Monday, January 9, 2012

Ksar. Tunisia-A city-fortress in the heart of the desert!

In the south of Tunisia, the weather is extreme. Resources are scarce and rainfall is scarce. For the semi-nomadic tribes Berber, keep their supplies safe from the temperature variations and the looting enemies has always been a priority. This need gave way to a typical building, the Ghorfa. The main feature of these domed structures is the verticality, are up to six storeys high, with only 10 feet deep and three centreline. Its irregular holes are closed with wooden doors of palm, and its thick stone walls help to keep the inside of the Ghorfa an optimal temperature for the crop drying. The exterior walls are sometimes decorated with hand and foot prints. Access to the upper floors, is solved by a system of exterior stairs, flying from the sturdy walls. After its apparent arbitrariness, each element responds to a specific need resolved with the available materials in an environment where almost everything is scarce.

Building a Ghorfa was extremely simple. Firstly constructed two parallel walls 1.5 meters high with small rocks bonded with clay. Then in the resulting gap between these two walls were placed baskets of mud to exceed the height of the walls, and on them was about a structure previously braided straw-shaped arch. Once this rudimentary arch, were placed on her stone pieces that would form the vault, also locked in some cases mud and plaster with mortar. Once complete, the formwork was removed. Finally, the walls were revoked and the front wall was built which close the barn.

The Ghorfa, far from being exempt buildings, usually grouped in fortified structures arranged around a central void. The set is known as Ksar, and usually found on high plateaus or in the side of a rocky promontory. The exterior walls are presented as powerful continuous, interrupted only by a gateway. Centuries ago, the Ksar inhabited buildings containing the guardians of the fort. Also residing there the elderly and sick who could not stand the constant movement of the semi-nomadic life. The Ksour served as place of assembly and trade of these Berber tribes in times of peace, and were very useful as strongholds in time of war. The large quantity of provisions stored andoccasionally the existence of wells, became best places to withstand protracted sieges.

Even today many Ksour preserved in the southern region of Tunisia, near the towns of Medenine, Tataouine, Ksar Ouled Soltane Haddad and Ksar. Nevertheless, the Ksour have lost their raison d'礙tre when the Berber tribes became sedentary. Many of these sets were destroyed. Others were simply abandoned. A small part of them were retained and have been converted into barns, houses or even resorts. The film was popular in the West these structures visualized in the movie Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. But its origin and how strictly derived from the need to survive where resources are meager. Nothing to do with science fiction.

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