The valley of M'zab, مزاب, also called M'zab, is an oasis region in central Algeria (Province Ghardaia ), which is mainly inhabited by the Mozabiten and is since 1982 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These descendants of the Kharijites practice a strict form of Islam, in which the women from public life are almost impossible.
The region has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Since the 9th century, the sparsely populated M'zab a refuge of Kharijites was.
Traces of very early settlement have been found, but the existing sites today date from the early 11th century. The builders were Ibadis, members of a then prevailing in the Maghreb of Islam. After their capital was burnt down in Tahert in 909, they moved to Sedrata and finally to M'zab. Until then only sporadically inhabited by nomads land was chosen because of the good defenses and also in a self-imposed isolation to preserve our own identity.
Five citadel -like fortified villages or Ksour were established: El Atteuf, Bou Noura, Beni Isguen, Melika and today's capital of Ghardaia. Each is surrounded by a fortress wall and is dominated by the mosque, whose minarets serve as a watchtower. The mosque also served as an arsenal and granary and as an independent fortification in the fortress, similar to the dungeon in medieval Europe. The houses are built in several circles concentric about the mosque and each consisting of a space uniform size. Outside the walls is the cemetery, also with simple, single graves, only the shrines and mosques are decorated little more complicated.
In the 18th century the Mzab was an important trading center in the trans-Saharan trade. 1853 included the seven oases a treaty with France, which granted them autonomy. Nevertheless, the Mzab was later annexed by France.
In summer, the residents moved in palm groves, where also fortified houses and watchtowers were grouped around a mosque without a tower. This way of life was carried on continuously until the 20th century.
The valley is situated on an area of 72 sq km about 600 km south of Algiers in the Sahara. The Mzab is a rocky plateau at an altitude between 300 and 800 meters. The Wadi Mzab crosses the plateau from northwest to southeast.
The Mzab covers seven oases:
- Beni Isguen
- Bou Noura
- El Atteuf