Ghardaïa - March 23, 2020 (tentative)
There are many great reasons to visit Algeria and while there a number of interesting festivals and events to check out throughout the country, the Ghardaïa Carpet Festival really stands out for its exceptional location and nature of events. The annual festival takes places in Ghardaïa, an ancient and picturesque city perched on a hillside in the M'Zab Valley. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, making this is a wonderful place to spend a few days in mid to late March. Taking place over approximately five days (actual dates are not yet confirmed) the festival itself draws artisans, carpet weavers and tourists from all over the country as well as the rest of the world. The weavers come to exhibit and sell their carpets, they compete for carpet weaving excellence titles, and there is even a float parade. Other artisans display their leather goods and tanning, basketwork, brass wares, traditional silver jewelry and artistic ceramics. Lively Karkabou bands play their traditional music and of course, there are wonderful food stalls for enjoying the locale's cuisine.
Aside from the cultural activities during the festival, the M'zab Valley presents a wealth of interesting historical sites. This desert oasis is actually made up of five ksour, or fortified walled towns dating back to the 11th century, where the building techniques and way of life are much like they were when the towns were initially settled. Collectively known as the Pentapolis, Ghardaïa is the main town and the capital of the M'zab. El-Atteuf, Bounoura, Melika, and Beni-Isguen are the other fortified settlements, each with unique features. El-Atteuf is the oldest of the settlements, and Melika is known for its interesting tombs. Béni-Izguen is the most traditional village and considered a holy site. Only recently have outsiders been allowed to visit this particular ksour after dark. Around the time of the Carpet Festival, there is also an annual auction held in the legendary market. Learning about the people that inhabit this area is not only very interesting, it is also necessary as their cultural norms are quite distinct in Algeria and you wouldn't want to be caught unaware of their customs. The Mʾzabite are Berber descendents who follow a very strict form of Islam known as Ibāḍīyah which is a sub-sect of the Khārijite sect.
What better way could you spend time in Algeria? Here, surrounded by Saharan dunes with somewhere around 60,000 palm trees complimenting this amazing landscape and the backdrop of the pentapolis certainly conjures up the stuff of dreams and also provides for an authentic escapade into what life was like here a thousand years ago.