The Beni Hammad Fort is a fortified city in Algeria, located in the Hodna Mountains near the town of Maadid. The Fort is about 225km from Algiers, and features a 7km long line of walls within which there are four residential complexes and a mosque.
Although the walls rise to 990m above sea level, the highest point is 1418m. Its location provided a clear view of the Hodna Plain located 400m below to its south and the mountain slopes on the city’s east, north and west.
Hammad ibn Buluggin, son of the founder of Algiers, Buluggin ibn Ziri Menad Abu Ziri, founded the fort. It became the first capital of the Hammadid Emir and one of the most interesting complexes of Islamic civilization. The city attracted caravans, politicians, scientists and artists, who contributed to its greatness.
The mosque, with a prayer hall consisting of 13 naves of eight bays is the second largest in Algeria after the Mansourah Mosque. It also featured the second oldest minaret in Algeria after the Sidi Boumerouane minaret. Some of the features in the mosque include arcaded galleries and large masqura (now destroyed).
Beni Hammad. Photo: Wiki CC
The city was under siege from the Zirid in 1017 but was able to survive. In 1090, the menace of the Banu Hilal led to the city’s abandonment, and in 1152, the Almohads partly destroyed it.
Excavators found a number of artefacts including jewels, terracotta, ceramics and coins to show the civilisation of the city. Other artefacts include decorative fountains with lion motif and the remains of the emir’s palace called Dal al Bahr.
Dal al Bahar, also called the Lake Palace, included three residences separated by pavilions and gardens. The rectangular pool measuring 67m x 47m gave the palace its name. It featured a ramp from which the emirs conducted nautical demonstrations, theatrical performances and sporting events. Although archaeologists found ornamental fountains, they have not explored the gardens.
Within the city was also a castle known as the Qasr al Manar or Castle of the Beacon Light, a projection off the eastern wall. It had an elevation with a series of silos where grain could be stored. The castle also acted as a venue for diplomatic functions during peace according to ArchNet.
According to UNESCO, although the city was founded as a military stronghold, it elevated to a metropolis. Not only has it influenced Arab architecture but also other civilising influences including Sicily and Andalusia.
Because of such features, UNESCO inscribed it as a World Heritage site, describing it as an “authentic picture of a fortified Muslim city” and bearing “exceptional testimony to the Hammadid civilisation now disappeared.”