The Djemila means the beautiful one, an indeed it is. Djemila is some nine hundred meters above sea level which is perfect example of Roman town planning which suited the mountain’s rugged terrain and adapted it well. Djemila has the amazing constructions of forum’s, basilicas, temples, and triumphal arches and houses.
Djemila, a mountain village in Algeria, it has legendary and illustrious, one of the best preserved Berbero-Roman ancient ruins. In 1982 it got inscribed itself in UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was recognized for its unique Roman architecture, which is so well adapted to mountain environment. It is exceptional antique site recognized for its historical significance. The roman ruins are so well preserved, and the way the planning of town, organizes itself around the forum of the Harsh, in a large paved square, and to its entry is a majestic arch.
It was built under the name of Cuical, by the Romans. It was in the first century AD, for the military garrison. Situated on a narrow triangular plateau, the terrain was rugged as it’s on the confluence of two main rivers. There were only two main streets then: The Cardo Maximus and the Decumanus Maximus. Originally city was built in for their soldiers, but as there was good condition for agriculture of cereals, olive trees and farming was done, it became a large trading market, the city prospered and flourished then.
In the third century, it was in reign of Caracalla that again started to rebuild the place, the old ramparts were taken down, Cuical’s administration gave a way to start new forum. New forum was surrounded by more impressive and large edifices, by the administration then, as compared to old forum. Even with the hindrance, because of the terrain, administration went ahead and built a theatre, an exceptional construction done, outside the city walls. It had a capacity to sit three thousand people then.
The Christianity had reach to its door step, and it gained popularity, the architecture also got influenced with it, and there came the construction of a Baptistery, and Basilica. They are one of the popular attractions today, it’s located in south of Cuical. It’s believed by the third century some 20,000 people were residing there.
The Beautiful one!
It was in fifth and sixth century that city was abandoned as, with the Roman Empire’s fall. Then the city was passed into hands of Muslim’s, who later dominated the region, but they did not occupy it though, yet they found this place as beautiful and named it so in Arabic, Djemila means the beautiful.
Excavations began in 1909
This place of ruins of ancient Roman Empire and its magnificence and its exemplary construction is one of the strongest contender for having the utmost important and one of the greatest ruins of Roman Empire in The North Africa. Though the area is not as largest as we compare it to other excavated sites, but its one of the best well preserved site which has a museum adjoining it which has huge collection of mosaics that makes it more valuable and worthy. Generally the mosaics get transferred far away from its place, to some National Museum or so, but here it is being preserved in the near by site of their origin which makes Djemila stand out amongst the other sites of Roman Empire.
The Djemila today
As you enter the site, you pass through the museum, which simply is too small for all what it contains. In some three rooms which are loaded with beautiful and excellent pieces of art, the mosaics and marble statues, which are beautiful testament of past rich heritage and things like oil lamps and items that were used for cooking, which are of ancient origin.
It’s been named after the mosaic that’s inside it. With eighteen rooms, all around a courtyard are so vividly decorated with Iconic columns.
If you are seeing Roman ruins, there is ought to be the The Great Baths. And this one is in excellent conditions (though you don’t use it now!) with there double panels and pipes are well maintained as you can see from where the hot water used to circulated. As you go behind the Great Baths, you will come across a door which was the Christian quarter at one time.
The Baptistery is still festooned by the original mosaics and its dome has been restored.
If you really wana see the ruins, in its magnificence and with leisure then its advisable to start early morning. Also its better to pack with you some picnic lunch and food and water to drink coz you are going to see a ruins and not to a mall which will have all this facility. But please don’t spoil the place anyhow and help to keep its beauty preserved. You can take one of those erratic buses or you have better option of taxi available, to travel. There is nothing for us urbanites, and its better you head back to Setif for night stay. Also you may come across some local people trying to sell you some antiques mentioning to be one of the rare and exquisite piece of that times, its anything but not real, so don’t let them fool you.
Djemila will be a beautiful experience to visit and its beauty will tell you the stories of past.