A New Plan to Save the Casbah from its Creeping Decline is in Trouble

Much of the capital is boiling over with stifled anger at 20 years of police-state repression. But the Casbah, in the heart of Algiers, is strangely quiet, the ancient stone alleys empty in the glare of the sun. There is no need for demonstrations in the historic district to underscore the dead hand of the state. Even before revolution convulsed Algeria this year, its decay was evident all around and some have taken offense some for government’s invitation to the French, the former colonizers, for help in saving the Ottoman-era district. During Algeria‚Äôs war of independence from France, which ended in 1962, the Casbah played a critical role as a place to organize and hide insurgents. At independence, the poor fled for the more modern neighborhoods abandoned by the departing French. The ultranationalist, modernizing Algerian government had little interest in the neighborhood, founded in the 10th century. International efforts to save the neighborhood have been limited, for fear of further offending the prickly Algerians. Intensely nationalistic, the government for decades has been reticent about seeking outside help of any sort.


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