Historical and Natural Splendor of Cherchell
Situated about fifty-five miles west of Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, the charming seaport town of Cherchell has a history dating back to 1500 BC. It is believed that many ruins and archeological treasures may be hidden beneath the town, making them inaccessible. Nevertheless, there are plenty of monuments and archeological ruins scattered throughout the town and surroundings that bear testimony to Cherchell’s long and fascinating history.
Upon discovering the lower half of an Egyptian divinity carved out of black basalt, referring to Thutmose I, archaeologists came to the conclusion that the area had been an Egyptian settlement around the time of the reign of this particular Pharaoh believed to be around 1506 to 1493 BC. Around the fourth century BC, Cherchell was a Carthaginian settlement until the Romans captured it in 25 BC, naming the town Caesarea, declaring it to be the capital of the Mauritania province and proceeding to construct theaters, bath houses and other buildings.
In the middle of the first century of our common era, Cherchell was ruined by the Vandals, an East Germanic tribe known for their destructive invasive behavior. Interestingly, the terms vandal and vandalism are derived from this tribe and used to describe a person who causes senseless destruction, particularly relating to destruction of aesthetically appealing and/or valuable items.
Being strategically placed on the Mediterranean shoreline, Cherchell was soon restored by the Byzantines under the leadership of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. However, it is Cherchell’s strategic position that resulted in it being controlled by one conqueror after another, leaving evidence of their presence, until eventually being controlled by the French in 1840.
In the center of the town there is a museum with many fascinating historical items that have been discovered and preserved. The Roman and Greek antiquities displayed at the museum are widely considered to be the best examples found in Africa. To the south of the museum are the archaeological remains of the Forum and Basilica, with the remains of a Roman Theater close by and remains of Roman baths to the west.
In addition to the many historical aspects of the town, Cherchell offers visitors beautiful mountainous countryside, lovely beaches and tree-lined avenues. The port is no longer in commercial use, but many locals make a living by fishing and recreational fishing is popular. If you are touring in Algeria, be sure to include a visit to Cherchell – it will be time well spent.