• Keywords: Morocco, Cultural Landscape, Tafilalt, Oasis, Ziz, earthen architecture, Sijilmassa, Erfoud, Arab Sebbah, Rissani, Seffalat, Aoufous, Jorf, Merzouga, Berber

1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES

1.1 National and International Classification Lists

The “Tafilalt oases (Ziz Valley) Cultural Landscape” is not in any list.

1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology

Organically evolved landscapes
Relict (or fossil) landscape

1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med

Description

Tafilalt is the largest Saharan oasis of Morocco, located in the southeastern part of the country. The oasis comprises the fortified villages of Erfoud, Arab Sebbah du Ziz, Rissani, Seffalat, Aoufous, and Jorf, together with palm groves stretching 30 miles (50 km) along the Wadi Ziz. Its old capital was the Amazigh (Berber) stronghold of Sijilmassa, founded in ad 757 on the Saharan caravan route from the Niger River to Tangier. A prosperous city, it was destroyed in 1363, rebuilt by Mawlāy Ismāʿīl (1672–1727), and devastated in 1818 by Ait Atta nomads. The great date-palm oases of the Oued Ziz and the Tafilalt come as near as anywhere in Morocco to fulfilling Western fantasies about the Sahara. They do so by occupying the last desert stretches of the Ziz Valley: a route shot through with lush and amazingly cinematic scenes, from the river’s fertile beginnings at the Source Bleue, the springwater pool that is the oasis meeting point of Meski, to a climax amid the rolling sand dunes of Merzouga. Along the way, once again, are an impressive succession of ksour, and an extraordinarily rich palmery . In general, oases are considered by UNESCO and Med-O-Med as sample of the human genius in action and, definitively, Tafilalt shows an unique sample of interaction between human being and nature, composing a living continuing landscape illustrated by especific agricultural and irrigation systems in an arid environment. So, basis on the UNESCO definition of Cultural Landscape (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008), considering this region as a result of “the combined works of nature and of man”, Med-O-Med resolves to value this site as a Cultural Landscape (Continuing Landscape) because of its natural and cultural heritage components.

2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY

  • Current denomination Tafilalt or Tafilet (Arabic: تافيلالت‎).
  • Current denomination Tafilalt or Tafilet (Arabic: تافيلالت‎).
  • Original denomination Tafilalt or Tafilet (Arabic: تافيلالت‎).
  • Popular denomination Tafilalt or Tafilet (Arabic: تافيلالت‎).
  • Address: Tafilalt, Meknès-Tafilalet region, Morocco.
  • Geographical coordinates: 31°20′22.43″N 4°16′5.48″W
  • Area, boundaries and surroundings: In Meknès-Tafilalet region, the oasis is entirely located along the Ziz River.
  • Access and transport facilities: The oasis is ten days' journey south of Fez, across the Atlas Mountains.
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TAFILALT OASES (ZIZ VALLEY) CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (MOROCCO)

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TAFILALT OASES (ZIZ VALLEY) CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (MOROCCO) 31.339564, -42.681889 TAFILALT OASES (ZIZ VALLEY) CULTURAL LANDSCAPE (MOROCCO) (Directions)

3. LEGAL ISSUES

Property regime
  • Public
  • Owner: Moroccan Government.
  • Body responsible for the maintenance: Moroccan Government.

4. HISTORY

Its old capital was the Amazigh (Berber) stronghold of Sijilmassa, founded in ad 757 on the Saharan caravan route from the Niger River to Tangier. After c.760 it was an independent kingdom for nearly two centuries, growing rich on the caravan trade. Sijilmasa (now in ruins) was the chief trade center and the capital of the kingdom. Since the Middle Ages the region has been noted for its dates and leather. It was the original seat of the ruling dynasty of Morocco, which came to power in the late 17th cent.

  • Dates of successive recycling to the original layout: Destroyed in 1363, rebuilt by Mawlāy Ismāʿīl (1672–1727), and devastated in 1818 by Ait Atta nomads.

5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION

5.1. Natural heritage

  • Heritage: Rural
  • Geography: Valley
  • Site topography: Natural
Water resources:
  • Public
Ziz River. Natural springs.
Land uses and economical activities:
Agriculture. Tourism.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:
Tafilalt is celebrated for its large and luscious dates, to the successful cultivation of which, soon after the arrival of an ancestor (Al Hassan Addakhil) of the reigning dynasty of Morocco (the Alaouite Dynasty) around 1250, this dynasty owes its rise to power.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:

Tafilalt has date groves and small trading settlements. The oasis comprises the fortified villages of Erfoud, Arab Sebbah du Ziz, Rissani, Seffalat, Aoufous, and Jorf, together with palm groves stretching 30 miles (50 km) along the Wadi Ziz.

5.2. Cultural Heritage

A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general

Architectonical elements /Sculptures:

The earthen constructions of southern Morocco are rightly celebrated, for they represent a particular family of pre-Saharan architecture, which is common to all countries of the Great Maghreb, Mauritania and Libya. The oasis comprises the fortified villages of Erfoud, Arab Sebbah du Ziz, Rissani, Seffalat, Aoufous, and Jorf. In all these places there are homes which are built mainly with soil, though palm trunks and leaf-heads are used in roof construction.

In the case of gardens: original and current style:
It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains

  • Archaeological components:

    The old capital of Tafilalt was the Amazigh (Berber) stronghold of Sijilmassa, founded in ad 757 on the Saharan caravan route from the Niger River to Tangier. A prosperous city, it was destroyed in 1363, rebuilt by Mawlāy Ismāʿīl (1672–1727), and devastated in 1818 by Ait Atta nomads. Nowadyas onlcy remains some ruins.

  • Historical routes:

    After c.760 Tafilalt was an independent kingdom for nearly two centuries, growing rich on the caravan trade.

  • Traces in the environment of human activity: Agriculture, palm groves, earthen architecture.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values

  • Population, ethnic groups: Amazigh (Berber) population.
  • Languages and dialects: Berber dialects. Moroccan Arabic French.
  • Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: Berber traditions and rules.

5.3. Quality

Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:
Oases are privileged sites to breath in silence, to find ourselves and to observe the pure beauty of nature, including the stars that are brighting in the night sky, free of light pollution.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:

All the villages that compose Tafilalt, the ancient ksars, the earhen architecture of the streets and houses, teh ancient remains, the palm groves…

6. VALUES

Tangible

  • Aesthetic
  • Architectonical
  • Living heritage
The main tangible values of "Tafilalt oases (Ziz Valley) Cultural Landscape" are: -Aesthetic: The magnificence of the Atlas, the Ziz river and valley, together with the villages, palm groves and ancient ksars which are scattered around the territory compose a beatiful landscape with high aesthetical values. -Architectonical/Living Heritage: The earthen constructions of southern Morocco are rightly celebrated, for they represent a particular family of pre-Saharan architecture. The typology of this traditional habitat is extremely diversified and it is also represented in Ziz Valley oases.

Intangible

  • Historical
  • Mythical
The main intangible values of "Tafilalt oases (Ziz Valley) Cultural Landscape" are: -Historical: After c.760 it was an independent kingdom for nearly two centuries, growing rich on the caravan trade. Sijilmasa (now in ruins) was the chief trade center and the capital of the kingdom. Since the Middle Ages the region has been noted for its dates and leather. It was the original seat of the ruling dynasty of Morocco, which came to power in the late 17th cent. -Mythical: An oasis could be considered (according to UNESCO) as an image of the garden of Eden. It is the practical expression of a mythical idea. -Social significance: The villages of Ziz valley enjoy an unique cultural heritage and a society rich in berber customs and traditions with social significance. The living heritage is composed of practices that are the result of slow, patient adaptation to the hostility of the environment and the scarcity of its resources.
Authenticity:
The architectural style is well preserved and the earthen constructions of the oases are perfectly adapted to the climatic conditions and are in harmony with the natural and social environment.
Universality:
Med-O-Med describes the universality of the site according to the UNESCO criteria defined for Cultural Landscapes: iii) Tafilalt bears an exceptional testimony to a berber cultural tradition. iv) The Kasbash and ksars of Tafilalt, illustrate the main types of earthen constructions that may be observed in Morocco. v) Tafilalt oasis is a sample of the the traditional earthen habitat, representing a part of the Moroccan culture which has become vulnerable as a result of irreversible socio-economic and cultural change. It can be observed in the agricultural practices or the traditional irrigation system that still remain in the oasis. vii) The natural area contained in this Cultural Landscape, including the Atlas mountain and the Ziz river and valley are of natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:
-The traditional earthen architecture. -The agricultural style of the palm groves and other crops of the oases. -The Berber culture.

7. ENCLOSURES

Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):

Tafilalt Cultural Landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Morocco which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.

Bibliography:

http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/580201/Tafilalt http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/africa/morocco/southern-oases-routes/ziz-tafilalt/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 -Harris, W.B. (1895), Tafilet, the narrative of a journey of exploration in the Atlas Mountains and the oases of the north-west Sahara, Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons. -Mezzine, L. (1987). Le Tafilalt. Contribution a l’historire du Maroc au x XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Facultat de Lletres de Rabat. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara , Italy. -UNESCO (2012). Inventory of Earthen archetecture. World Heritage Earthen Architecture Programme.

Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.