Algeria | Its buildings crumbling, ordinary citizens stepping up to try to save Algiers' Casbah
The houses in the Casbah in Algiers were mostly built by the Ottomans in the 18th century, although its boundaries were marked out in the 16th century and it was in the 10th that a Berber tribe first built on the ruins of a Roman settlement. Having survived being bombarded and partially razed by the French during the long war for independence, as well as the country’s violent civil war in the 1990s, the Casbah of Algiers remains the largest old walled city or ‘citadel’ in North Africa, and was put on Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites in 1992.
Yet, in recent years, the constellation of white square houses on the hill overlooking Algiers port has come to resemble a game of Jenga, and buildings in the old neighbourhood crumble to dust on a regular basis. One house has deliberately been left in ruins by the state as a memento: the hideout near the top of the Casbah where Ali La Pointe, an Algerian resistance leader and bomb-maker, was cornered and blown up by French paratroopers in 1957.