Great Roman ruins
With Djemila, Algeria is a strong contender for having the greatest Roman ruins of North Africa. While the ruin area in itself is not one of the largest, it is often well preserved, and the adjoining museum is virtually packed with excellent mosaics,- mosaics that so often else have been transported to national museums far away.
Altogether, Djemila stands out as one of the best-preserved Roman ruins of North Africa.
Djemila is the modern name to ancient Cuicul, a military garrison, that was founded in the 1st century AD that should exploit and control the rich surrounding agricultural areas. The city has two forums, and a theatre, a capacity of 3,000, that was put outside the city walls, simply because the terrain where the city is located was so limited.
A baptistry and a basilica were added to Cuicul in the 4th century. There can have been as many as 20,000 people living here at the most, in the 3rd century. Cuicul was abandoned in the 5th century. Excavations began in 1909.
Entrance at the site passes the museum, which simply is too small for all it contains. Three rooms are loaded, mosaics as mentioned, as well as marble statues, and things like oil lamps and items for cooking.
Of the buildings around Djemila that needs an explanation, there is the Europe House, which has its name from a mosaic inside it. It is made up of 18 rooms around a courtyard, decorated by Ionic columns.
The baptistery is still ornamented by the original mosaics, while the dome is restored. The Great Baths is in exceptionally good condition, and pipes and double panels, where hot water circulated, are visible in many places. Behind the Great Baths, there is the great door that leads to what once was the Christian quarter.
Warning: There was earlier a problem of people selling “real antiques” in the area around Djemila. Like elsewhere in the world, many are everything but “real”.
Eat and Sleep
Nothing in the village of Djemila itself, heading back to Setif for the night is the best choice with most travelers.
Getting here, and getting away, is a little bit awkward. Erratic buses, or take a taxi. Starting early in the morning is a wise choice.
50 km southwest: Setif
150 km east: Constantine