Algeria - the Mediterranean and the Sahara
After the idependance of South Sudan, Algeria now is Africa'a largest country. From the relatively benign Mediterranean coast to the harsh rock and sand deserts of the Sahara, from the awe inspiring ruins of some of the best planned Roman cities to the bustling alley and souks of old Algiers, there is plenty in Algeria for the more intrepid traveller to explore and experience.
Ruled in turn by the Phoenicians, the Berbers, the Romans, later by successive Arab dynasties and finally, the French, the coastal town of Algeria were important trading centres and anchorages from ancient times. However, it was the Roman Emperor Trajan who established the military colony of Thamagudi, modern day Timgad, in 100 AD, perhaps one of the best preseved examples of meticulous Roman town planning. The town, designed for 15000 citizens, soon outgrew its original plan and spilt over to the neighbouring slopes. Trajan's Arch, the columns of the Capitoline Temple dedicated to Jupiter, the decorated stalls of the marketplace, the amphitheatre and the geometric grid of the planned town streets survive to this day.
Further to the north, amidst the rolling hills are the ruins of the Roman town of Cuicul, modern day Djemila, or the beautiful. Djemila is perhaps one of the best preserved examples of Roman town planning adapted to a mountain setting.
Visit Constantine, an ancient Algerian town spread along two sides of a deep gorge. West of the capital Algiers, is Tipasa, a Phoenician town later taken over by the Romans. The dome shaped monument to Cleopatra Celini on the road to Tipasa is one of the few ruins that remain of the mysterious Berber kingdoms of Numidia and Mauretania.
Deep in the Sahara, near the oasis of Djanet, lie prehistoric rock carvings on limestone outcrops, reminscent of a time when the Sahara received greater rainfall and had a savannah grassland environment. The nearest oases are often hundreds of kilometers away either linked by a narrow ribbon of asphalt or across seemingly featureless desert along ancient camel caravan trails known only to the local Tuareg tribesmen.
The oases town of Tamanrasset to the west with the rocky spires Haggar Mountains nearby is the main centre of the Tuareg people and a crossroads of sorts lyng as it does where the borders of Mali, Niger and Algeria meet with Mauritania and Libya not far to the west and the east.