The shell squares take their name from their conical shape, streaked with many grooves that serve both as scaffolding during construction, buttresses, and water drainage system. Typical habitat of the Mousgoums tribes, it disappeared in favor of ordinary round huts. Indeed, the construction of a hut requires nearly 6 months. They can reach 8 m in height but in general, they are high from 3 to 4 meters. The hut is also very sensitive to rain since it is built only of clay, straw and vegetable glue.
The composition of a Mousgoum dwelling traditionally comprises 5 boxes. One for the head of the family, 2 for the women, one for the kitchen, and one for the livestock. In the center, there is a millet granary. The 5 huts are connected by a clay wall only accessible by a locked door at night.
Outside the enclosure, the palaver tree is fitted out with a set of earthen “seats”.
The shell huts of Mourla are reconstructions made in 1996-1997 by the NGO “Heritages without borders”. There are also some in Pouss built by USAID. The last original huts disappeared in the 1970s. It was not until the 1980s that an operation to rescue the architectural heritage was undertaken for tourist purposes.
The following video dates from 1920 and was shot in Pouss. This is an extract from a documentary illustrating scenes of the life of the Mousgoum tribes. Mainly focused on women on set, it reveals the boxes and their construction.
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How to access it:
From Maga, take the direction of Yagoua. Arrived at the end of Lake Maga, you come across a crossroads near the Logone River. Head north towards Zina for 3.5 km. The track runs along the river and you will see the shell boxes on your left. There are other shell squares but those of Mourla are the ones that are best highlighted.
Do not hesitate to take a guide to explain the principles of construction and the way in which the boxes are organized.