The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

M'Zab Valley - Algeria

Map showing the location of M'Zab Valley UNESCO world heritage site, Algeria

Website Category: Fortified Towns of the Trans-Sahara Trading Routes  

Area: 40 km2 

Inscribed: 1982 

Criteria: (ii)  interchange of values (iii)  cultural tradition (v)  interaction with the environment

Location and Values:  The M’Zab Valley is a deep, narrow oasis valley in the Sahara about 600 km south of Algiers.  Along its length the five towns of Ghardaia, Melika, Beni Isguen, Bou Noura and El Atteuf are each built on a knoll, their pastel-coloured box-like buildings packed tightly together in concentric circles between an outer fortification and the summit of the hill where a fortified mosque with a slim, turreted minaret, arsenal and adjoining granary is located.  Buildings are tightly packed, with narrow alleyways and covered passages winding between them. 

The five towns are spread along the valley over a distance of about 10 km, and were established by a break-away Islamic sect, the Ibadites, between 1013 and 1355.  They were designed for communal living, within a remarkably egalitarian social structure which respects the privacy of the family. Perfectly adapted to the environment, these towns have provided inspiration to contemporary urban planners and architects and are still vibrant commercial centres.


Slideshow of the M’zab Valley:

Google Earth View:  To view satellite imagery of the M’Zab Valley on Google Earth, click here. This opens a new window, so when you are finished, just close the Google Earth page and you will be straight back here to continue browsing.  This view is centred on the town of Beni Isguen, from where you can pan to the left, following the M’Zab valley to Melika (on the north bank) and Ghardaia (on the south bank).  Panning to the right, you can see Bou Noura and (much further down) El Affeuf.  The quality of the images is superb, so it is well worth taking this Google Earth tour!

Links to other towns of the trans-Sahara trading routes:   Ghadames  I  Ksour  I  Ait-Ben-Haddou  I  Timbuktu

Other Links:     Official UNESCO Site Details

Tomb of Sidi Aissa at Melika in the M'Zab Valley UNESCO world heritage site, AlgeriaView of Ghardaia with its distinctive tapered minaret in the M'Zab Valley UNESCO world heritage site, AlgeriaThe Mozabite inhabitants of Ghardaia and the rest of the M'Zab Valley are a berber people for whom dates are a key economic resourceThe distinctive tapered minaret of a mosque amongst the date palm in the M'Zab Valley UNESCO world heritage site, Algeria



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