Friday, January 20, 2023

Casbah Algiers


The Casbah (Arabic: قصبة, qaṣba, meaning citadel) is the citadel of Algiers in Algeria and the traditional quarter clustered around it. In 1992, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Kasbah of Algiers a World Cultural Heritage site, as "There are the remains of the citadel, old mosques and Ottoman-style palaces as well as the remains of a traditional urban structure associated with a deep-rooted sense of community." Wikipedia

The word kasbah may be used to describe the old part of a city, in which case it has the same meaning as a medina quarter. In Algiers, the name qasaba originally referred to the upper part of the city which contained the citadel and residence of the rulers. Following the French conquest of the country in 1830, most of the historic lower town of Algiers was demolished and remodeled along European lines. The only part of the old city that remained relatively untouched was the upper town, thus known as the "Casbah" of Algiers. Wikipedia

I have to admit I only knew of a casbah from The Clash song Rock the Casbah. This one is an interesting maze of streets and steps. People have built an upper layer of building additions covering some of the streets. There's a lot of history and some museums in this old town area, so it's good to have a tour guide to lead the way.

I found an interesting fact regarding Pépé le Moko, who was featured in a French and an American movie in the 1930s. The 1938 American movie Algiers showed Charles Boyer saying "Come with me to ze Casbah" in the movie trailer even though that line wasn't in the movie. The line was stuck to the actor thanks to generations of impressionists and Looney Tunes parodies.

What Looney Tunes parody? Animator Chuck Jones based the character of Pepé Le Pew, the romantic skunk introduced in 1945, on Boyer with his voice imitated by Mel Blanc and the catch phrase "Come with me to ze Casbah."

A more serious and real history of the Casbah can be seen in the critically acclaimed1966 movie The Battle of Algiers, which depicts events in the Casbah during the Algerian War for Independence in the 1950s.

Here's what we saw at the Casbah:

old citadel (casbah) wall

a typical building interior

Notre-Dame d'Afrique

They discovered this part of the original Casbah while digging for a new metro station. This was built over during the French occupation.

The Casbah of Algiers is founded on the ruins of old Icosium in the 10th century. It was a city built on a hill, stretching towards the sea, divided into the "High city" and the "Low city". There are masonry and mosques dating from the 17th century. The Casbah also contained several palaces from the same time. In 1839, shortly after the French conquest, the French governor moved into Dar Hassan Pacha. In 1860, Napoleon III and Eugénie de Montijo visited. Before French rule, the casbah contained around 13 Jama Masjids, 109 mosques, 32 mausoleums and 12 Zawiyas, total of 166 religious-related buildings. However, the majority of these religious buildings were destroyed during the occupation. Wikipedia

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