Miliana – Picturesque Setting and Ancient History

The town of Miliana, located in the Ain Defla Province of northwestern Algeria, overlooks the Zaccar plateau from its position on the wooded southern flank of Mount Zaccar Rherbi. The seven hundred kilometer long Chelif River passes just five kilometers to the south of Miliana as it winds its way from the Saharan Atlas and travels through the Tell Atlas, before emptying into the azure Mediterranean Sea just north of the port city of Mustaghanam. The magnificent Dahra Massif is located to the north of Miliana.

The site was originally the Roman town of Zucchabar, the hub of the ancient Roman Zucchabar Province. The town was established by Buluggin ibn Ziri in the 10th century, and came under the control of Algerian Islamic scholar and military leader, Abd al-Qadir, during the French occupation of Algeria in the early 19th century. When it appeared that the French would take control of the town in 1840, Abd al-Qadir ordered it to be burned to the ground. However, Miliana was later occupied by the French, who rebuilt it in the architectural style that came to be known as French Colonial architecture, referring to the characteristic buildings erected in many of the territories colonized by France at that time.

The center of Miliana has distinctive Muslim and French quarters, with both being surrounded by defensive walls. The covered marketplace is a hive of activity during trading hours, with the most prominent feature of the Muslim quarter being the Mosque of Sidi Ahmed ben Yousef. Built in the classic Moorish style, the mosque is the venue for pilgrimages which take place twice a year, acknowledging Sidi Ahmed ben Yousef as being a holy man of Islam. Large trees shade the town center, with a clock tower being a noteworthy landmark.

While there are some light industries in Miliana, the town’s economy is primarily dependent on agriculture. Orchards, vineyards and various other crops are grown below the town center where they are watered from mountain streams fed by melting snow. With its picturesque setting and ancient history, Miliana can be an interesting addition to a traveler’s itinerary when exploring Algeria.