The Berber Citadel (kasba)




We made our way across the Atlas Mountains and headed towards Ouarzazate and beyond towards the town of Zagora. The middle and High Atlas ranges shelter the country from the far-flung desert. It is only along Muluya valley, which separates Morrocco and Algeria, that the Sahara desert almost reaches the north coast.

 Before the spread of Islām, the whole of Maghrib [1] was almost exclusively populated by Berbers. It was only in the seventh century that the Arabs advanced from the east and, bringing with them Islāmic culture, settled chiefly in the cities.

Even in the fertile area of the Gharb, in the neighbourhood towns of Fez and Meknez, one need only ride for three hours in order to reach the black tents of the wandering herdsmen. And thus immediately next to centres of city culture are to be found people whose way of life has scarcely altered for millennia or at least since the time of Abraham (Peace be upon him).

 The Berber Citadel (kasba) are fortified towns, with high towers at their four corners, built of sun-dried mud bricks are curiously reminiscent of the buildings of ancient Mesopotamia. Probably here, in these remote protuberances of the desert, a very old building style has been preserved which once extended over wide areas of the Near East and North Africa and whose furthest extensions are to be found in the south of Arabia.


Picture: A Berber Citadel (kasba) in the Atlas Mountains


[1] This refers generally to that part of North Africa that runs from Syrtis Minor to the Atlantic coast. The Arabs call this the ‘West’ or ‘Occident’ (al Maghrib) – ‘the land of the setting sun’ and the part of this which coincides with contemporary Morocco, is called the ‘Far West’ (al Maghrib al-‘aqsa).


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