The kasbah at the heart of Amazigh architecture

The traditional earthen housing of the Berber world in Morocco

The kasbah, a notable’s house :

The kasbah, called Tighremt in the Amazigh language, designates these imposing earthen houses which mark out the whole of the territory of South-East Morocco over its wadis, in the valleys of Drâa, Dadès, Toudgha, Ziz or Ghriss .

The kasbah is part with the ksar of the traditional architectural model of the Berber communities living in the oasis territories. These buildings reflect an ancestral know-how to exploit natural elements, earth, stone or bamboo, and thus adapt to the climatic conditions specific to these pre-Saharan areas.

Kasbahs have always been the privileged habitat of wealthy families with economic, social or warlike weight. They were built on several levels and those belonging to local notables could reach up to six floors.

Casbah Amridil dans la palmeraie de Skoura
Kasbah Amridil in the palm grove of Skoura

The kasbah, icon of Morocco :

As soon as you cross the Atlas passes, you feel like you are entering a new country. There the Mediterranean world expires and there the Saharan world begins. At the same time as the vegetation becomes rare, as the light and the very color of the ground change, other architectures appear. Dry stone gives way to rammed earth and raw brick, while forms of new purity and regularity emerge.”

Croquis de Charles de Foucauld - 1883
from google pictures
Kasbah de l'Atlas par Jacques Majorelle - 1939
kasbah of the atlas (from google pictures)

Building techniques :

“In wooden formwork, we pound a soaked clay soil, mixed with pebbles. This coarse mortar is always lime-free. As soon as a base is dry enough to have a certain consistency, we move on to the next layer. The wall thus rises in courses of approximately eighty centimeters in height. The thickness is always quite considerable in relation to its height: it commonly reaches in large buildings one meter at the base, but decreases to fifty centimeters on the upper floors. »

“The formwork is made of beams and thick planks roughly hewn with an axe. The earth and pebble mortar is spread in layers of fifteen to twenty centimeters. The masons climb into the formwork and pound the rammed earth following invariable rhythms, marked with impeccable clarity. »

“The drumsticks punctuate a melody constantly repeated. The lyrics of this work song may have changed many times over the centuries, but its rough and sour simplicity is such that it seems to be one of the oldest songs in the world. However little we have heard this bitter melody that is at once lively, resigned and vaguely painful, we never forget the haunting song and the dull tambourine of the adobe beaters. »

Casbah de Taourirte - Travaux de réhabilitation
Casbah of Taourirte – Rehabilitation works

“The walls thus formed take on a great hardness when drying. Their worst enemy is the humidity which penetrates them and gradually disintegrates them. In the mountainous regions where the rammed earth building is at the limit of resistance, the base of the walls is sometimes built of dry stone or rubble bound with earth.

No doubt these walls are covered with a plaster of earth, most often mixed with chopped straw, fairly carefully smoothed and which resists the rain for some time.To give these adobe buildings some duration, they have to be constantly maintained: securing the base of the walls and redoing the coatings. »

Casbah de Taourirte - Fabrication de briques en terre
Kasbah of Taourirte
La technique du pisé au Maroc
Pisay technique

The Kasbah of Telouet:

Telouet means meeting place, meeting place. Founded by during the second half of the 19th century, this imposing residence was both a family residence and a military base overlooking the caravan trail to the south.

The kasbah then becomes the place of the Glaoui family from which will come various caïds who will have authority over a large part of south-eastern Morocco.

Currently, the enclosure is almost collapsed and important parts of the rest of the constructions are in very bad condition, a large part of the roof has collapsed. Only a few arches of the interior patio remain visible and bear witness to the luxury of yesteryear.

Foto Antigua kasbah de Telouet de pawopa3336 en Envato Elements
from google pictures

Kasbah Amridil :

Tour o ruta de las 1000 kasbahs. Las más conocidas - El blog de Vertierra -  Destinos, experiencias, viajes temáticos… Disfruta y participa de toda la  actualidad de Vertierra.

The Kasbah of Talmalsa :

On the right bank of the Ouarzazate wadi at the level of the douar of Talmalsa is the so-called kasbah of the storks. It is a private property of the Glaoui family. Formerly it served as a place of command.

Built of rammed earth and mud bricks, this kasbah consists of three levels, the highest of which was richly decorated, as well as the towers of the surrounding wall. The terraces and the majority of the ceilings are collapsed in addition to the interior and exterior walls.

Les ruines de la casbah des cigognes

My opinion :

The city Ouarzazat represents a huge part of my life, my grandparents’ house was based there. We’ve always went there at least once a year. Ouarzazat is rather a small city, especially comparing to Marrakech,the city I live in, but that never bothered us that much since we mainly go there to meet our family members and gather, sometimes celebrating weddings or our holidays and others for just the sake of being together, we cooked beautiful meals, played games and stayed up late telling silly stories, talking about everything and nothing. They were simply unreplaceable days full of laughter and beautiful memories. While there we sometimes go out to explore the city and it’s surrounding, and that’s when I had the chance to visit some of these Kasbah and some cinematic museums and studios, these monuments remind you so much of how architecture begun, away from all the modern large buildings, and give you a small glimpse on a lifestyle that goes to years back. I’ve always loved exploring them and knowing the story behind each part.They are truely a piece of art.