Migration and cultural heritage: challenges and opportunities in the M’Hamid Oasis, Morocco
On 16th July 2019, Dr Giamila Quattrone delivered a talk on the impact of migration on the cultural heritage of Ouled Youssef, one of the traditional settlements of the M’Hamid Oasis, Morocco. She talked about the challenges that Ouled Youssef faces as a result of slow yet irreversible physical, socio-economic and cultural change, and suggested sustainable development trajectories that could repopulate and reactivate the settlement through the synergy of heritage preservation, economic and infrastructural development, and community participation and empowerment.
Desertification, narrow-minded planning strategies, lack of infrastructural provisions and rampant unemployment have coalesced in South Morocco, pushing the local populations to migrate to the north of the country or overseas in search for life and job opportunities abreast of our times. The intricate mix of factors is producing devastating effects on both the livelihoods – with oasis agriculture under strain because of shortage of water as well as manpower – and the traditional built environment – with the abandoned Berber fortified settlements (ksour) relentlessly dilapidating and swallowed by the Sahara sand. In danger of disappearing along with the earthen built fabrics is also the rich intangible heritage of music, dance, poetry, culinary traditions, textile crafts and building techniques.