Ghardaia & Beni Isguen
A little over an hour away by plane from hectic Algiers, Ghardaia is a mesmerizing Saharan town recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the M’zab Valley. A must-visit is the fascinating walled town called Beni Isguen, where women only wear white. Other highlights include the so-called ‘four-fingered mosque’, the market square, the ancient heart of Ghardaia, the tombs of the local religious leaders and finally a date farm, which boasts an intricate traditional irrigation system. There is no better example of democratic engineering.
When even UNESCO itself refers to Djemila as one of the most stunning Roman ruins in the world, there is no doubt that this is a jaw-dropping place. Located in the mountains close to Setif, Djemila certainly is one of the most monumental North African sites. It is home to ancient Cuicul with its impressive wheel-rutted alleys, two fora, and elaborate churches, houses and temples. Also not to be missed is the museum in Djemila which has its walls covered in stunning mosaics.
Who would not dream of tranquility and peacefulness amongst beautiful palm trees while strolling along the Mediterranean Sea? Tipasa is such a place which even inspired Albert Camus back in the days. For antiquity lovers, there is plenty to see, from Phoenician to Paleo-Christian including Roman and Byzantine ruins. And that’s not where it ends. There is also a Mauritanian mausoleum, an ancient basilica and the region’s most colossal Christian edifice.
If you thought that there was no other Pompeii-like city than in Italy, think twice. Timgad truly is the Pompeii of Africa. Built around 100 AD under Emperor Trajan for protection from the disruptive Berbers, it is a masterpiece of Roman city planning. Even today, after centuries have passed, this colonial town in Algeria’s Aurès Mountains still symbolizes the embodiment of the grid plan: a key element of urban planning under the Romans.
Beni Hammad is home to the ruins of the first capital to be built under the Hammamid emirs in 1007. It was unfortunately demolished in 1152. However, until today, this stunning mountainous site provides one the most authentic pictures of Muslim fortification. Besides being a fascinating colossal complex of the Islamic civilization, it is also one of the most precisely dated. The mosque, with its 13 aisle-large prayer room, is Algeria’s biggest mosque after Mansourah. Its minaret is also the second oldest. This site, which could only have been of great splendor back in the day, is a great reflection of Hammad civilization, traditional architecture, and a regional culture of many palaces.
Djanet and the Tassili
Located in Algeria’s southeast in the Tassili mountainous region bordering Niger, Djanet is a remarkable site made famous for its towering sand dunes, its old ksars, sheer sided canyons, oases, natural springs, palm groves and much more. The region it is situated in is equally astonishing. Meaning ‘plateau of the rivers’ in Arabic, Tassili is an open air museum with over 15,000 fascinating cave paintings and rock carvings which showcase prehistoric animals such as giraffes, crocodiles and cattle.
Algiers might be often overlooked by travelers but that does not make it less mesmerizing. The city perfectly mixes French grandeur with neo-Moorish folly and is home to playful and exuberant art deco architecture. To top it all off, it is home to a legendary casbah described by Le Corbusier as ‘a masterpiece of architecture and town planning.’ The casbah is by far a fascinating place with its mythical labyrinths and many houses on the hillside.