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Gharda´a, Mzab, Algeria.
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Gharda´a, Mzab, Algeria.

Valley oasis in Algeria with approximately 360,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), situated in the Sahara, in the middle of the country.
The valley is 10 km long. The economic base of the valley is oasis agriculture, trade, handicrafts and tourism. M'zab has about 3,000 wells, which supply 270,000 date palms with water. The inhabitants of M'zab are called Mozabites, and belong to the Ibadi branch of the Muslim sect of Kharijis. The main town is Gharda´a, and there are 4 other towns in M'zab: Beni Isguen, Melika, Bou Noura and El Ateuf. Beni Isguen is the religious centre, and only Muslims are allowed to stay overnight here.
M'zab is famous for its architecture, which is dominated by simple structures, curving walls and no ornamentation. Streets are narrow, and all of the towns are situated with one, very visible mosque in its centre, situated on a rocky knoll. Colours are limited to white, light brown and blue. People of M'zab dress in equally simple garments, even today.

1012: The Ibadiyys moves from Ouargla region to M'zab, in an attempt to escape persecutors and robbers. 5 towns are built during the following 36 years, Gharda´a being the last.
Around 1850: The Mozabites do not fight the colonizing French, and are left in peace during the French period, which lasts until the 1960s.

By Tore Kjeilen