Ghadames has a harsh climate, but the architecture and settlement pattern of the old city are designed to handle summer's heat and winter's cold. The houses are built of local mud brick, limestone, palm wood and lime, with thick walls, which retain heat in the winter and keep the interiors cool in the summer. The roofs of the houses are interconnected, and many of the streets are covered, allowing for increased shade, privacy, and security. During the day, only men are allowed in the streets, while the women can move about freely among the rooftops. The houses are planned so that private spaces remain just that; a stray glance into a doorway will not compromise the privacy of the family.
Today the oasis survives on farming and tourism. The farms are integrated with the houses at the oasis, and form a cohesive unit of agriculture and settlement. The plots of land are divided by walls and narrow lanes. The water used in irrigation flows in channels along the center of the lanes or the tops of the walls.
The old part of the town, which is surrounded by a wall, has been declared World Heritage of the UNESCO.
© Eric Lafforgue