February 23, National Casbah Day… discover Algiers’ historic heart

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Stitched Panorama

Algeria-Listed as a national and universal heritage, the Casbah of Algiers celebrates its day on February 23 on the occasion of National Heritage Day.

The term Casbah designates a citadel or fortified city and more generally the historic heart of a city, also called the medina. The Kasbah of Algiers represents a special kind of architectural heritage. It shelters houses and palaces, hammams, souks (trading markets), old mosques and a dense urban fabric built around community life.

The casbah of Algiers remains one of the world’s most mythical labyrinths: “a masterpiece of architecture and town planning” according to Le Corbusier, the casbah’s huddled houses tumble down the hill-side before seemingly spilling over into the sea.

The Casbah presents a model of vernacular architecture that has adapted to many challenges. First of all because of its relief since it is located on a hill, then because of the demographic increase which made densification of the building necessary.

The exterior facades of the Casbah are generally soberly decorated, the doors, patios and fountains due to the use of precious materials including marble or ceramic.

History

The Casbah of Algiers is founded on the ruins of old Icosium. It was a mid-sized city which, built on a hill, goes down towards the sea, divided in two: the High city and the Low city. One finds there mosques of the 17th century; Ketchaoua Mosque (built in 1794 by the Dey Baba Hassan) flanked of two minarets, Djama’a al-Djedid (1660, at the time of the ottomans), Djamaâ el Kebir (oldest of the mosques, it was built by Almoravid ruler Yusuf ibn Tashfin), Ali Bitchin Mosque (Raïs, 1623). The casbah also contained several palaces, including Dar Aziza, Dar Mustapha Pacha, Palace of the Dey, and Dar Hassan Pacha which was built in 1791 to house the Pasha, who lived there for eight years.

As the French occupation began, in 1839, the French governor moved into Dar Hassan Pacha. In 1860, Napoleon III and Eugénie de Montijo visited. Before the French occupation, the casbah contained around 13 Jama Masjids, 109 mosques, 32 mausoleums and 12 Zawiyas, total of 166 religious-related buildings. However, the majority of these religious buildings were destroyed during the occupation. In 1862, there were only 9 Jama Masjids, 19 mosques, 15 mausoleums and 5 Zawiyas left. Many mosques such as Ketchauoua Mosque and Berrani Mosque were converted into building with non-Islamic purposes, such as military barracks and churches.

The Casbah played a central role during the Algerian struggle for independence (1954–1962). The Casbah was considered as a safe haven for the FLN.

Celebration of National Casbah Day

On the occasion of the celebration of National Casbah Day, the Arts and Culture establishment of the wilaya of Algiers organizes activities that allow the public to discover the historic place and the authentic witness of the history of culture in Algiers.

In the program:

-The Caritas association will celebrate Casbah Day with a site visit, which will start at 10 a.m. from the Ketchaoua Mosque.

-The screening of a documentary film, which will be followed by an Algerian qaâda, is scheduled from 1:30 p.m. at the Bencheneb library of the Casbah.

-Centre of cultural activities Abane Ramdane, From February 20 to March 5, 2020 Exhibition of paintings on the heritage of the Casbah.

-Thursday February 20, 2020 at 1:30 pm, a conference on the history of the Casbah was presented by the writer and historian Chalabi Omar named Baba Arroudj under the theme: Casbah El Mahroussa.

-Also on the menu of animation and poetic reading on the event, a presentation of the special traditional dress the Casbah, a zorna show and another of chaâbi.

-Also, two bright evenings will be animated by great artists of the Chaâbie song, on Saturday February 22, 2020 from 8:00 p.m. and this at the Sahel cinema hall of Chéraga by Nacer Mokdad, Amari Larbi, Hakim El Ankis, as well as at the Ibn Khaldoun room by Abdelkader Chaou and Mohamed Chetouane.

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