Kasbahs – Earthen houses
Kasbah, architecture of southern Morocco
The Kasbah is a fortified complex, built with local materials and perfectly adapted to the climate. Above all, it played a defensive role with its enclosure walls, just as it also reflected the political and social structures of the groups.
Majestic red or ochre earth fortresses, generally isolated, but situated on a dominant position, with a lookout tower to watch over the valleys.
The upper parts of the kasbah are decorated with Berber-inspired geometric motifs that can be found on jewellery, carpets and tattoos worn by women.
There are relief patterns in the form of zigzag and adobes that allow for hollow patterns, pyramidal shapes that evoke the dune and others, more geometrical, laden with baraka and magical force. The interpretation of these motifs has undoubtedly been diluted in the collective unconscious for generations.
There is also a communal attic where each family was given one or more small airy rooms to store goods and crops. The population could also take refuge there in case of danger.
In the centre of the kasbah there are small, fresh alleys sheltered from the sun by a roof of palm trunks, rose oleanders and reeds. The thick walls provide good insulation and the low doors force the visitor to tilt his head. Is this a way of showing respect for the home?…
Note that doors overlooking the street can be made of palm wood for modest families and apricot wood for wealthier families. The windows are protected by iron grilles, a tradition that allows women to look outdoors without being seen. The roofs remain high to allow air circulation during the summer.
The raw material, the rammed earth
The usual construction system of all kasbahs is the adobe. This consists in piling up the moistened soil, without straw, in a wooden formwork.
The work is directed by a master craftsman who uses a wooden pestle to give it a certain consistency. Once this work has been done, a wall section is raised, then the formwork and the sticks that supported it are removed, leaving holes characteristic of adobe constructions.
An apprentice of the maâlem then takes care of the covering of the walls, covering them with a soil sifted and mixed with straw. This process effectively fights cracks and preserves extreme temperatures in both summer and winter.