Name: Ait Ben Hmad Igherm
Village: Amezray n’Oufila, Zawiya Ahansal
Type of Building: Communal Fortified Granary
Construction Date: 17th century
Last Restoration Date(s): 2009 to 2010
Restoration Work: Complete exterior renovation.
The Ait Ben Hmad Igherm belongs to the family Ait Ben Hmad, one of the three large and original families of the village.
The igherm was built in the 17th Century of rammed earth, mud, stone and wood. The Atlas Cultural Foundation and Association Amezray SMNID and Les Amis de Amezray restored the building in 2009 and 2010.
This fabulous building stands proudly on a hill 1600 meters above sea level. A descendant of Sidi Said Ahansal, the founder and first settler of Zawiya Ahansal, built it. His name was Sidi Hmad Ohmad and he was a well-informed figure who mastered the Islamic religion and sharia law at that time. He was also one of the rulers in Zawiya Ahansal during the last decades of the 17th century.
Village elders say that the people wanted to build this igherm near the river, but it was Sidi Hmad Ohmad’s idea that the igherm must be built on a hill. His reason was that this location was a good place for defensive purposes and people would have a full view of all of their properties including fields, houses and herds of animals. The craftsmen who built the building were from the Todgha Ait Atta tribe.
The Ait Ben Hmad Igherm had the same historic use as the Ait Ben Mouh Igherm – a communal fortified granary. This igherm was also used as a jail where villagers punished their enemies. Moreover, they used to shoot through small holes in the walls towards enemies. Those holes were also used to see what was going on outside.
Historically, the igherm was used as a fortress to fight tribal enemies during the time of siba (the time before French colonization when there were conflicts between tribes and there wasn’t a central government). It was also utilized in the 1930s to fight against the French occupation army.
After Morocco gained independence from the French, the village dwellers built houses near the igherm and still today igherm is only used to save grains and grass, alfalfa and hay from the summer crops for use during the winter.
Local legend states that during the time of siba there was a serious conflict between the two tribes Ait Ben Hmad and Ait Abdi. Some thieves from the Ait Abdi came to Amezray to steal sheep and goats. They were caught and taken up to the igherm’s roof. When the upper door of the building is closed the only way to escape is to jump down more than 20 meters. They were imprisoned there until a brother of one of them came to demand that the leader of the ighrem, Hazmawi, let his brother go back to his starving children. He was released, but his brother was imprisoned in his place. According to an elder, “After few days, villagers took them to the forest and fired them.”
Restoration Partners and Support Type/Amount
Atlas Cultural Foundation (US NGO)
Financial, $15,000USD from private US donors.
Technical/Architectural, professional oversight of restoration.
Association Amezray SMNID (Moroccan Association):
Technical, Site Management, Property Owners and Moroccan Authority Coordination
Les Amis de Amezray (French Association):
Financial (2000 Euro)
Salima Naji (Moroccan architect):
Technical and cultural expertise at the beginning of the project.
Total Restoration Budget: $18,000 USD approximate cost
Past and Current Projects
Ait Ben Mouh Igherm – Communal Fortified Granary
Ait Ben Hmad Igherm – Communal Fortified Granary
Ait Ookdim Igherm – Saint’s House
Ait Sidi Mouh Igherm – Saint’s House
Ait U Amahdar Igherm – Saint’s House