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New perspectives to save cultural heritage
Altan, M. Orhan

Requirements in an Inventory on Cultural Heritage in Morocco and Reflections on the
Presentation of the Information
O. Kôlbl*, M. Boussahl**, H. Hostettler***
* EPFL, Laboratoire de photogrammétrie, Bâtiment GR, CH-1015 Lausanne - otto.koelbl@epfl.ch
** CERKAS, Casbah de Taourirt, B.P. 253, MA-45000 Ouarzazate - momo.bouss@caramail.com
*** Architect, Sandrainstrasse 3, CH-3007 Bern - h_t_hostettler@bluewin.ch
KEY WORDS : Architecture, Rammed earth, Cultural heritage, Regional inventory, Morocco, Revitalization, Augmented reality,
GI3, Decision support
The CERKAS, an office of the Ministry of Culture and Communication of Morocco, assisted by the Institute of Photogrammetry of
the EPFL, is building up an inventory of the historic monuments of the Draa Valley of Southern Morocco. This inventory is based
on orthophotos and field surveys. The data of the surveys are integrated into a geographic information system and are also analyzed
there. The aim of the inventory is to document this unique rammed earth architecture, to show the social relations and to contribute
to a revitalization of at least a part of these monuments.
The Moroccan Institution has the necessary infrastructure to collect and organize the data in its geographic information system
(Intergraph-MGE). Within one and a half years, about 100 ksour have been surveyed and integrated into the database.
As the work is progressing, the analyses of the data and the presentation of the results are of major concern. While it is understood
that information systems allow manifold and complex queries, they do however demand a certain effort and can only be handled by
specialists. On the contrary, an average user of such a database expects easy handling and the possibility to analyze and combine
data, texts, images and maps for his specific needs. Quick and well-ordered access to the data with the help of various keywords is
important. This can only be achieved by widespread software, preferably on an Internet basis.
A good part of our cultural heritage as well as our history rep
resent the basis, the reference which will also decide our future.
This might less concern testimonies of long past cultures but is
an essential aspect of the cultural heritage of the more recent
time being at least partially still actively used. Consequently, it
is very important to capture not only the objects as such when
doing an inventory of cultural heritage, but also to take into
consideration the cultural historic framework and social and
economic aspects. The CERKAS, an office of the Ministry of
Culture and Communication of Morocco assisted by the Insti
tute of Photogrammetry of the EPFL, is building up an inven
tory of the historic monuments of the Draa Valley of southern
Morocco. This concerns the wonderful castles and forts of
rammed earth in the river valleys on the edge of the Sahara.
These forts have been built up for the protection of the popula
tion against the invasions of the nomads, analogous to the me
dieval town fortification in Europe. A part of these historical
forts is still inhabited and still maintained. However, we ob
serve a strong trend towards emigration. The building substance
is very weak and requires regular maintenance. When per
forming an inventory, we have to take into consideration vari
ous elements. On the one hand, one should capture the monu
ments in as detailed a way as possible in the form of construc
tion plans and photographs. Furthermore, the arrangement of
the settlements and the spatial context should be captured. In
this way, one is only concerned with the constructive elements.
It is clear that these are only understood if one also includes the
social formation of the population, its living conditions and
also its requirements in terms of protection. Especially in the
past, the latter element influenced decisively the building sub
stance of the settlements in the oases. In this way, we roughly
defined the basic elements for the inventory. While the inven
tory should also contribute to decision-making for revitaliza
tion, it is also necessary to include the development possibili
ties of the region and of the population.
The South of Morocco lies on the edge of the Sahara in an arid
area. The region is mountainous and limited in the North by the
Atlas, a mountain chain reaching an altitude of 4,000 m. Pre
cipitation is rare, consisting mainly of a few heavy rainfalls in
the northern part which decrease considerably towards the
South. The river which originates in the Atlas formed basins
along a narrow band reaching far into the country. The soil is
very sandy and vegetation is sparse. Fertile soils developed
only in former erosion basins from the alluvial materials of the
rivers. One of the most important rivers of the region is the
Draa, which penetrates nearly 400 km to the South and then
practically disappears, although the course of the river can be
followed up to some 1,000 km further to the West until it
reaches the Atlantic.
Already in ancient times, the region was inhabited by different
social groups: on the one hand the Drawa, a negroid tribe
which was sedentary and predominantly did farming; and on
the other the Berber, mainly living from animal breeding using
the broad arid areas. In the 6 th century B.C., Jews immigrated
when fleeing from the siege of Jerusalem and in the 7 th and 8 th
centuries various Moslem tribes immigrated. In the Middle
Ages and the beginning of the modern era, the valley was an
important caravan route between Central Africa and Europe
which brought a certain wealth to the area.