The M’zab Valley of Algeria
Many of the living areas of Algeria are examples of building that works within the structure of nature’s natural space. One such area is the M’zab a limestone plateau that has been inhabited since the 10th century. The Berbers were the first to locate to the region where most live in the surrounding rock out cropping. In the 11th century, the Ibai Kharjite imams rule the area with a form Muslim theocracy that still has a very small influence today on the people of the area.
The Mzab is made up of five ‘qsur’ or walled cities known as the Pentapolis. The principle settlement is Ghardaia, which is also the capital of the area. It’s medieval architecture is well preserved and is an amazing example for anyone who is interested in building design that can last for centuries. The other settlements that make up the Pentapolis are Beni Isguen, Melika, Bounoura, and El-Ateuf.
If you are planning to travel to Algeria and this magnificent valley, hiring a guide is highly recommended. The area is ruled by the Ibadi Muslim sect who are very warm to visitors, but are very firm in their beliefs and traditions. As a guest to the area, one should respect the local customs and adapt to the ways of the local population. There are very nice accommodations through the valley and one should book a visit well in advance of arriving. Pack for all seasons as the weather can change in a hurry.
Truly, this land still holds the richness of a time that was full of adventure and romance. Enjoy your visit to the walled cities of M’zab Valley.