The mysterious Ksar of Draa in Timimoun

Margie Jones

This particular building has attracted the interest of many ArcheoTravelers and beyond. So let’s try today to take stock of the situation based on what we know of this very particular fortified structure.

The Draa ksar rises majestically in the middle of an ocean of dunes. It has a characteristic circular shape, stands out in the middle of the desert and its history has been lost over the centuries.

Visiting this ksar is not an easy task without the help of expert guides. However, as you can imagine, once reached, its view and exploration of its environments must be an indescribable experience.

To date there are still several questions that have not been able to answer.

Not even the locals are able to provide information on this very particular structure, the only news related to it is that for a certain period of time it was occupied by the Jews of the Timimoun region. But in what precise period? What use did they make of it? Was it really a fortified castle or could it be a military post or even a prison? Or is it a caravanserai?

Ksar of Draa Timimoun

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”

Unfortunately, what remains of its structure is not very helpful in understanding its original function. A circular wall, about two meters high, surrounds the ksar towards the outside. This is also a circular one, consisting of a double wall, the external one in stones bound with clay and the internal one in clay only. It has a single access point to the north, and a series of rooms on three levels develop between the two walls. The absence of exposed stairs allows us to hypothesize that there were internal ones that allowed access to the various floors. A further peculiarity lies in the fact that there are no communicating rooms and not even any windows facing outwards.


The ksar is a fortified village typical of the Maghreb. It generally consists of granaries and houses, and is located on hills or raised points near oases or waterways in order to be better protected from attacks by nomadic tribes.

At the base of the construction of the ksar there is a particular housing module called Ghorfa (room in Arabic), inside which foodstuffs were stored in anticipation of periods of drought.

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”

A possible caravanserai?

The term caravanserai refers to a building generally consisting of a wall that encloses a large courtyard and a portico, which was used to stop the caravans crossing the desert.

Inside you could also find rooms for travelers that could be used freely by them travelers. In some caravanserai there were even libraries, we can in fact deduce that especially during the evening there was the opportunity for profound cultural exchanges between people from different backgrounds.

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”

It is a typology of building typical of the Persian culture, however many examples can also be seen in North Africa and throughout the Middle and Near East. Many of these structures were built by master engineers belonging to Sufi orders who applied the principles of golden geometry and the perfect ratio of proportions, as was also the case for mosques.

However, we must admit that the style of the Draa Ksar differs from the caravanserais that have come down to us.

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”


To date the function of this building remains a real mystery. Its particularity obviously led to the formulation of the most disparate hypotheses, but to the spread of singular legends linked to this very special place. Among the most recent is that of an American team (of scholars?) Who arrived in Timimoun in the 1980s. This recruited the best guides in the region, gathered supplies and entered the Tinerkourk Erg. After crossing the sea of ​​dunes, the expedition reached the mysterious building. The Americans asked the guides to leave them alone and pick them up after a week. Nobody knows what they looked for in the ksar or even what they eventually found inside.

From “Top Destinations en Algérie”

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