Visit the Ancient City of Mascara

As the capital of the Mascara Province in the north of Algeria, the city of Mascara (also spelled Maskara) is home to around 150,000 people according to a 2008 estimate. It is the administrative center of the province, as well as being a busy trading hub. As is the case with many ancient Algerian cities, Mascara has two distinctly different parts – the older Muslim quarters and the newer French quarters. The ruins of the city’s ancient ramparts are still evident, with most of the town falling within the borders of these structures that once served as a protection against invading enemies.

The name of the city, and the province within which it lies, is taken from the Arabic word for a military garrison, or the expression “mother of soldiers”. Mascara was the birthplace, and later the capital city of Abdelkader El Djezairi, more often referred to as Emir Abd al-Qadir – Emir meaning Prince. Considered by many Algerians to be a national hero, Emir Abd al-Qadir was an Islamic scholar, Sufi, and political and military leader who was very influential as a leader in the struggle against French invaders during the mid-19th century.

At the beginning of the 18th century, the ruling Ottomans built a military garrison in Mascara, and proceeded to settle Andalucian Muslims in the town. By the end of the century, the Andalucian Muslims left Mascara, and the Ottomans used the town to relocate Jews. In 1832 Abd al-Qadir had made Mascara his headquarters, but in 1835 the town was destroyed by the French and by 1841 it was French-controlled, remaining that way until independence in 1962. The changes in power and influence during the history of Mascara can be seen in the architecture of the city.

Mascara’s main trade is in wine, grains, olive oil and leather goods. It is one of Algeria’s important wine producing areas, along with Tlemcen, Sidi Bel Abbes, Mostaganem and Ain Temouchent. As the administrative, commercial and trading center of the province, Mascara is connected by road and rail to other important centers, such as Oran, Saida, Sidi Bel Abbes and Relizane.