the M’Zab people have managed to construct a society that is strict but close-knit, devout but not fundamentalist. With all the rigor of which they are capable, these devout Muslims dug out deep wells from the rock over several generations so that their sons and the sons of their sons could benefit from them. They fertilized this hostile environment, planted date palms, created orchards and luxuriant gardens, developed irrigation channels and ingenious systems for gathering and storing rainwater so that to lose no drop because water for them is a gift from God that should be reserved.


    It is here, in the M’Zab valley that the Algerian Sahara begins, setting in amidst rocky and stony ground. As if by magic, five towns emerged from the emptiness.  The valley includes five unique "ksour"(castles) in fortified villages. Their architecture is original because adapted to the rather hostile environment of this rocky plateau. The M’Zab buildings  are stunning example of Berber architecture which very clearly demonstrate the diverse range of cultures that have come together to make up Algeria. Among the most remarkable oases of the M'Zab valley is that of Ghardaia which is considered the capital of the region and the final city before plunging into the largest desert in the world. It is home to a stunning labyrinthine Kasbah (medina) which is well worthy of a visit. It was founded by the Mozabites, a sect of Berber Muslims. This cultural, racial, and religious history becomes tangible by the presence of this stunning architectural relic. 

   The unusual architectural beauty of this strange cluster of dwellings and towns is what makes this UNESCO World Heritage Site so special. Buildings are densely packed, replete with twisting and turning narrow alleyways, covered walkways and pastel colored paint. The visual impact is truly impressive, situated as they are in a deep and narrow valley. Having been established by a breakaway Islamic sect some 1000 years ago, they were designed for communal living, an intention which is clear to see to this day.

     You can visit this awesome place and stay in one of Algeria's most delightful hotels, situated in the greenest of oases in this old city and enjoy Beni Izguen, the "holy city" which is the most traditional of all the villages of the M'Zab Valley ,and Ghardaia city with its market square the "four-fingered" mosque, the tombs of the M'Zab's religious leaders and a date farm with a centuries, old irrigation system , a magnum opus of democratic engineering…  

The M’Zab Towns (Written by ARAB Sabrina)

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