Algiers' tumbledown Casbah stirs loyalty among residents

Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:15am EST
 
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By Zohra Bensemra

ALGIERS (Reuters) - With almost each step you take in the narrow, winding alleys of the tumbledown Casbah in Algiers, a resident approaches to remind you of the past glories of this UNESCO World heritage site.

Historic monuments include the 1,000-year-old Sidi Ramdane mosque and former fortress, and the Princess Khedaoudj al Amia Palace, now converted into a national museum of art and traditions.

Houses are passed down along generations, but decay and damage from an earthquake in 2003 are causing some to consider a move to modern apartments, with financial backing from the government. Others refuse to leave the tight-knit community and neighborhood they have called home for decades.

"I was born here and will die here too," said Fatouma, 89, a mother of nine daughters and four sons. "They want to rehouse us, but I am not leaving the place where I grew up."

Concrete breezeblocks are used to repair Moorish as well as more modern buildings, while functional iron doors have replaced intricate old wooden ones. Many houses have collapsed, the debris cleared by local authorities to make way for playgrounds.

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Sidi Ramdane mosque stands in the old city of Algiers Al Casbah, Algeria December 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra