Melika is worth a visit, despite not as well known as Ghardaia or Beni Isguen. For the one who visits for the first time, all cities look alike, but after some time, one can see the differences in architecture or people behaviour.
In Beni Isguen the strange fortifications isolating the city from the desert do not look as a real military construction. Only near the main city doors do the wall look like real walls. In beniIsguen the foreigner are not allowed to stay during the night, except they have guests.
The Wilaya (the residence of the wali), the prefecture; this is the main administrative building in Ghardaia; it is on the squared market place; on this place, the movie maker M. Lakhdar Amina directed a scene of massacre of Algerian by French troops for his movie “Chronique des annees de braise” , Palme d’or in Cannes , 1975.
It is now again a quiet market place and. . . Oh, a women there, at right, under the umbrella.
Again this mosquee, with the inclined pillars, the windows, the ceilings made of palm tree trunks. You could stay there for hours, specially when it is so hot outside; may be the architect wanted people to stay inside as much as possible.
It is not an effect of alcohol on the photographer, the pilars are inclined, as the whole building seems, if you look at small parts one after the other; but as a whole, the Sidi Brahim mosquee is a solid building. And inside, it is cool enough to concentrate on prayer rather than being disturbed by heat and sweat. Of all the mosquees I visited in Africa or Asia, it is one of my favorites; I do not pray, but places like this one are really inspiring, lead to meditation.
It is sais this tiny old mosquee inspired Le Corbusier (French Architect) for building a well known modern church in France (Ronchamp) . Indeed, the shape, the rigorous style, the beautiful design , are stunning here in this environment.This mosquee has been build in the 11th century, and it contains relmains of Sidi brahim, a muslimscholar of El Ateuf. To me this construction integrates perfectly in the desert environment, and looking at it for some time in the late afternoon just fills your heart with peace.
In the Mzab, the cemeteries are ouside the cities. The old cemeteries are not maintained and only grave plates and some pottery remain ; the cemetery looks like a field where the rocks grow in anarchic pattern. The place is very hot and there are no flowers on the graves (water is too precious) ; muslim usually decorate parcimoniously their cemeteries, but here, austerity is at its maximum.
The streets here, like in Ghardaia are narrow, but more steep. Children play in the streets and the colors are always so pastel.It looks, like in many North African cities that electricity and telephone were installed without clear plan, but, at least it seems to work and does not bother the children who play.
The Mosquee of Ghardaia is surrounded by a corridor of arches; this is a typical Mozabite architectural element; nowadays, people still go for praying in the mosquee which has been renovated several times since its construction, but always keping the original style (if not the material, some concrete bricks are used now).
Fresh dates are succulent. If the season is right and you have some space in your luggage, it is worth to take home (for those who do not have agricultural or health restrictions at the customs); if you cannot tke home, eart as muvh as posible, fresh dates taste unbelievabely better than packed dates.
The Oued (wadi) Mzab carries water at surface during a few hours a year, and underground in an alluvial reservoir; this water is pumped and used for watering the gardens and orchards belonging to the different Mzab cities; the orchards are generally belonging to communities who exploit and maintain them; during summer (there is a difference between winter and summer), many people live in the gardens area, where the heat is not as high as between the walls of the city. A part of the dates production is exported to the northern citie of Algeria, but they are not as famous as the deglet nour (bright fingers) of the Biskra oasis.
For the visitor, these gardens are a haven for a rest after walking between the walls or on the nude rocks.
I do not like to take pictures of people without asking or explicitely showing what I am doing; the women here are an exception, I took the pics without asking: look, you make pics with the camera closing one eye (specially the old cameras), imagine you are the whole day with one closed eye. The women in Mzab (and other places in northern Sahara), wear clothes and a scarf hiding all of them except one eye! The whole adult life with one eye! (at least ouside their homes). Is that a muslim or an older tradition?
The garden outside the city look cool fresh; when there is some space left and some water nearby, the mozabites grow ficus trees for some shadow and palmtrees for the dates and because they have a majestuous look. Here, it is a small garden within the city or very close. Mozabites also run big palm orchards outside the city (the will be another tip. . )
In fact only the tourists walk in the open streets at noon! Better to have a walk in the covered streets, the temperature there is rather cool (everything is reletive), and the contrast between dark covered streets and the bright open streets is stunning; are the carpets here the end of the street, a private area?
Generally there are few people in the streets around noon; only tourists and some children dare to go out at that time; here again the streets are not unicolored . You can wlk and walk for hours climbing up and down the streets and stairs, get lost in that labyrinthic casbah, but you always have something new to see, and even you walk 2 or 3 times in the same street you are not sure you were there before!