Protected Ksours of Algeria: between Earth and Stone

Composed at June 18, 2010 - 10:01 am, filed in 2010 World Expo, from FLTA

Ksour( literally the word is the plural of palace in Arabic) are neither castles, nor fortresses and are not citadels. In Algeria, the name is given to the historic centres of the southern oases. The Ksour are simply "Medinas" of the desert.

Out of those hundreds of Ksour which make the historic centres of the oases in southern Algeria, about thirty-one Ksour only, those we have chosen to show here, have been granted the legal protection of the Ministry of Culture.

Eighteen of them have received national protection including the Mzab valley, which is the only set of Ksour to be included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage since 1982.

The measures of legal protection are unfortunately not enough to guarantee that this major part of Algeria’s architectural heritage be preserved. The reality is that when they are abandoned by their inhabitants the Ksour inevitably fall into ruins. We have decided to show the sad situation as we know that it is not irreversible. In Timimoun, traditional building skills are being updated in building houses that meet the highest standards of modern comfort.

In Taghit, young indigenous people who have a passion for earth architecture have initiated a very positive rehabilitation policy by revamping traditional houses. In Gharda'ia, property developers have built new Ksour in the pure local and architectural and urban tradition, offering nevertheless their residents up to date comfort. Our ancestors had stone and earth within reach. They have made houses, palaces, towns and cities they have left behind. We must now see to transmit this cultural heritage to the future generations.