The M’Zab valley: desert, architecture and palm trees!
The M’Zab valley, some 600 kms south of Algiers, is a a place that you won’t easily forget:, for its landscape, architecture and traditions. It is composed of a huge oasis and five towns, Ghardaïa being the main one and often used to refer to all five (the other four are Melika, Beni Isguen, Bou Noura and Al Atteuf). The M’zab valley is clasified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its very peculiar buildings inspired many great architects, such as Le Carbousier.
These towns are home to the Mozabites, who broke from mainstream Islam centuries ago and have kept their own traditions and way of life in this lost valley. This branch of Islam is fairly conservative and you will see many people wearing traditional dress: men dressed with baggy pants and women in a white sheet which leaves only one eye visible. They are not fond of being photographed, so always ask first. Some of the towns, such as Ben Isguen can only be visited with a guide, but it is really worth it. In the Oasis you will find very cheap guesthouses, clean and with a great atmosphere. I would personnally recommend Akham, in Beni Isguen (the food is fantastic!) .Don’t miss a visit to the market of Ghardaïa, known for its carpets and go to Seb-Seb to have a pre-taste of the Sahara!