Qasr al-Manar (Fortress of the Keep)
Qal’at Bani Hammad, Msila, Algeria
Hegira 397-8 / AD 1007-8
The keep (manar) forms part of a complex known as the Qasr al-Manar. Excavations still need to be undertaken to shed light on this qasr (fortress) and on its chronology in relation to the site of Qal'at Bani Hammad, the fortified town that was founded by the Hammadids on the Hodna hills at the height of their prosperity.
Built on the edge of the cliff that descends into the Oued Fradj, the keep takes the form of a raised signal tower on a square plan whose sides have an approximate length of 20 metres. The façades have been indented, from top to bottom, with blind niches that have semi-circular platforms and are covered by scalloped half-domes. The façades facing the oued are preceded by a built projection 1.5 m in depth. Two loopholes pierce the eastern wall. Inside, encircling a central area that measures 10 m on each side, a gentle slope on barrel vaults leads onto the terraces. Two rooms, one above the other, could have been reconstructed. The cruciform layout of the room above was achieved by hollowing out niches with flat backs, surmounted on each side by a horseshoe arch. The remains of pendentives in each of the corners indicate the existence of the dome that would have once covered this room.
The keep is all that remains of Qasr al-Manar, which was erected in the fortified town of Qal'at Bani Hammad. Built on a cliff overlooking the Oued Fradj, it rises from a square base with sides some 20m long. Its side are punctuated with blind niches. It was protected on the wadi side by a ditch, and the eastern wall includes two arrow loops. Inside, two superposed rooms have been rebuilt and a barrel-vaulted passageway slopes gently around a central axis to the terraces.
From historical sources, chroniclers such as al-Bakri or Ibn Khaldun, and archaeological excavations of 1898, 1908, 1966.
Beylié, général de, La Kalaa des Beni Hammad, une capitale berbère de l'Afrique du nord au XIe siècle, Paris, 1909.
Bourouiba, R., Les H'ammadites, Algiers, 1984.
Golvin, L., Le Magrib central à l'époque des Zirides, Paris, 1957.
Ali Lafer "Qasr al-Manar (Fortress of the Keep)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;dz;Mon01;26;en
Prepared by: Ali LaferAli Lafer
Architecte diplômé de l'École nationale d'architecture et des beaux-arts d'Alger, stagiaire du Centre international pour la conservation et la restauration des biens culturels (ICCROM) à Rome, Ali Lafer a été architecte en chef des Monuments au ministère de la Culture pendant son service civil. Directeur de l'Atelier Casbah chargé des études d'aménagement de la médina d'Alger, il a également enseigné au cours de Tunis pour la formation d'architectes du patrimoine maghrébin. Membre fondateur de l'association “Les amis du Tassili”, il est aussi chercheur dans les domaines de la numérisation de la documentation graphique et du relevé photogrammétrique.
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Maria Vlotides
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: AL 35