l Qal’a of Beni Hammad

There are many archaeological treasures in Algeria that are well worth seeing. Most people will immediately think of the roman ruins found at Djemila but not all ruins in Algeria are roman. If you travel roughly 21 miles southeast of Msila, you will find the I Qal’a of Beni Hammad. These ruins are what is left of the mightiest and most important city of the Hammadite Empire which enjoyed its peak in the 11th century AD. The ruins are situated at roughly 1000 meters above sea level and are encircled by the beautiful Hodna Mountains which provide a fitting backdrop for this archaeological treasure.

The I Qal’a of Beni Hammad site is recognized as being an important archaeological site by the UNESCO World Heritage Trust and it was inscribed in the year 1980. An in-depth examination of the site revealed that the city was likely founded in 1007 AD only to be demolished 145 years later in 1152. What makes the ruins so interesting is that they provide an excellent example of a fortified Muslim city. Many other Muslim ruins – especially those of fortified cities – are not as well preserved and so do not provide as much information as the ruins of I Qal’a of Beni Hammad do.

What’s more, as the ruins were the seat of the Hammaditi dynasty, the buildings were larger and more complex than those found at other, similar archaeological sites. One of these buildings was the palace which apparently enjoyed some fame at the time and takes the form of three different buildings which were intricately refined and united. The palace is a testimony to the excellent level of architectural skill that these early artisans enjoyed. This skill was likely learned from various top tradesmen who lived in the Hammadid emirs and who would have been compelled to expend themselves on behalf of their ruler.

Another notable building to be found at the site is that of the mosque which is still today known as being on of the largest in Algeria. The prayer room has 13 aisles each of which feature eight bays. All aspects of this incredible archaeological site are worth seeing and learning about so do your best to include a trip to I Qal’a of Beni Hammad as part of your Algerian travel plans.