A hand drawing of Berber castles



Kabaw is another Berber settlement along the tops of Nafousa Mountain, in the way from Jado towards Nalut, and ultimately down to the desert road towards Ghadames. It is an old mountain village, rich in traditional architectural buildings and narrow roads along the cliffs. Kabaw is also the home of a Berber


Qser Kabaw

Qasr Kabaw (Kabaw Castle) from the outside - the high walls at the back of the photo.


Kabaw Castle, interior view

Qasr Kabaw: an interior view.


Kabaw Castle, interior view

An interior view of the Castle of Kabaw.


Kabaw Castle, interior view




Fursta is a small Berber village of about 5000 people, located in Nafousa Mountain, between Tamzin (Tumzin) and Kabaw and south of Tiji. The castle, suitably located at the highest point, was thought to be at least eleven hundred years old. There are ancient and prehistoric temples discovered nearby, but there are no studies dedicated to unraveling their mystery or function and as such they remain as they were abandoned thousands of years ago. There is also a watch tower, which originally was used to look out for and warn of strangers approaching the village.

The castle (ghasru) is an ancient castle originally used to store the extra food for the months ahead, like grains from the harvest, olives and olive oil, palm dates and salt. The castle wall is about 15 metres high and is accessed via a south door or gate. The castle is built with stones, gypsum and red mud, and the roofs of the chambers are made of palm trunks and olive branches, covered with a water-proof mud layer. It is divided into two streets: on the left there is the lower street, containing a number of floors of storage chambers; and the upper street on the right, which in turn is divided into two streets: a right, low street, and slightly higher street on the left

Then there is the guards room by the entrance, where the guard keeps the keys to all the rooms. Each room or chamber has a door and a lock both of which were made locally. This allows each individual or family to store their surplus supplies in a safe place, and therefore the castle is a form of an ancient bank: a food bank. There are about 103 rooms in the castle, 89 of which are still useable. The rain water from the roof of the castle collects in a cistern (or an underground storage chamber, locally called 'majen') just outside of the castle. These are very common in North Africa.

storage large jar

Tkhabit (clay jar) for storing food and oil.


The big jars ('tkhabit'), made of clay, are usually used for storing figs, dates and olive oil, while grains are stored inside the rooms in small compartments built within the rooms. These compartments, which are also found in modern Berber houses (built as recent as 1960s), are basically a short wall (to one's waist or slightly higher) built across the room from one side to the other, leaving behind a small compartment for storing grain. The reason for this I presume is that the grains need to breathe and stay in contact with fresh air: preserved at room temperature.