Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dar Hassan Pacha

This palace was built in 1790/1791 by Hassan Bacha El Khaznadji (Pasha Hassan the Treasurer) who was the Minister of Finances of Alger's Dey Mohammed Ben Othman (1766 till 1791). As testimony of past, this Moresque palace still keeps the name of the Pasha Hassan. It is situated in front of Dar Aziza and adjoins the Mosque Ketchaoua. It is necessary to note that at that time the Minister Hassan Bacha to make sure the nearness of his daughter Khdawedj had acquired the Palace of Princesses Khdaouedj, a famous monument we will describe here later.

Well preserved thanks to long lasting restorations, this palace does not however look like it is original look ; mainly because of the major modifications brought to its facade when it was of used as Winter palace to the French governor of Algiers between 1839-1841. Hotel of famous hosts, the place keeps the spirit of the passage of NAPOLÉON III (on 1860 and 1865) as well as that of the President Emile LOUBET (1903).
This monument of the algéroise memory notably sheltered the Ministry of the religious Affairs in the 1990s.

A beautiful description of the internal arrangement made in the daily newpaper el watan indicates that the ancient door is situated in the street street Sheik El Qanaïde Soudan (eg street of Sudan). The door is still decorated with a stony frame of ogivales windows and a gate with marble columns chatters were fitted out there. The luxurious residence consists of three levels heightened by a menzah (a terrace). The vast central patio is overhung by a window allowing the beautiful light of Algiers to blackmail the building.

Walls are still covered with patches of delft. Other stone floors are of Italian origin. The second accessible level by a staircase is surrounded with a balustrade in openwork woodwork. The superior floor which shelters a big glazed room was reserved for the dey. The Dey welcomed his distinctive hosts there. Walls are decorated with an enamel of Delft, Italy and Tunisia of the XVIth century; what lets think that the elements of decorations would have been used originally in other palaces. The Diwan ( advice(council) was held in the palace of Djenina, a element of the city which today disappeared.

The palace was classified historical on 01/02/1982 (J.O.n ° 10 of 14/03/1982)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Djamma lihoud / Old Grand Synagogue of Algiers

In 1962 the Algerian Jewish community consisted of 150 000 people. Those were mainly composed of descendants of Jews who fled the devastation of Jerusalem in 930 BC. jc, Berber converted Jews, Jews of Andalusia and a minority of Europeans.

In the casbah, the Jewish population lived in the Jewish-Arab area composed of the high and low casbah, it was bounded by a low-lying area inhabited by Spanish descendants and the area bounded by the rue d'Isly where the major part of the français bourgeois resided.

Many synagogues served as a place of worship in the Jewish community Algiers. The Great Synagogue of Algiers, called after the Grand Rabbi Bloch, is the best known. This building was built in the lower casbah in 1850 in the wake of the street Randon now best known as Amar Ali (aka Ali la Pointe).

(The Synagogue in 1900)

After independence and the departure of the major Jewish Algerian community, this empty place was transformed into a mosque and a minaret was added.

Built in a Moorish style, the building has a large central dome ; from the inside the high ceilings are highly surprising and give a feeling of elevation. On both sides of the square formed by the building, steep wooden stairs lead to small niches that like balconies are decorated with beautiful wooden railings. The front of the building offers a vision of a big door with two columns and two side doors. In the 1990s, a covered ablution area was built on the forecourt of the former Great Synagogue. Although the inhabitants of algiers still call it "the mosque of the jews" (djamaa lihoud) some may find it under the name of "Djamaa Ben Fares".

(By Yann Arthus Bertrand 2006)

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Casbah

Built in the XVI century, this wonderful architectural ensemble lies down over 1,5 hectare. This micro-city organised around a central place has been called the Casbah, a name extended to the berber and ottoman houses sizing the hill of the moorish city.

Recalling to our memories the period of the Ottoman regency of Algiers. This place is since 1992 classifed the by the UNESCO as being part of world architectual heritage.

It is in a climat of extreme violence, after the assasination of several kings of Algiers that Dey Ali Khodja decided to quite the El-jenina palace to establish his head-quarters in this fortifed place.

At that time the original casbah was organised around blocks delimiting the king official from its private life. Facing the residence of the Beys,the visitor will find in the eastern part of the palace a powder magazin as well as the central palace housing the official hall. Behind this structure, the Dey's private appartemts, called also the harem, are protected by the yaniceri block. The private mosque of the king and his family lies immediatly after.

In the casbah the taxes collected by the beys of the Titerri, the eastern and western provinces were refunded to the dey of Algiers which in turn had to transfert them to Istanbul authorities ; The Dey Arroudj Hussein was the last king of Algiers to be nominated by the Ottoman authorities tu rule Algiers and its dependent provinces as a source of wealth for the Ottmani empire.

The Casbah is mostly famous for helding the "fan incident"; a French pretext for occupying Algeria 130 years.
In 1830, after the french army took control of algiers, the dey's apartment were occupied by the General-in chief of the Army. In 1847, the Harem was transformed into the General headquaterters of the Army before being occupied by tailors and shoemakers. As the Guardroom of the Turkish guards called the Yaniceri was occupied by the Canteen managers, the private mosque of the Dey was transformed into barracks for artillerymen.

Another mosque called Djamaa el barani, which is adjoined to the casbah was transformed into a church and baptised sainte croix church

Friday, January 11, 2008

El Penon - The Spanish period

In 1510, after Bejaïa was conquered by the Spaniards, Algiers became dependent on catholic Spain. To escape destruction, the city authorities abandoned one of the islands facing the city to Spain (El Peñon de Argel). It is D. Diego de Vera, commander of the Mediterranean sea fleet which was in charge of occupying an building a fortress on the small island of the Beni-Mezrena Medina.

It is thus with the "assent" of Algiers inhabitants that supplied the necessary materials and worked even with the Spanish soldiers that this castle was built. Forced, in 1511, El-Djazaïr signed a treaty recognizing the autonomy of the Penon. The loss of the authority of the city on the Penon was then felt in a rough way.

After Ferdinand the Catholic died in 1516, the king of Algiers tried to escape a treaty engaging him to pay an annual tax to Spain ; Selim Etteumi appealed to the Ottoman-Greek pirate Arudj (Arroudj) Barbarossa to dislodge them. After numerous attempts of reconquest, Arroudj gave up the power. His brother Khayr al-Din took over him and thirteen years later in 1529 he destroyed the Penon after a strong attack.

The Peñon fortress was completely destroyed with the the exception of two towers. A part of the Spanish occupants was killed and the other took as slaves.
Christians were then enlisted to take charge with filling the channel separating the island from the continent. A Mole of 200 meters long, 25 meters wide and 4 meters high was built. The mole marked then the beginning of the naval base of the Regency.

In 1541, under the government of Hassan Pacha a tower, which shelters the current lighthouse, was built on the ruins of El Penon. The mole will then experience numerous modifications during the Ottoman and French occupation to become what is called today the Admiralty. Its shelters nowadays barracks of the navy.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The cave of Miguel de Cervantes

One of the historical spots that the Medina offers since the 16th century is the cave of the prestigious Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), author of the immortal novel "Don Quixote de la Mancha", edited in 1605.
This cave is always accessible situated in the district of Belouizdad (Algiers) where it is nestled in a hollow of the cliff overlooking the beach in the Bay of Algiers.

The restoration of this natural and historical spot were recently achieved with the sponsorship of the Spanish company Repsol. This place that inspired the writer in his writings is made up of 4 distinct parts: the cave, preserved in a state close to its origin, the shelter, the balcony with a splendid view over the bay of Algiers and the esplanade. This place was built in the past to ease the cave access. In the middle is erected, thanks to the Spanish community Algiers, a stele since 1887 in memory of the captive of Algiers.

(Picture : Fellous Amina)

Miguel de Cervantes spent five years in Algiers after being captured by the flotilla commanded by the Ottoman Mamí Arnaut (meaning Mami the Albanian) on Sept. 26, 1575 while he was returning to the Spain on the galley Sol after his stay in Naples. Cervantes is assigned with his brother Rodrigo as a slave to the Greek Dali Mamí. Finding in his possession letters of recommendations written by the Don Juan of Austria and the Duke of Sessa led his jailers to think that Cervantes was very important and that they could get a good ransom. The price for his release was set at Five hundred gold Ecu. During a second attempt to escape, Cervantes and his companions had to hide in the cave waiting for a Spanish galley that would come on the beach in Algiers. The galley who tried to approach twice the beach was taken by the guards of the king of Algiers Hassan Pasha. Discovered Cervantes was then put under surveillance. 

Back in his country after his liberty was bought by the Trinitarian Juan Gil in 1580, Cervantes put then all his efforts in writing until his death in 1616.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

El-Jenina or Dar Es´soltan el kedima

This berbre Fort which was the residence of the King of the Thaaliba tribe and King of the Mitidja Selim ETTEUMI (Toumi), owes its name to a small garden placed in its northern side. This palace was built near the center of the Medina.

When the Turks took the power in Algiers in the beginning of the XVI century, Baba Arroudj who became king of the city settled down in this Palace. Place of governance of El-djazair, its first restorations were made between 1552 and 1556 under Salah Raïs Ben Djaafar era.

This State residence was Ali Khodja´s Government hall until 1817; main acts of regency took place there ex. judgements of political crimes ; The Jenina held Diwan meetigs as well as those of algier´s consuls ; Yeni Ceri ( Janissairs) perceived their salary there.

On November, 1st, 1817 Ali Khodja transfered the power place to the Citadel of the Casbah. This foritfied building was placed at the top of the triangle which formed then the city to El-djazair. El-Jenina will then be called by the population Dar El soltane el kadima (Former house of the Sultan) In 1830, the French occupied it and installed the clock of the city there. The Jenina served then as accommodation center for the army.

In 1844, a devastating fire destoyed a part of the building. Regrettably twelve years later, in 1856, the colonial authorities destoyed the anciant palace to replace it by recent buildings. A street of the low Kasbah will be called after this lost palace.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The streets of Algiers before 1830

Map of Algiers´ medina before 1830

The Berber medina mistakenly called Casbah, has been fortified by the Barbarossa brothers to resist English, Spanish and French attempts to invade Algiers. The fortification works which ended in 1542 encircled the ancient city over 70 acres, with a wall of 11 to 13 meters in height. Made of mud bricks, this wall was collected with lime mortar comprising oily soil red and sand career. The wall lied on a bedrock of tuff. A vestige of this monumental achievement can be still admired in front of the entrance of the Serkadji prison .

The fortified Medina, which is built on a hill, then presented 7 Gates (Bab) : Bab-el-Oued (Creek Gate), Bab-triq-essour (Gate of the path of fortification), Bab-azzoun (Gate of Azzoun), Bab-dzira (Gate of the island), Bab l´bhar (Gate of the Sea), Bab-jdid (New Gate) and Bab al-casbah (Gate of the Kasbah): Sole remainaings of these legendary names are the Gate of the Casbah and abstract benchmarks.

The gate of Azzoun in 1832

Many narrow streets along the medina. Many of these streets are former Roman paths or filled ravines which served as open sewer at the time Berber. Streets names are mainly given after the occupation of adjoining shops: zenqat sebbaghines (street tinctoria), zenqat bechmagdjia (shoemakers), zenqat ferraghia (fondry), zenqat ressassia (plumbers) or zenqat Mqaissia (bracelets manufacturer) are few examples of these names.
Beside these names, others were refering to adjoining activities or spots descriptions ex : Mcid eddalia (School of the venyard ), Fern el-djmal(Windmill of the Camels), Hammam Maleh (Baths of salted water), Sabat el hout (Vault of the fish ), Ain Hamara (Red fountain), Souk djama echema°in (Market "mosque of the Candlemakers"), Kahouet (Café ), Homa (Area), Kouchet el khondok (Oven of the gutter), Akba´t Chaouech (Chaouech´s Hill), Zaouia (Spiritual brotherhood ),Derb l´ksir (Small door entrance of a district ), Bir el medbah (Well of the slaughterhouse), Dar Serkadji (Serkadji´s house), Triq el-casbah (Casbah´s way) ....

The city has benefited very early by the Roman with a water supply delivering drinking water. This network was latter enriched by Andalous populations who built new aqueduct made of pottery . In the 17 century the Turks will improve the sewage system by digging evacuations 1m under the irrigation system.

The earthquakes of 1364 and 1716 distroyed a good part of the berber city built by the Beni-Mezrena tribe. The South districts of the medina which sheltered before 1830 many Mosques, Souks, Fondouks (hotels) and Palaces have been soon after occupation destroyed by the french army to ease troops transportation. Several architectural modifications will then be brought over the years to give the city its first european stamps.

Algiers at the origin (TOP)

Old Algiers- The Casbah´s five doors 16th century

The city of Algiers was built in 960 by the founder of the Zirid dynasty Bologhine ibn Ziri on the remainings of the antique phenician Ikosim (The island with the gulls)(IV B.C). However, a legend would award twenty (Eikosi) Hercule´s companion the original name of this commercial city.
The name Algiers (Alger) stems from the Catalan "Alguère" which stems itself from the Arabic word Jezaïr (D´zaïr) (جزائر), meaning islands. This name was in fact given in refence to small islands facing the city before being connected to the continent just after 1530 by the Turkish king of Algiers Kheireddin Barbarousse.