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Arabic: 'al-qasbaPlay sound

Village kasbah, Taliouine, Morocco.
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A village kasbah at Taliouine, Morocco.

The kasbah of Ouarzazate, Morocco.
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The kasbah of Ouarzazate, Morocco.

Traditional fortress and palace of towns in pre-colonial North Africa.
The kasbah served as the seat of the local ruler, or feudal master, as well as the hiding place of the local population during attacks. The kasbah was constructed for defence, with high walls and with small or no windows at all. Often kasbahs exploited the terrain to make them easier to defend: they were situated on hill tops or near the approach to harbours.
Up until modern times all villages had each their kasbah, and the existence of a kasbah was a prerequisite for the survival of the village. In some areas, villages could be consisting of several kasbahs, this often expressing the wealth of individual families.
Kasbahs survived well into the time of colonization which started in 1830 in northern Algeria, and finishing more than 100 years later in the Moroccan mountains.
Related to kasbah is the ksar or ksour, in which the kasbah also include a village. The delineation between ksar and kasbah is, however, not always clear, as many fortified villages or town quarters may be referred to as kasbah.

By Tore Kjeilen