With an area of more than 105 hectares and very densely populated (more than 40,000 inhabitants), this place of memory of the war of independence, and of history with its 16th century Ottoman citadel overlooking the bay of Algiers, is one of the most beautiful maritime sites in the Mediterranean.
But its buildings have deteriorated over the years, under the effect of numerous earthquakes, floods and fires triggered by dilapidated installations.
“The restoration operations of the site began as soon as the country gained independence in 1962. There were several plans, several stakeholders”, explains to AFP Aissa Mesri, head of the Archimed agency, in charge of studies and monitoring. of the restoration of the medina.
Often, “restorations are launched and then interrupted for financial, technical or legal reasons related to the property”, he explains, lamenting a lack of “clear vision” for a “Casbah project”.
Despite this, a safeguard plan was launched in 2012 with the ambition of restoring the neighborhood to its “authentic face and proposing definitive solutions for the protection of this historic and cultural center and the maintenance of part of its inhabitants in their homes”.
The project has a budget of 170 million euros.
Led by the public facilities department (DEP) of Algiers, it has already enabled the restoration of several buildings, some of which have regained their former splendor in recent years.
Among them, a part of La Citadelle also called Dar Es-Soltane, which includes the palace of the Dey (the regent of the Ottoman era), the mosque of the Dey and the powder magazine has been partially reopened to visitors since November 2020.
The mosque was decorated with earthenware, marble and Arabic serigraphy.
– Historical figures –
“A block of four houses was also delivered recently, including that of M’Barek Bouhired”, which served as a refuge for emblematic figures such as Djamila Bouhired, an icon of the war of independence.
This islet also saw Hassiba Ben Bouali, killed in combat in the Casbah, Larbi Ben M’hidi, another hero, executed in 1957 under the orders of French General Paul Aussaresses, and Yacef Saâdi, one of the symbols of the battle. from Algiers.
The plan also allowed the restoration of the Ketchaoua mosque, closed in 2008, after damage linked to a powerful earthquake five years earlier.
The religious building, with Ottoman roots, was reopened in April 2018 after 37 months of work, entirely financed by the Turkish government, at a cost of 7 million euros.
Before the safeguard plan, the authorities had launched emergency interventions to “consolidate the buildings which were in danger of collapsing”, specifies to AFP Mehdi Ali Pasha, boss of an architectural firm of the same name, specialized in heritage.
“Shoring work for more than 300 buildings was carried out in 2008 and 2013,” adds the architect, whose agency carried out the restoration studies for the block comprising the historic Bouhired residence.
– Controversies and new projects –
The restoration of the douirettes (small old houses) is sometimes hampered by the residents.
“There are dairies that have been emptied, walled up by the town hall. There, there is no problem, we can work. When the houses are inhabited, the study is done somehow with difficulties of ‘access”, laments Mr. Ali Pasha.
At the end of 2018, the rehabilitation of the Casbah had been at the heart of a controversy, both in France and in Algeria, after the decision of the Algerian authorities to entrust the French architect Jean Nouvel with the development of a ” revitalization” of this historic district.
Some 400 people, especially architects, urban planners and academics, Algerians and French had asked Jean Nouvel to withdraw from the project, worrying in particular that a French architect could propose transformations of a high place of the battle of Algiers against the French colonizer.
The project ended up being abandoned.
Currently, seven historic building restoration projects are underway with a progress rate of 65%, according to Fatima Larbi, architect at the DEP, quoted by the official agency APS.
“The objective is to revive the Kasbah and to highlight it”, underlines Mehdi Ali Pasha.