Cultural heritage and development: the M’hamid Oasis in Southern Morocco

Oriol Domínguez Martínez (Terrachidia Association, Madrid, Spain)
Marta Colmenares Fernández (Terrachidia Association, Madrid, Spain)
Alejandro García Hermida (Terrachidia Association, Madrid, Spain)

Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development

ISSN: 2044-1266

Publication date: 6 February 2017



The M’Hamid Oasis is the last of the palm groves in the Drâa Valley, in Southern Morocco. The 13 villages (ksar/ksour in Arabic) in M’Hamid share many sociological, urban, and architectural similarities with the ksour located in the pre-Saharan valleys. These similarities range from environmental threats, such as extreme climate, to the current social and economic model. As a result, the settlements are being abandoned, and the tangible and intangible heritage of the Drâa Valley is in a progressive disappearance. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


To deal with the complexity of this problem, a progressive approach beginning at the territorial scale must be developed. In this regard, a lasting solution can be found only by promoting development that integrates nature, culture, and architecture, as well as by finding a new balance of these elements within the current social and economic requirements.


This paper presents part of the research conducted by the team of the Terrachidia Association, which allows an overall understanding of the place. To this aim, the new social and economic context of the Drâa Valley is pointed out, as well as the characteristic features of M’Hamid architecture and urbanism. In this regard, the principles and requirements of its conservation are presented, and the project of the Terrachidia Association is also described. Finally, the project’s impact is assessed and the results of the set of interventions are evaluated.

Practical implications

Since 2012, the activity of the Terrachidia Association has focussed on the study, promotion, preservation, and restoration of the architectural and cultural heritage of M’Hamid. The main activity of the association focusses on the organization of workshops, which are attended mainly by university students and professionals from around the world.

Social implications

In total, 13 workshops were organized since 2012, thanks to the engagement of the local population. In this period, around 300 participants from more than 15 different countries attended these workshops, working with approximately a 100 local craftsmen. All of them share a similar commitment to the work that Terrachidia is developing. These workshops allow the participants to know places and people in a way hardly achievable through conventional tourism. At the same time, this awareness is also achieved in the local population, and cultural exchange strengthens its identity.


The purpose of the workshops organized by Terrachidia is manifold, and the participants actively take part in the restoration works while they interact and exchange experiences with a reality that is generally unknown in western societies. The local population also benefits from this cultural exchange by strengthening their identity, which is linked to architecture, and demonstrating the economic possibilities of conservation through responsible tourism. And these aims are achieved through a self-managed project, which benefits all involved.



Domínguez Martínez, O., Colmenares Fernández, M. and García Hermida, A. (2017), "Cultural heritage and development: the M’hamid Oasis in Southern Morocco", Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 2-13.

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