Discover Algeria’s City of Bridges
Almost completely surrounded by a deep gorge, the city of Constantine is sometimes called the “City of Bridges” – a reference to the numerous bridges connecting the different parts of the city which is perched on a high plateau. As Algeria’s third largest city (after Algiers and Oran), Constantine is the capital of the Constantine Province and has a long and interesting history going back to the time was founded by the Phoenicians, who named it Sarim Batim, meaning “Royal City”.
The city’s strategic position have made it a sought after target with the various powers that came and went during its history. After being founded as Sarim Batim by the Phoenicians the city was occupied by the Numidians and renamed Cirta, before falling into the hands of the Romans and being destroyed during the civil war between Roman Emperor Maxentius and self-proclaimed emperor Domitius Alexander in 311. The city was rebuilt in 313 and at this time received its current name of Constantine, in honor of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who defeated Maxentius.
In 432, Constantine was captured by the Vandals, being conquered by the Arabs and renamed Qusantina in the 7th century, a name by which it is still known today. Under Almohad and Hafsid rule the city became a prosperous commercial center with ties to Genoa, Pisa and Venice. As part of the Ottoman Empire in the mid-16th century, the city was ruled by a Turkish governor under the jurisdiction of the Regency of Algiers. It was during this time that much of the Muslim architecture of the city was built. In 1826, Ahmed Bey ben Mohamed Chérif was appointed as head of state, and under his rule the city resolutely resisted invasion by French forces, but on 13 October 1837, the territory was captured by France, remaining under French rule until Algerian independence in 1962.
Today, visitors to Constantine will find a host of interesting attractions to visit, both natural and man-made. The position of the city at 640 meters above sea level offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, with the Rhumel River gushing through the ravine below. Sites and landmarks in the city include Massinissa’s Mausoleum, the Palace of Ahmed Bey, the Casbah, Soumma Mausoleum, the Abd al Hamid Ben Badis Mosque and Musée National Cirta. Visitors may also plan to visit the nearby Roman city of Tiddis, which started out as a Berber settlement, as is evident by rock art inscriptions and remains of Berber pottery found there.