Annaba, Algeria: 3,000 Years of History

It was no accident that seafaring explorers from far off Phoenicia (today’s Lebanon) hoisted their flag at the site of Annaba more than 3,000 years ago. Then as now, Annaba is a natural port that backs onto a fertile hinterland. If you sailed the Mediterranean and needed a secure home base with a good supply of food, Annaba was the place to be. Of course, it wasn’t always called Annaba. The Phoenicians called it Hipponensis Sinus, and when the Romans took the city after defeating Carthage in the Second Punic war, they changed its name to Hippo Regius.

Hippo Regius was a center of early Christianity, renowned as the place where St. Augustine lived his last years. As the aged scholar lay upon his deathbed, the Vandals were laying siege to the city outside. Hippo Regius became the capitol of the Vandal Kingdom for a decade until forces of the Byzantine Empire defeated the last Vandal King in the year 439. The 7th century wave of Islamic conquest swept over the city in the late 7th century, and life in Beleb-el-Anab, as it was then named, was significantly quieter over the next millennium until France took the city in 1832. Renamed once again, this time to Bône. The French built extensively in the European style, and many of those classic 19th century buildings remain in Annaba today.

After the conclusion of the Algerian War of Independence in 1962, many place names changed or given by the French were arabicized. So it was that Bone became Annaba. The city’s population dipped following the war as most people of European extraction immigrated to France, but Annaba’s charms and attributes soon lured new citizens from across Algeria. Today, Annaba has a population of over 350,000 and highly regarded Annaba University has an enrollment of over 40,000 students. The port is still fully functional and the inland still fertile, resulting in a thriving export trade and an unemployment rate lower than most of Algeria. Travelers will find that getting in and out of Annaba is relatively easy, as the city is well served by road and rail links as well as by air through Rabah Bitat Airport. Annaba… it’s a nice place to visit in Algeria, and you WOULD want to live there!