A Different Perspective of Algeria

Djelfa, the capital city of Djelfa province, was founded as a French military outpost in 1852. It is situated in the heart of the Ouled Nail Mountains, which form part of the Saharan Atlas chain of mountains in northern Algeria. In a country of natural splendor and dramatic contrasts, Djelfa offers visitors to Algeria an interesting glimpse into the history of this starkly beautiful area and lives of the people who call this home.

At an elevation of 1,138 meters, the city of Djelfa is located at the point of transition between dry, sparsely vegetated high plateaus to the north and the magnificent Sahara to the south. The plateaus are characterized by salt lakes known as “chotts” or “shotts”. These salt lakes remain dry during the summer, at times receiving some water in the winter, often from groundwater discharge as opposed to rain. Just north of the town, the erosion by wind and rain of rock salts and marls – consisting primarily of calcium carbonate – has resulted in an impressive and unusual formation known as Salt Rock (Rocher de Sel).

The grasslands of the area support nomadic herding, and with Djelfa being the only large city within a 100 kilometer radius, it serves as a livestock market center for the semi-nomadic Arab Ouled Nail people. Founded by a Moroccan who immigrated to Algeria in the 16th century, the Ouled Nail claim to be direct descendents from the Prophet Mohammad. Living in red and black striped tents, they have occupied the Ouled Nail Mountain region around Djelfa for centuries.

The Djelfa area is notable for its large numbers of Neolithic rock carvings that date back to between 7000 and 5000 BC. It is believed that Neolithic peoples were skilled at tool making, manufacturing many tools necessary for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of food crops. Many of the carvings depict people in what are believed to be every day life situations. To the west of the town there are a number of Megalithic funerary structures. The Megalithic period, dating back to as early as 5000 BC was marked by the erection of huge architectural monuments.

Interestingly, Djelfa features on the educational computer game ”Africa Trail”, where players learn about African history and culture, as well as overcome adversity in a re-enactment of the actual record-setting 12,000 Africa Trail bike trek. Tourists traveling to Algeria should consider adding the fascinating city of Djelfa to their list of places to visit.