Aùres Mountains, ALGERIA
- Site: Great Eastern Sand Sea (1): Aùres Mountains and its Cultural Landscape
- Keywords: Algeria Cultural Landscapes, oasis, Great Eastern Sand Sea, Aùres, Belezma Park, Timgad, Merouana, Roufhi, El Kantara.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
There are many places of interest that are protected in this area: -Aùres Mountains are listed in the “Tentative List of UNESCO” (Parc des Aurès avec les établissements oasiens des gorges du Rhoufi et d’El Kantara Algeria), including the Roufhi and El Kantara Oases, in category Mixed, with the date of submission: 30/12/2002 and the criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(v)(vii)(x), category: Mixed. -Belezna Park, which is located inside the Aùres Mountains, it is also a protected area listed as IUCN Category II (National Park) by the World Conservation Union / International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). It was designated as a National Park by the Algerian Govermnent in 1984. -The Commune of Timgad, located to the north of the massif of the Aurès, is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO, with date of inscription: 1982 and the criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv).
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
Associative cultural landscape1
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
Aùres region’s, in the Great Eastern Sand Sea (French: Grand Erg Oriental), and its oases, show an unique sample of interaction between human being and nature. Bebeber society has conserved its own language, customs, and way of farming (typical terracing) because of the isolation of the mountains. The result is a landscape full of small villages in the slopes of the mountains, (Dechras), and crops cultivated in stepped-terraces which are contained with stone walls. Nature and human settlements are combinated creating an original scenary in Aùres Mountains. 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), and considering this region as a result of “the combined works of nature and of man”, Med-O-Med resolve to value this site as a Cultural Landscape because of: -Its Natural heritage components as lakes, freshwater springs, mountains, hills, palm fields, and rock and sand formations. Aúres mountains are into the north of the Great Eastern Sand Sea. It is is a large erg or “field of sand dunes” in the Sahara desert that covers an area some 600 km wide by 200 km north to south. The Valley y Wadi Abdi Guelaa of Iguelfène and the Valley-Wadi El Abiod, and Belezma Park are some examples of the Natural Heritage of Aùres Mountains. The Oases of Roufhi, El Kantara, Menaa or Arris, and also the farming fields of Tamanis area, are wonderful sites where nature and human activity are mixed. -Its Cultural heritage components: local festivals, traditional houses, traditional handcrafts, historical trade routes, artifacts and archaeological remains (temples, caves, fortresses, and necropolises), etc. Some examples of Cultural heritage components are the ruins of Timgad and some circular tombs “los chouchets”, or the city of Merouana.
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Aurès Mountains, Belezma, Roufhi and El Kantara, Arris, Menaa and Merouana, Timgad.
- Current denomination Aurès Mountains, Belezma, Roufhi and El Kantara, Arris, Menaa and Merouana, Timgad.
- Original denomination Aurès Mountains, Belezma, Roufhi and El Kantara, Arris, Menaa and Merouana, Timgad.
- Popular denomination Aurès Mountains, Belezma, Roufhi and El Kantara, Arris, Menaa and Merouana, Timgad.
- Address: Aurés Mountains are located in the Wilaya (Province) of Batna, in the Eastern Atlas.
- Geographical coordinates: 35°19′05″N, 6°38′13″E Highest point (Algeria): Djebel Chélia, with 7,638 ft (2,328 m).
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: Aurès mountains are part of the Saharan Atlas in northeastern Algeria, northern Africa, in the Great Eastern Sand Sea, fronted by rugged cliffs in the north and opening out in the south into the two parallel fertile valleys of the wadies Abiod and ʿAbdi, facing the Sahara. The highest peaks, which are snowcapped during winter, include Mount Chélia (7,638 feet [2,328 m]), the highest point in northern Algeria, and Mount Mahmel (7,615 feet [2,320 m]). The Belezma National Park is located around 25 kilometers north-west of the town of Batna in the North East Region of Algeria. Incorporating the Belezma Mountains, the park covers an area of more than 262 square kilometers.
- Access and transport facilities: Batna is the capital of the province. If you want to visit, for example, the Timgad ruins, you must drive 40min from east of Batna. There are no public transports to get there. Balcon Rhoufi is 1hr south of Timgad, located between Batna and Biskra. There are two passes between these two towns, one is by the El Kantara Gorge and the other Balcon Rhoufi.
- Visits / Schedules / Entrance fees / Groups / guided tours: Saturday 9am - 4.30pm. Sunday closed.
The Annual Festival of Timgad.
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Batna Governorate. Ministery of Culture of Algeria.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Batna Governorate. Ministery of Culture of Algeria.
- Legal protection: Belezna Park, in Aùres Mountains, was designated as a National Park by the Algerian Govermnent in 1984. The Archaeological site of Timgad is governed by a Protection and Presentation Plan (PPMVSA), a legal and technical instrument establishing the conservation and management actions at the property. The body managing the property is the Office of Cultural Properties Management and Exploitation (OGEBC).
- Public or private organizations working in the site: The OGEBC executes all activities concerning the protection, maintenance, documenting and development of programmes for presentation and promotion. The OGEBC implements its protection and management programme for the site in cooperation with the Cultural Directorate of the Wilaya (province) that has a service responsible for cultural heritage. The legal and management framework comprises Laws 90-30 (regional law), 98-04 (relating to the protection of cultural heritage), 90-29 (relating to town-planning and development), and the Master Plan for Development and Town-Planning (PDAU) of the Timgad community, 1998. Nevertheless, the State Party considers that there is a need to revise the legal and administrative provisions concerning the property to better ensure its conservation and presentation. There is a need to examine the increasing impact of the insufficient regulation of visitor numbers and vehicles affecting the fragile structures and their surrounds.
From a historic viewpoint, the Aurès was a refuge and base of resistance for Berber tribes against invading Romans, Vandals, Byzantines and Arabs. Moreover, it was in the Aurès that Berber freedom fighters started the Algerian War for Independence which took place from 1962 to 1974. Today, the Shawia population in the area grows primarily sorghum, as well as other grains and vegetables in stone terraces along the mountainside. Following the traditional practice of transhumance, with the change of season they move their livestock to warmer areas in lowland valleys where they live in temporary shelters through the winter.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Rural
- Geography: High Mountain
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: Generally, In Ageria, falls increase on the seaward slopes of the coastal mountains, but rainfall decreases quickly in moving inland across the High Plateau to the Saharan Atlas. South of this latter range rainfall is unreliable and most of the interior receives less than 100 mm/yr, with stations in the central south receiving less than 20 mm/yr. Stations in the desert may be completely rainless for several years on end. Over the mountains on the fringe of the desert at Laghouat (33°50'N/2°59'E), at an altitude of 767 m asl, it is 167 mm. In the central desert Timimoun (29°15'N/0°14'E), 293 m asl, has a mean annual rainfall of 10 mm, Ouallene Bordj (24°37'N/1°13'E), at an altitude of 346 m asl receives 36 mm/yr, while Bordj Omar Driss (28°04'N/6°39'E) at 375 m, receives a mean total of 28 mm/yr. Mean annual temperatures are 18.3°C at Alger and 18.0°C at Cape Bougaroun, falling to 17.0°C at Mascara, on the seaward side of the mountains, and to 17.3°C at Laghouat, on the landward side of the mountains. On the High Plateau at Djelfa the mean temperature is only 13.4°C. Mean temperatures in the desert increase southwards away from the AtlasMountains, thus at both Timimoun and Bordj Omar Driss it is 23.9°C, but 27.7°C at Ouallene Bordj. The mean monthly temperature of the warmest month (July) is 34°C at Adrar, and that of the coolest month (January) 13°C, with absolute maxima and minima of above 50°C and below -4°C, having been recorded at this centre. Diurnal temperature ranges are greater in the mountains and in the desert than at the coast. Daily amplitudes of 35-40°C are not uncommon in the latter places. Absolute minima of -10°C are known from the Atlas Mountains, and -20°C has been recorded in the A'Haggar. Aùres Mountains have a climate ranging from cool sub-humid to dry semi-arid, providing a variety of habitats suitable for the more than 300 resident species of wildlife.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: The Great Eastern Sand Sea used to be associated with the Wadi Igharghar, a mostly dry and buried river with a sizable network of tributaries which, should it possess any water, would flow north into the erg from the Ahaggar mountains of the central Sahara. Yet such dry, anciently-made river beds, lying seemingly useless beneath the desert sands, can preserve the infrequent rain water, by carrying it off underground and so rescue the moisture from an otherwise "intense and almost instantaneous" evaporation. To the north of the erg, the Aurès mountains provide abundant runoff. These waters feed the artesian aquifer of the Jerid, despite its surface covering of salt lakes. These conditions lie adjacent to the grand erg. Here grow "the finest dates of all the Maghrib". In winter, winds blow from the northwest and the north. The erg "appears to have been pushed forward on the east and southeast slopes" toward Ghadames at the Libyan border. Winds over time will sweep desert sand into heaps which, given enough sand, form into a series of hills. In some types of dunes the slope on the windward side is gradual, on the leeward steep, and such dunes may "roll" forward being blown in the direction of the wind. Vegetation does not survive in such spreads of hot dry sand. Only in rare areas where moisture can endure is there life. Common in the Sahara desert are seif dunes: here the air currents form sand dunes parallel to the prevailing direction of the wind. There are other types of dunes, as well as "complex" dunes. Saharan winds are also known to clear an area of sand altogether, leaving bare rock (hamada) or gravel (reg).The Aurès Mountains of Algeria and Tunisia are the farthest eastern portion of the Atlas mountain range. The Aurès has rugged cliffs to the north, and fertile valleys to the south, with the highest peaks dusted with snow in the winter months. While not being as tall as Morocco's Grand Atlas Mountains, the Aurès Mountains are more prominent than the Tell Atlas Mountains which run parallel to the coastline. The Belezma National Park is one of the most important national parks of Algeria. It is located in Batna Province. Created in 1984, it stretches over an area of 262.5 km², the climate ranges from a cool subhumid climate to a dry semi-arid climate.
The upper slopes of Aùres Mountains are covered with pine, cedar, and oak forests that give way to xerophytic (dry-climate) vegetation and Fenicia on the lower slopes. The Aurès has fertile valleys along seasonal rivers, set in between rugged cliffs. Palm fields are close to the oases, only 30 km from cedars. This particularity is because of the Aùres are in contact with Tell and Sahara at the same time. The Belezma National Park contains 447 species of flora (14% of the national total) many of which are endemic to the area.
The Belezna National Park contains 309 species of fauna, of which 59 are protected species. Among these are the Cuvier’s Gazelle and the Dorcas Gazelle, both of which were once plentiful in the wild, but are now only found in North African nature reserves, including Algeria’s Belezma National Park. Atlas Barbary Sheep, a species of goat-antelope, were once a common sight in north Africa but are now only seen in reserves. These sure-footed animals have the advantage of being able to find food and water in seemingly inaccessible places that other grazing animals cannot reach, and visitors to the Belezma National Park have a good chance of spotting one of these illusive and solitary animals in the semi-arid areas of the park. Another endangered resident of the Belezma National Park is the Serval – a slender, long-legged feline with dark spotted, tawny colored fur. Although these attractive medium-sized wild cats are masters of camouflage, visitors may very well see one in the savanna-like habitat of the park. While spotting one of the endangered inhabitants of the park is a thrilling prospect, with the stunning scenery and so many other interesting birds and other animals to see, a visit to Algeria’s Belezma National Park is always a richly rewarding experience.
Land uses and economical activities:Aurès Mountains are a protected territory son its land uses are restricted. The primary human activity in the oases and palm groves is oasis agriculture. It is also produced sorghum and vegetables. Livestock is also of much importance, an activity which has involved semi-nomadic lifestyles. To some limited extent, this still applies.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:The agriculture of the region, the main economic activity, produces mainly sorghum and vegetables. Date palm and wheat are also cultivated in the oases.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
Aùres Mountains and the Great Eastern Sand Sea contain superlative natural phenomena and areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance like oases, freshwater springs, mountains, hills, palm fields, crop fields, and rock and sand formations. With its Mediterranean-type vegetation of dense forests of pines, oaks and ancient cedar trees to the north, and desert-type terrain to the south, the Abiod Valley of the Aurès massif has been listed as one of the Natural Wonders of the World by the renowned Readers Digest magazine. The valley also has a number of oases, including the village of Rhoufi in the wilaya of Batna which is a popular tourist destination, or the villages of El Kantara, Menaa and Arris, anre archaeological remains. In this sense, natural and cultural values have to be carefully assessed, to ensure the conservation of desert ecosystems, bio-diversity through farming systems, ex situ preservation and sites of discoveries. Also the Outstanding Cultural Landscape of this site is considered a unique Landscape associated with the traditional way of life of indigenous community.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
The oases of Rhoufi and El Kantara conserve the tradicional and indigenous way of construction, as well as the natural material utilized. There are some architectonical elements of interest, for example, the Martyr Monument, to the memory of martyrs’ souls in the midst of a large pine forest, rising to a height of more than 15 meters, or The old Mosque of Merouana.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
The Timgad archaeological site spreads its sumptuous ruins across the heart of the Aurès mountains. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, the ancient Roman city built in the second century AD has become a rendezvous point for history enthusiasts. It is located to the north of the massif of the Aurès in a mountainous site of great beauty, 480 km south-east of Algiers and 110 km to the south of Constantine, are a consummate example of a Roman military colony created ex nihilo. The Colonia Marciana Traiana Thamugadi was founded in 100 A.D. by Trajan, probably as an encampment for the 3rd Augustan Legion which, thereafter, was quartered at Lambaesis. Its plan, laid out with great precision, illustrates Roman urban planning at its height. By the middle of the 2nd century, the rapid growth of the city had ruptured the narrow confines of its original foundation. Timgad spread beyond the perimeters of its ramparts and several major public buildings are built in the new quarters: Capitolium, temples, markets and baths. Most of these buildings date from the Severan period when the city enjoyed its Golden Age, also attested by immense private residences. Some archaeological components can also be found in Merouana city. The city’s founding date back to the era of the Romans in 127 when it was called Lamasba. It was a fortress which was damaged by Vandals. It was rebuilt by Byzantines and become a military area for Byzantines military retirees. However, this fortress was destroyed in the Islamic conquest in the era of Ottoman Empire, then it was re-established as a military base.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: The original population is the Berber people, called Chaouia. Their number counts about 1.4 million. In Algeria, in recent years, many claiming Arab descent have moved into the region.
- Languages and dialects: Chaouia people speaks a Berber language known as Tachawit or Chaouia. This relatively undeveloped area is home to Amazigh speaking tribes, most notably the Shawia people, also referred to as Chaouis. Being second in numbers only to the Kabyle people, the Shawia people speak their own language. Until recently, Shawia was exclusively a spoken language in the Aurès rural areas of Batna, Setif, Khenchela, Souk Ahras, Tebessa, Biskra, Kasserine and Oum El Bouaghi, where the majority of Shawia people live. However, thanks to cultural and political movements in Algeria, this ancient language is starting to gain wider recognition, along with Kabylian Berber
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: The Aurès is among the least developed regions of both Algeria and Tunisia. Traditional lifestyles have persisted longer here, and only in recent decades have infrastructure been brought to the point where modernization has been possible.
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:Arid lands in general are vulnerable to climatic change owing to their low species diversity and, especially near oasis with water sources, are often points of conflict for water access. The oases of this site are not in bad conditions as far as they are located in protected areas. The same occurs with the natural environment of the mountains as lakes or forests.
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:
-The Great Eastern Sand Sea. -Belezna National Park and its Natural heritage components. The Valley y Wadi Abdi Guelaa of Iguelfène and the Valley-Wadi El Abiod. -Oases of Roufhi and El Kantara, located inside gorges, and the villages of Menaa and Arris, the city of Merouana and its monuments, and also the farming fields of Tamanis area, are wonderful sites where nature and human activity are mixed. -Archaeological site of Timgad.
- Living heritage
Authenticity:There are evidences for human activity in Aùres Mountains since at leats the roman period. Timgag ruins is a good memory. This archaeological site is protected by UNESCO (World Heritage List), and its authenticity is described as folow: "The ensemble of the vestiges and artefacts excavated bear witness to the Outstanding Universal Value that enabled inscription of the property. The abandonment of the antique site, although at a later period, and the conduct of archaeological excavations almost continually since 1881 to 1960 has enabled the city of Thamugadi to avoid the construction of recent buildings, as the mechanical means required would have disturbed the ancient vestiges." Also Merouana ancient city is a sample of the roman occupation.
Universality:According to UNESCO criteria and Med-O-Med considerations, the Aùres mountains and its cultural landscape, including the oases, villages, ruins and natural environment, achieve the following criteria: (ii) The site of Timgad, with its Roman military camp, its model town-planning and its particular type of civil and military architecture reflects an important interchange of ideas, technologies and traditions exercised by the central power of Rome on the colonisation of the high plains of Antique Algeria. (iii) To bear an unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared, Timgad adopts the guidelines of Roman town-planning governed by a remarkable grid system. Timgad thus constitutes a typical example of an urban model, the permanence of the original plan of the military encampment having governed the development of the site throughout all the ulterior periods and still continues to bear witness to the building inventiveness of the military engineers of the Roman civilization, today disappeared. Also the Merouana ancient city is a good sample of the roman ocupation. (iv) Timgad possesses a rich architectural inventory comprising numerous and diversified typologies, relating to the different historical stages of its construction: the defensive system, buildings for the public conveniences and spectacles, and a religious complex. Timgad illustrates a living image of Roman colonisation in North Africa over three centuries. (v)The oases of Roufhi, El Kantara, and the villages of Arris and Menaa, are an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. (vi) The territory is strongly connected with the bereber traditions, their ideas, beliefs, and language. (vii) Aùres mountains, Belezna Park, the valleys and the gorges are superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. (x) contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:-Architectonical: The cities of Menaa and The oases of Rhoufi and El Kantara, that conserve the tradicional and indigenous way of construction of islamic culture, using natural material, or the Martyr Monument, and the old Mosque of Merouana. -Living heritage: the traditional way of farming and the specific irrigation systems practiced in the oases, villages and valleys come from the Islamic culture. Also the bereber architecture is well preserved in all these settlements. -Mythical and religious values: oases could be considered as a picture of the garden of Eden, of islamic religion. The Aùres mountains have also an important spiritual significance. -Social significance and ethnological: this territory preserve an ancient language called Chaouia, as well as other customs and traditional rites of arabic culture.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/194 http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/194/video http://whc.unesco.org/en/review/16 http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/1777/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.algeria.com/national-parks/belezma/ http://www.algeria.com/blog/the-aures-mountains-of-algeria http://i-cias.com/e.o/aures_mts.htm http://www.afrik-news.com/article18007.html -Laureano, P. (1991). Sahara jardin méconnu. PP 199. -Ofori-Atta. (2010). Algeria’s Timgad Roman ruins: A “Numidian Pompeii”. -Ozenda, P. (1983). Flore du Sahara. PP 662. -Sidi Boumedine, R. (2003). The Sahara of cultures and people: Towards a strategy for the sustainable development of tourism in the Sahara, in the context of combating poverty. UNESCO, Paris. -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.
Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías