The word Ksar has a wide meaning. It can refer to any kind of
fortress, palace, barn or military base, depending on the country and the region where it's located.
In the south of Morocco, a Ksar is a village surrounded by walls,
made of soil, with one or more monumental entrances and at least the following communitarian infrastructure: the mosque,
the baths, a Koran school, a public place and sometimes an inn.
In the pre-Saharan valleys, between the rivers Draâ and Ziz, there were about one thousand
Ksars in 1920.
Today, more than half of them have disappeared or are in ruins, but still there are some that a partly or completely inhabited.
They form a very important historic and artistic patrimony that hasn't been protected until the last years
of the 20.th century.
The name El Khorbat (which in Arab means "the ruins") makes us think that
its founders were Beni Maaquil Arabs who settled in the region in the 14.th or 15.th century. A part of the population also consists
of farmers with dark skin known as Ikabliin.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the old Ksar El Khorbat (Ighrem Akedim) was occupied by the Ait Atta Berbers, who
chased away the Arabs but accepted to live together with the Ikabliin in order to keep them cultivating the land recently
occupied. Later on they extended the village and constructed a new wall.
At about 1860 another Berber tribe, the Ait Merghad that came originally from the valley of Dadès, chased away the Ait Atta
from El Khorbat and built a second Ksar next to it called Oujdid, which became their political capital. The Caid or chief of the
tribe had his residence in El Khorbat and was recognized by the Sultan of Morocco.
The important political role of El Khorbat was maintained until the
beginning of the French protectorate in 1934. After this date, the French authorities constructed their "Bureau d'Affaires Indigènes"
kilometres further in the east, in order to be the future town of Tinejdad, and they transferred the administration of the
oasis over there.
The Ksar El Khorbat Oujdid was constructed following a rectangular
and very regular sketch. It is crossed by a central street from one end to the other. The doors of the houses are
distributed over eight impasses perpendicular to
the main street. The only exception is the Caid's house which opens directly to this one.
At the beginning there was only one monumental entrance
into the Ksar. This entrance has the shape of an arch and simple
decorations. There are also two watchtowers at the two sides of the entrance, four in the corners, one on the lateral side,
and two on the backside, in total nine watchtowers. The public place with the mosque is located between the entrance and the
The main and the side streets are mostly shaded by the first floors of the
houses. Only the crossings are not; so
they appear like fountains of light and give the whole Ksar a mysterious attractively.
The houses have three to four levels, which mean 10
to 14 meters height. The surface is varying between 30 and 200 square meters in each floor. The ground level, the first floor and
sometimes as well the second floor are constructed with pisé (rammed earth). The third floor is built with
sun-dried clay bricks, with a thickness of about 30 cm. The outer wall reaches 100 cm. of thickness and a heigh of four
meters and continues with 50 cm. thickness for 9 to 12
meters. Many houses are connected with the wall.
The traditional doors are made with palm tree wood.
Some windows are also made of wood, but others have forged iron grills. The exterior decoration occupies the
highest part of the buildings. It consists of geometric
figures made with clay bricks. The parapets that surround the terraces are crowned by triangular step like battlements.
Recently there have been opened new entrances to the houses piercing the outer wall an some of them have iron doors. There also
has been constructed a minaret of concrete above the mosque, but it has been recovered with
clay and straw in order to make appear
visually similar to the rest of the village.
The Ksar El Khorbat
has been restored by a local Association,
thanks to the financial help of the School of technical Architects of Barcelona.