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NYT: Algiers' Casbah, a World Heritage site, imploding from neglect

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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jul-22-06 09:59 PM
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NYT: Algiers' Casbah, a World Heritage site, imploding from neglect
The Crumbling of the Casbah
Published: July 23, 2006

(Farida Rahmani)
A street fountain in the Casbah, the hillside quarter of Algiers.

IT has stood for centuries, a slope of gleaming white houses climbing in steps from the sea like a construction of sugar cubes. It gave this Mediterranean port the nickname la Blanche, the white one. But despite the romance surrounding the old quarter, known as the Casbah and once home to pirates and freedom fighters, it is literally imploding from neglect.

Unesco has declared it a World Heritage site, and the Algerian government has designated it a protected landmark, to no avail. Closed in on itself, symbolizing the local populations long isolation from French colonial rulers and more recently, radical Islams retreat from modernity this seemingly impenetrable agglomeration of houses is falling down.

More than a third of the houses have collapsed, and at least another third are in an advanced state of deterioration, said Abdelkader Ammour, secretary general of a foundation that is trying to save the crumbling swatch of hidden courtyards and winding narrow streets. We dont want it to disappear.

Mr. Ammour said the problem isnt money. Its a question, he said, of political will....


Historic preservation is a luxury for steady times, and Algeria is still feeling its way toward the future from a dark and turbulent past. It has only just righted itself from a decade of fundamentalist Islamic violence. The nations focus is now on economic development. But tourism, the great engine of preservation in so many cities, is low on the list of Algerias concerns. Algeria doesnt really need tourists. It has oil. Casbahs, from the Arabic for fortified place, exist across North Africa, and many have been beautifully restored. In Algiers the word once referred only to the citadel built above the old city, but it came to mean the old city itself. When people speak of the Casbah, they are referring uniquely to this crowded hillside between the fortress and the sea....
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aint_no_life_nowhere Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-10-07 03:18 AM
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1. There are great images of the Casbah in the French movie Pepe Le Moko
Edited on Wed Jan-10-07 03:23 AM by aint_no_life_nowhere
That's an oldie from the 30's but you can rent it in many video stores. The early scenes in the film have actual footage of the Casbah as it looked in the 1930s. You see an amazing cross section of people who lived there at the time, including Chinese, Jews, Gypsies, Greeks, Arabs, Spaniards, Blacks, French, and many other ethnic groups. There's a line in the narration that says there is not one Casbah, there are hundreds of Casbahs. It was a place with marvelous narrow winding passages, often covered, where anyone who wanted to disappear and go underground, whether running from the law or not, could do it very easily.
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