After the Arab conquest in the 7th century, Algiers, which emerged from a Carthaginian settlement, became a flourishing city. The Kasba gives a picture of Muslim culture and way of life. The main attractions include the citadel, the Safir Mosque and the eleven-aisled El Kebir Mosque.
Old town of Algiers: facts
|Official title:||Kasbah (old town) of Algiers|
|Cultural monument:||the old town, called El-Djazair-Beni-Mezghenna, built on a 118 m high hill; Buildings such as the Safir Mosque, the eleven-aisled El Kebir Mosque, the El Djamaa Djedid (New Mosque), the Ali Bitchine Mosque, the burial mosque of Sidi Abderrahmane, and the Ketchaoua Mosque|
|Location:||Algiers (Al Jaza’ir), east of Cherchell|
|Meaning:||unique urban structure of an Islamic old town|
Old town of Algiers: history
|3rd century BC Chr.||Established as Ikosim|
|5th century||complete destruction by vandals|
|647||Arab invasion of what is now Algeria|
|910||Rule of the Fatimid dynasty|
|1519||Algiers under the patronage of the Sultan of Constantinople|
|1575-80||The Spanish poet Miguel de Cervantes was imprisoned in the citadel|
|1711||under Dey Baba Ali, Algiers was removed from the domain of the Ottoman Sultan|
|1815||American naval forces attack Algiers|
|1816||Destruction of the privateer fleet operating from Algiers by the English and Dutch naval forces|
|1830||French troops march into Algeria, see best-medical-schools|
|1847||French victory over the forces of the Emir Abd al-Kader|
|1848||Algeria declared French territory|
|1954-62||Algerian War of Independence|
|1965||Shooting in the Kasbah for the film »Battle of Algiers«|
Corsairs, freedom fighters, terrorists
The walls that made it famous no longer exist. None of the gates, whose names were only whispered in Turkish times because they also served as places of execution, closes at nightfall. Today the Kasbah of Algiers is hidden behind town houses from the French era, and only in the evening, when the sun goes down and the glaring light takes on a transparent reddish color, you can see hundreds of them between the two minarets of the Ketchaoua Mosque from clotheslines and even more parabolic antennas. The houses themselves remain invisible. Even from the sea, when arriving on one of the ferries from Marseille, only a yellowish white mass can be seen.
The Kasbah hides its beauty and at the same time its misery behind a veil of the inaccessible, woven from a myth of vanished glory and everlasting cruelty. In the maze of narrow streets, sometimes only two meters wide, which do not seem to follow any recognizable pattern and all too often end in dead ends, Christians who have been enslaved for centuries from hijacked European sailing ships wept. In the war of independence against France, the freedom fighters played cat and mouse with the colonial soldiers, jumping over the roofs from house to house, from quarter to quarter, and reappearing behind the oppressors. At the beginning of the 1990s, “holy warriors of Islam” of the FLN party again chose the kasbah as their refuge. Blood has flowed through the centuries. Even the residents of Algiers, if they live in other quarters of the almost four million city, have set foot in the old town only in the rarest of cases. The fairy tale of the Kasbah residents being hostile to all foreigners continues to this day.
“The builders of the kasbah created a masterpiece of architecture and urban planning,” enthused Le Corbusier at the beginning of the century. The Swiss architect found well-tempered houses, shady alleys and a functioning infrastructure and was inspired by them. But after independence in 1962, the decline began: “Les Citadins”, the townspeople, left their houses in the winding kasbah to take over the modern apartments that had been abandoned by the Europeans. Their successors, farmers and ranchers, who had followed the call of prosperity in the capital, did not adapt to the city, but rather the city to its farming traditions. The number of residents increased so much that the mostly two-story wooden and mud houses literally collapsed:
The result is dirt and decay. The once closed rows of houses are more and more interrupted by ruins, and more stable, but stylistically different concrete buildings take up space. The workshops of weavers, basket weavers, coppersmiths, potters and wood carvers have either given way to shops selling cheap imported goods or have simply been converted into living space.
But a thousand years after the founding of El-Djazair-Beni-Mezghenna by the Berber prince Hammad ben Bologhine, the city’s conscience seems to be stirring. The departure into the modern age is accompanied by a reflection on the roots. The restoration of some palaces has already begun with the help of foreign donors, and the residents are gradually being settled in the surrounding areas. In a few years, the city leaders dream, the renovated kasbah will become the intellectual, cultural and handicraft center of Moloch Algiers, an oasis of painters, poets and thinkers.