The Roman Ruins of Tipasa is a UNESCO site located approximately 70km west of Algiers. Originally a Punic trading post dating back to 600 B.C., it was a place for exchanges between the Carthaginians and the indigenous population.
Colonized by the Ancient Romans after the Third Punic War, it was then turned into a military colony by Emperor Claudius and used for the conquest of the Berber kingdom of Mauretania.
The city is important, as it teaches us about the relationship between the indigenous Berber population and North Africa’s earliest conquerers (Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines) from the 6th century B.C to the 6th century A.D as the city was destroyed at the end of the 7th century by the invading Arab armies.
The site was recovered by French colonial archeologists during the 20th century and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982.
The Roman Ruins are truly beautiful and, despite their neglect, are a testament to the power and advancement of the Roman Empire. The ruins consist of three separate sites and are situated along the shore so you have a beautiful view of the Mediterranean as well as the modern-day city of Tipaza.
The people who work there were very friendly and more than happy to give us a tour of the place while explaining what every building once was, as well as taking us to the less-known sites that were hidden behind trees. They thoroughly explained the history of the site, as well as how it came to be recovered, and a lot of the information that I learned from them is not anything that is easily found on the internet.
The devil is truly in the details as, thanks to them, they pointed out simple things like a small carving into a block of stone that was actually the Roman god Jupiter, or the original tiled flooring of one of the houses that they had roped off. I appreciated their knowledge and their eagerness to share it with us as I left the site feeling like I’d learned a lot.
Unfortunately, like many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Algeria, the Roman Ruins are in decay. Due to the size of the three sites, and the lack of funding available; the site is often subject to vandalism by drunken youths, who usually use the various sites as their night time drinking spots; which means that there’s quite a bit of trash laying around, especially broken beer bottles.
This, however, does not take away from the magnificence of these ruins. They are a must-see for fans of the Roman Empire or any history buff around. I would recommend to anyone who is thinking of making the trip, to go on a sunny day during the spring as that would give you the time to take a long look around, or maybe even get a tour, without melting under the glare of the sun during the summer-time or missing out on the view on an overcast winter day.
I would also recommend having lunch at one of the fish restaurants nearby and checking out the local markets and shops as they tend to sell handmade souvenirs and traditional Chenoua (Berber) carpets and pottery!