Psst…Do you want to buy a carpet? Before you answer, take a look at these vibrant coloured, hand woven beauties in the market of Ghardaïa – Algeria’s hub of carpet making activity. Even if you don’t, there is plenty more to allure you to this bustling desert town.
Or rather towns. Ghardaïa is a collection of sand-coloured settlements on the edge of the Sahara and by the river Wadi M’zab. They stand in the M’zab Valley, in the province of the same name. The five walled villages (called ksours), which sit on spectacular rocky outcrops, are collectively known as the Pentapolis. This ancient ensemble has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for the outstanding way its architecture is designed for community living.
In the M’zab Valley, little has changed in way of life since the 11th century. Islam is rigorously enforced here; local women are draped in white from head to toe and men wear a traditional saroual loubia (baggy trousers) and chéchia (head scarf). Besides their skills in carpet weaving, the people of the M’zab Valley are admired for maintaining their traditional architecture, which is as much to do with scant change in need as anything else.