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Tourism makes fresh start with Roman Empire in Algeria

The landscape has remained unchanged since the Roman empire. Soft hills where barley and wheat are cultivated like 2.000 years ago surround Djemila, a city on an Algerian plateau built in 96 AD by the Roman army.

Tourism makes fresh start with Roman Empire in Algeria
Archaeological site in Djemila, Algeria [Credit: ANSA]
The settlement, which was inhabited until the 6th century, is one of many archaeological sites in Algeria, which has an unparalleled heritage in Africa. And the continent's largest country now means to exploit it in order to re-launch an international tourism business reduced to almost nothing in the past two decades.

Moreover, all Roman cities are in northern and central Algeria, the safest areas in the country with no major security issues. Djemila hosts a number of important buildings: an amphitheatre from the 2nd century, where performances and music festivals are still held, temples, prisons, altars, an arch dedicated to Caracalla and a magnificent baptistery from the 4th century which is still intact.

On Friday, the Muslim weekly holy day, the site is flooded with local tourists: women wearing the Islamic veil or Maghreb-style face veil, bearded men wearing long kaftans, lots of children observe with admiration and respect the remains of a faraway, ancient civilization and are friendly in welcoming the rare foreign visitors.

Inside the museum where extraordinary mosaics can be found depicting hunting scenes or joyous everyday scenes portraying men and gods, some glance elsewhere but most observe the figures with great attention.

What makes Algeria's archaeological sites extraordinary — from Djemila to Tipaza, Timgad and Tiddis — is the beauty, almost primordial, of the surrounding landscape which is rare in other parts of the Mediterranean.

'From a touristic standpoint, we are still children and need to become adult', Said Boukhelifa, a high official with the Algerian tourism ministry, told ANSAmed. "One thing is certain, we don't want to make mistakes which have been committed elsewhere. We are aiming for a tourism which respects nature, landscapes and our historic culture. This is the challenge we have to start from, after all the years that have been lost."

Source: ANSA [May 20, 2013]

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