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Since ancient times, the M'Zab Valley has been home to the community of Berbers.
The M'Zab or Mzab is a region located in the north of the Sahara Desert in Ghardaïa Province, Algeria. The valley is situated across 370 mi (600 km) south of Algiers.
The M'Zab Valley is a unique place in the desert. It is where a sedentary and urban civilization lives. This group of people has been able to keep their culture alive for many years. The M'Zab Valley is a valley in Algeria that has been mostly unchanged since the 11th century. People in the valley built their homes and lived in a specific way that still exists today. The environment of the valley is harsh, so human beings had to find ways to adapt.
The Ibāḍiyya have maintained control of the region, and they continue to play an important role in the social life of the area. A federal council consisting of representatives from seven villages of other regions takes up socio-economic issues. This council is responsible for addressing religious, social, and cultural concerns. The continued existence of this unique Islamic form of government is evident.
The council makes decisions about everything from how much gold to give as dowry to a woman to the length of wedding ceremonies. The council also rules on penalties, such as exile, in which the offending individual is not permitted to interact with other citizens. With Algeria's economic and social integration, these sanctions have lost their effectiveness and are now much more detrimental to women. The local language in the M'Zab is Mozabite, a Zenati branch of Berber languages.
The M'Zab Valley is situated on the limestone plateau, enclosed by the Wad M'Zab valley. The Ath M'Zab is also known as Mozabites and is a sub-divisional branch of the Berber Tribe called the Iznaten. They live in areas of mid-southern Algeria. Several Tifinagh (an abjad script used to write Berber languages) scriptures have been discovered and engraved around M'Zab Valley. Muslims conquered the Maghreb region, and Mozabites were then converted to Muslims of the Mu'tazili School.
The Christian population survived until the 11th century. Following the demise of the Rostemid kingdom, some members of the royal family and their subjects fled to M'Zab Valley as refugees. The Rostemids, on the other hand, were Ibadi Muslims and dispatched a missionary (Abu Bakr an-Nafusi), who converted the indigenous Mozabites successfully.
In 1830, France occupied Algeria, and in 1962 it was once again returned to indigenous Algerian rule as they gained independence. Five towns comprise M'Zab, and they are Ghardaia (principal settlement), which is the main town, and M'Zab's capital, Beni Isguen, which is the Berber sacred Islamic town. They do not allow non-M'Zabites and foreigners to spend the night in town.
There are several towns located near Bouira, including Mlikch, which is a Kabily town. There are also large cemeteries and a historical mosque in the center of the town. Another historical ksar is Bounoura, which contains an Azwil palm grove. El Guerrera and Berriane have been part of the M'Zab since the 17th century.
The M'Zab Valley is located in the Sahara Desert, making it a hot and arid region. The average temperature in M'Zab Valley is 86 F (30 C). Despite the harsh conditions, the Berber people have created a thriving community in M'Zab Valley.
The M'Zab Valley has about 360,000 inhabitants. The majority of the population is Berber, although there is also an Arab minority. M'Zab Valley's architecture is characterized by its use of mud bricks and pisé (a type of earth-based construction technique). The building techniques and valley's architecture are not only eco-friendly but also help keep homes cool in the hot Algerian climate.
The Ibāḍī religion's emphasis on functionality and the need to be near an oasis filled with land and space has resulted in rigorous management of its surrounding areas. Each citadel features a fortress-like mosque, often with a tall minaret. The houses in the M'Zab settlements were built in concentric circles around the mosque. This was done to create a communal living space that respected family privacy.
The Mozabites migrated to the summer citadel in summer. This is one of the main oasis groups in the Sahara Desert. It is surrounded by very dry areas and is crossed by dry river beds.
Each of these diminutive citadels, encircled by walls, has a mosque in the middle. A tower in the mosque serves as a lookout tower. The mosque is significant for the community and is used to store weapons and food. Houses are built in concentric circles around the mosque until it reaches the fortifications.
Houses in this area are all of the same types. They are all made of the same materials. This shows that everyone in this society is equal and pushes towards a more egalitarian society. The Ibadis created this type of architecture a long time ago. It is still used today and is an example for modern architects.
The M'Zab Valley has many unique buildings built in the 11th century. This oldest settlement was built using a particular model that has been influential for many years. Architects and town planners from the 20th century have been influenced by this model, including Le Corbusier and Fernand Pouillon.
The three elements in the M'Zab Valley, such as ksar, cemetery, and palm groves with its citadel, show how the Ibadis culture was once very strong. The egalitarian principle was applied carefully by the Mozabite society in this area.
Ghardaia, Beni Isguen, Melika, Bou Noura, and El Atteuf are the fortified five towns in the M'Zab Valley. These settlements and fortified villages are linked by narrow alleys with a network of streets and pathways that allow visitors to tour each city's markets, mosques, and fountains.
The Clay Palace in Ghardaia town of M'Zab valley is very interesting to tourists. Each section has its own cemetery where the dead are buried. The graves remain unmarked and without inscriptions. The Mélika is near the Sidi Assa tombs. This is another spot to see in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tombs are constructed of white limestone and are in a vernacular style.
In 1982, the pentapolis of M'Zab Valley was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Algerian government has been trying to promote tourism in the area. However, after the designation, towns have deteriorated because of unauthorized modifications. The Algerian government has also issued a proclamation creating a protected area border to help conserve and enhance the site.
Strict political rules are prevalent in such sites; safety measures must be securely taken before planning to visit any of these towns.
What country is M'Zab Valley in?
The M'Zab Valley is located on the northern hill Sahara Desert in Ghardaïa Province, Algeria.
What makes M'Zab Valley a famous landmark in Algeria?
M'Zab Valley is home to five fortified cities, known as the pentapolis. These cities were built in the 11th century and served as a defensive measure against attacks from raiders. Today, these cities are still inhabited by Berber people and are well-preserved. Their town structures, architecture, and traditions still conserve their culture.
When was M'Zab Valley founded?
The M'Zab Valley has very old buildings, belonging to the early 11th century. The way these buildings were built and how everything was organized shows that there was a very smart way of living in this area for people in the past.
In which region is M'Zab Valley found?
The M'Zab Valley is found in a natural region. The region is enclosed by a mountainous, hilly area of Sahara. The area faces strong winds and scorching heat.
How many inhabitants live in M'Zab Valley?
According to a survey done back in 2005, the estimated number of people living in M'Zab Valley is around 360,000.
What is the UNESCO site ID of M'Zab Valley?
According to UNESCO, the site ID of M'Zab Valley is 188.
Who is the notable person from M'Zab Valley?
Moufdi Zakaria was an Algerian political prisoner, poet, and writer who composed the Algerian national anthem while being incarcerated in 1955. Moufdi Zakaria left behind his poetry and the words to Algeria's national anthem. He was honored with postage stamps, and Noumérat – Moufdi Zakaria Airport in Ghardaïa, Algeria, is named after him. A cultural center built in 1984 was also named after him.
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