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lioness Ghardaia - A travel report by Neda
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Ghardaia,  Algeria - flag Algeria
20111 readers

lioness's travel reports

Travel to the Mzab Valley

  16 votes
Mzab Valley is situated at the entrance of the Sahara desert, 600 km south of Algiers. It is inhabitad by the Mozabite group of Algerian Berbers. Their tradition and customs are very peculiar and different from the rest of the country.

View of the old town of Ghardaia
View of the old town of Ghardaia
The Mozabites are know throughout Algeria as being very religious and conservative people. They are respected for maintaining their tradition unchanged for more than 1000 years, when they built their towns in Mzab. The Mzab Valley is actually seven oasis towns, all constructed in the same manner and architecture: houses are situated on the hill, on top of the hill there is a minaret-tower and below the town is the palmerie. They are: Ghardaia, Beni Isguen, El Atteuf, Bou Noura, Melika, Bariyan and Guerrara. The first five places are all clustered together while Bariyan and Guerrara are some 100 km away from the rest. Each town has its own marketplace, which is situated in the central square. In summer, when temperatures reach more than 40 degrees Celsius, people retreat to their summer houses in the palmerie. In the palmerie, you can find beutiful summer houses and gardens, all full of different plants and many orange trees. The Mozabites belong to the Ibadi sect of Islam. They consider the privacy of the people to be very important. House doors never face directly the opposite house's door. It is not allowed to take pictures of women under any condition and if you want to take a photo of a man or children, you always have to ask for permission first. Women are all covered with white robe and you can only see one eye on their face. Men wear traditional "baggy" trousers and a white cap. You always need an official guide if you want to vist the towns. Mzab towns are governed bu the religious administration. All decisions are made by a relgious council of each town. People can be excluded from the community if they commit serious crimes. The Mzab Valley was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, as an example of traditional human habitat perfectly adapted to the environment.

Favourite spots:
View Of Beni Isguen
View Of Beni Isguen
There are many beautiful places in Mzab. Ghardaia is the biggest town, there you can find a lovely big square and a very old underground mosque. Underground mosques are built in order to find shelter from the summer heat. Beni Isguen is very quiet and the views from the top are astounding. The palmerie of Beni Isguen has a water dam, which at rainy season takes the aspects of a big waterfall. The dam is meant to protect the town from inundations. Bounoura has a lovely mosque on top of the hill.

What's really great:
People of Beni Isguen, with their traditional clothing
People of Beni Isguen, with their traditional clothing
I enjoyed the Mzab Valley for a few different reasons. The most important are its people. Mozabites are very friendly, hospitable and kind people, as all Algerians are, in general. They are open-minded and always happy to receive visitors. I liked the colours of Mzab: yellow-colour of the houses and the ground; green for the palmerie and bright blue of the sky. I enjoyed a lot having lunch and afternoon tea in the palmerie, chatting with my friends. I also liked the atmosphere. I didn't have any feeling of space or time there. The only thing that really mattered was to be there, the moment itself, not even the hour, day, month, year. The feeling I had there was completely out of place and time. Amazing!

Dinning Room of the Camping
Dinning Room of the Camping
I would recommend a Camping in the palmerie of Beni Isguen. That is the place where I stayed.
The Camping is actually a traditional house, which is called akham. It is sitaued 5 km from the city centre, inside of the palmerie.
The rooms are all decorated and made of traditional materials. There is a nice dining room, a courtyard and hot showers at any time.
The price for the night is 16 euros, breakfast included.

Ghardaia travelogue picture
A great way to spend a night is to have somebody organize for you a concert or music performance. There are various groups who play the traditional or local music. They have a great sense of rhythm and they all enjoy dancing, so you should just let go and follow them. You will have a great time, partying until wee hours.

One of the few local vegetarian dishes
One of the few local vegetarian dishes
I haven't tried any restaurants since I was always eating with friends at their home or in the palmerie.
Basically, what you can expect to get as food is salad, couscous, lentils, rice, chicken or mutton. Algerians also eat plenty of bread with their meals.
If you like spicy food, you must try harissa, spicy red paste which goes well with couscous.
For vegetarians, it is not so easy to get them understand that you don't eat meat, have to be insistent on that.

Other recommendations:
Bounoura and the palmerie
Bounoura and the palmerie
Just walk around in the palmerie. Visit the old towns and do some shopping and haggling. There are not many tourists and you will help some of the local vendours earn some money. Mzab is famous for its colourful carpets. There are also many different spices worth trying.

Published on Friday January 26th, 2007

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Tue, Feb 13 2007 - 07:36 PM rating by travler

A very well written report. The picture of the salad made me famished.

Wed, Feb 07 2007 - 04:08 PM rating by magsalex

Thanks for this great contribution. I learned a lot about a new place.

Thu, Feb 01 2007 - 12:57 PM rating by akhila

Beautifully written. Excellent work and amazing pictures.

Sun, Jan 28 2007 - 09:54 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Muy bien escrito. Veo que te gusta mucho Argelia.

Sun, Jan 28 2007 - 04:45 PM rating by st.vincent

Interesting report and a good insight into a different culture

Sat, Jan 27 2007 - 01:15 PM rating by marianne

Terrific report. I will reread it it if / when I visit Ageria.

Fri, Jan 26 2007 - 06:47 PM rating by alfonsovasco

Neda, este es un report extraordinario, digno de grandes viajeros (as), como tĂș. Gracias por compartirlo.

Fri, Jan 26 2007 - 03:17 PM rating by mrscanada

I learned a lot from this report. I'd love to try some of the food.

Fri, Jan 26 2007 - 02:02 PM rating by davidx

Exceptionally interesting and informative.

Fri, Jan 26 2007 - 07:54 AM rating by rangutan

A perfect exotic and very special report!

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