Our tour of Roman Algeria begins in Tipasa, nestling undisturbed amongst palm trees on the shores of the Mediterranean and once a source of inspiration to Albert Camus. Phoenician, Roman, palaeo-Christian and Byzantine ruins will vie for our attention alongside the nearby Mauritanian mausoleum.
The Roman remains in eastern Algeria, unheralded and unvisited, delight even the most worldly traveller. South of Constantine, on the northern slopes of the Aurès, lies Timgad, the “Pompeii of Africa”: constructed under Trajan as a bulwark against the unruly Berbers, Timgad represents the very epitome of Roman urban planning.
Tebessa’s elegant, beautifully-preserved 3rd century AD Temple of Minerva is bettered by its ancient basilica, whilst praetorian Lambaesis is one of the most imposing legionary camps in the whole of North Africa.
The wheel-rutted streets of Djemila – ancient Cuicul – are lined with two forums and a clutch of elaborate houses, churches and temples whilst Tiddis clinging to the summit of an ochre-red hill, lies just outside Constantine, “City of Bridges”.
Expert Algeria’s Roman Algeria programme also includes a whole-day excursion through some of Algeria’s most breath-taking scenery to the oasis town of Biskra, where we will enjoy a taste of the northern fringes of the Sahara.
Leaving the Mediterranean far behind us, we will venture across the Aures mountains and through the canyon of El Abiod to Biskra, gateway to the desert. En route we will visit the troglodyte village of Rhouffi and El Kantara, once known as Calceus Herculis (“Hercules’ Boot”).
Arrive Algiers and transfer to hotel overlooking port in central Algiers for two nights. Afternoon: Place des Martyrs (17th century El Djedid Mosque), Place Emir Abdelkader (panoramic square with statue of founder of Algerian nation), neo-Moorish Grande Poste, esplanade.
Whole-day excursion along Mediterranean west of Algiers: Tombeau de la Chrétienne (Mausoleum of Mauritania), Cherchell (archaeology museums) UNESCO World Heritage site of Tipasa: amphitheatre, 4th century basilica, forum, museum. Dinner in former Turkish baths.
Bardo Museum (housed in neo-Moorish villa), Museum of Antiquities and Islamic Arts, UNESCO World Heritage casbah (lunch in private home) with visit to mosque, Arts and Crafts Museum. Continue to Algiers airport and transfer to hotel on Mediterranean coast near Annaba for two nights.
Annaba: “modern” (19th century) Basilica of St Augustine followed by ancient settlement of Hippo Regius (excellent museum, site where St Augustine was bishop) with lunch and visits in Annaba (cours de la Révolution, corniche) and Cap de Garde.
Via Souk Ahras (birthplace of St Augustine) to Roman Madauros then on to Tebessa: Arch of Caracalla, Temple of Minerva, Roman House, Byzantine walls and French market. Transfer to hotel in Tebessa for overnight.
Hammam Salihine (Roman baths) then UNESCO World Heritage site of Timgad (huge library, colonnaded streets, temples, amphitheatre, arch of Trajan, basilica) before continuing to Roman garrison town of Lambaesis (amphitheatre, praetorian guard) with two nights in Batna.
Whole-day excursion southwards through spectacular scenery of Aurès Mountains to Biskra, gateway to “Sahara”: El Kantara, mosque and tomb of Sidi Okba, lunch in palm grove of Adel Nabil, abandoned mud-brick village of Thouda, abandoned canyon village of Rhoufi, Gorge of Tighanimine.
Medracen (Numidian royal tomb) followed by delightful Roman site of Tiddis (monumental gate, baptistery). Transfer to Constantine for overnight at Hotel Cirta.
Constantine (“City of Bridges”): Constantine Museum, kasbah, suspension bridge, Palace of Ahmed Bey then continue to Setif (archaeological museum with splendid Bacchus mosaic) for overnight.
UNESCO World Heritage site of Djemila (ancient garrison of Cuicul): forum, temples, basilicas, triumphal arches, superb mosaic museum followed by Béni Fouda (on ancient border of Nuimidia and Mauritania). Continue to Setif for flight to Algiers for overnight.
Monument to the Fallen, Musée des Beaux Arts (one of world’s great “undiscovered” art galleries), Jardin d’Essai (with lunch) followed by return flight.