Ghardaia is in reality a collective of five groups of people composed of Ghardaïa, Melika, Beni Isguen, Bou Noura and El-Atteuf. They are distinct villages which have their own story and their own past. It was built a thousand years ago in the M’zab valley which was inscribed under the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1982.
Thanks to its climate it has a great amount of date production. The wood of dead palms is used to make house roofs.They have a great respect for the nature and the trees that’s why they don’t kill live trees, they consider them as living beings that provide them food.
The semi desert with its architectural marvels exists since the early 11th century. It is attributed to the Ibadis whom settled in five fortified villages so that the nomadic groups couldn’t have access. They set principles of community living in order to create a defensive environment.
El Atteuf built in 1012, is the oldest town in Ghardaia. It’s such a masterpiece that it’s been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It lies on the banks of an intermittent river in the M’zab valley called Wadi Mzab.
The desert landscapes and incredible architecture attract tourists from far to visit this place with great contrasts. The central feature of the village is the mosque. All the houses are built around it. The have communal living and still respect family privacy. Their local language is called Tumzabt.
El Atteuf is the perfect example of traditional human habitat being that tries and manages to perfectly adapt with the environment.
The daily Market
In order to reach the daily market situated in a pretty cobbled open square in the middle of the old part of the town, you have to enter from the rue Ibn Rosten. There you can discover all the beautiful cultural features of Ghardaia. The most famous souvenirs are its traditional carpets. The people of Ghardaia are so hospital that you might be invited to take tea with the shop owner.
The big mosque
When the Ksar of Ghardaia was founded in 1048, the first building to be built was this mosque situated in rue Cheikh Ami Said. It’s set on the highest point of the hill and it dominates all the area. Unlike other mosques in the world, the mosque is devoid of any decorative or superfluous elements, which a specific feature of the M’zab architecture. It has two prayer rooms and two minarets. One old and small and the other more recent done in the 16th century and is 23 meters-high.
Around the mosque, you can find “mahdarates” where people learn the Holy Quran in addition to other infrastructures of monitoring defense system of the city. The mosque is a lively place in Ghardaia even after the prayer time.