The Great Maghreb has a large number of archaeological sites that have witnessed the succession of various human civilizations. It is not about scattered antiquities, as much as it is about entire archaeological cities where people live today without – sometimes – being aware of their cultural value. These people are usually not trained to deal with these historically invaluable places without affecting them negatively.
Urban sprawl and a strong demand for housing as a result of demographic growth, have contributed greatly to the distortion of the features of historical buildings. For example, a house would be inhabited at first by one extended family that built or inherited it; the family gets emotionally attached to the house, and considers it a symbol that immortalizes its past, and guarantees its continuity in time. Then, the rooms of that house are rented to various families, who overuse its facilities without any consideration for the archaeological nature of the house. Those places actually require special care according to some specific standards that need the intervention of archaeological maintenance specialists.
Some archaeological sites are subject to great attention, especially mosques, which are taken care of by central authorities, for their spiritual importance and because they have always been considered – throughout the history of Muslims – a space in which authorities monitor the various transformations that society goes through. Besides, authorities are also in charge of managing the Waqf (Islamic endowment), and all the Habous related to these spiritual spaces.
Therefore, the management of these places has become subject to centralized governance, although this method seems to be unable to find solutions to all the problems experienced by the citizens of the Great Maghreb today, for two reasons:
- The slowness in addressing problems, while taking care of antiquities and historical monuments requires promptness and efficiency.
- The wait-and-see attitude which pushes local actors, and the population in general, to stand inactive and just watch, while they should have been the first intervening actors, given their direct contact with those monuments that are eventually an element that defines their identity.
Moreover, the budgets that are usually allocated to the maintenance of historical buildings are low, while such a task needs heavy expenditures and appropriate institutions that have specialized human resources in the maintenance of antiquities.
Many developed countries tend to periodically control all buildings, historical or not, and impose ongoing maintenance on their owners enable the buildings to face various climate changes. This solution might be appropriate, but in order to guarantee its effectiveness, a participatory approach should also be applied by increasing the population’s awareness about the importance of these places, within a common vision that makes the maintenance of historical places a collective duty in which the population believes in. Such a measure requires applying decentralized governance that involves the peoples in the decision-making process.
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