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Friday, January 20, 2012

Al Qal'a of Beni Hammad

Friday, January 20, 2012 12 Comments so far
In a mountainous site of extraordinary beauty, the ruins of the first capital of the Hammadid emirs, founded in 1007 and demolished in 1152, provide an authentic picture of a fortified Muslim city. The mosque, whose prayer room has 13 aisles with eight bays, is one of the largest in Algeria.

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Al Qal'a of Beni Hammad

The Qal'a of Beni Hammad is a remarkable archaeological site located 36 km to the north-east of the town of M'Sila. This ensemble of preserved ruins, at 1,000 m altitude, is located in a mountainous setting of striking beauty on the southern flank of Djebel Maâdid. The Qal'a of Beni Hammad was founded at the beginning of the 11th century by Hammad, son of Bologhine (founder of Algiers), and abandoned in 1090 under the threat of a Hilalian invasion. It is one of the most interesting and most precisely dated monumental complexes of the Islamic civilization. It was the first capital of the Hammadid emirs and enjoyed great splendour. The Qal'a comprises, within 7 km of partially dismantled fortified walls, a large number of monumental vestiges, among which are the great Mosque and its minaret, and a series of palaces. The mosque, with its prayer hall comprising 13 naves of 8 bays is the biggest after that of Mansourah and its minaret is the oldest in Algeria after that of Sidi Boumerouane. The ruins of the Qal'a bear witness to the great refinement of the Hammad civilization, an original architecture and the palatial culture of North Africa.

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The Qal'a of Beni Hammad bears exceptional testimony to the Hammadid civilization now disappeared. Founded in 1007 as a military stronghold, it was elevated to the level of metropolis. It has influenced the development of Arab architecture as well as other civilizing influences, including the Maghreb, Andalusia and Sicily. The archaeological and monumental vestiges of the Qal'a of Beni Hammad, among which are included the Great mosque and its minaret as well as a series of palaces, constitute the principal resources that testify to the wealth and influence of this Hammadid civilization.

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Protection and management requirements (2009)

The protection of the site relates to National Law 98-04 concerning the protection of cultural heritage. The management of the site is entrusted to the Office of Cultural Properties Management and Exploitation (OGEBC), with the site manager being responsible for everyday management. The OGEBC is responsible, besides public service missions, protection, maintenance and presentation, of the implementation of the protection and presentation plan of the site (PPMVSA). This is done in coordination with the Directorate for Culture of the Wilaya of Setif, and specifically with a service responsible for conservation and presentation of cultural heritage. The need for funding and specialised professional personnel is still very important for the implementation of the plan. The management must focus on the restoration and conservation programme of the vestiges. The site is hardly visited - a few thousand visitors annually - and tourism does not constitute a threat for its conservation.

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