Presentation of the destination
Béjaia is located on the Gulf of Béjaia in north-east Algeria, and is the capital of its province as well as the second-largest city in the northern Kabylia region. Its name derives from the French word for ‘candle’, and it was so named due to the thriving oil industry here. However, the French are not the only influence inn Béjaia - it dates back to prehistoric times and was ruled by the Romans and Spanish, to name just a couple, and their influences can be seen in the city to this day.Surrounded by beautiful countryside, the city has a warm Mediterranean climate and is on CET time. A handy base for lots of other cities, it has a population of just under 190,000, making up a quarter of the region’s inhabitants. The local currency is Algerian Dinar (DZD); there are currently around 130 Dinars to the pound and 78 to the Dollar.
Points of interests / things to see
The fort, originally built in the 16th century, was constructed on the ruins of a former palace by Ferdinand Navarro, a Spaniard, and was used as a palace for Charles V, as well as a prison in more recent times. The fort gained its name from the surname of seven brave local warriors; having managed to invade the palace during hostilities between the Spanish and the Turkish, they were promptly executed by the Spanish, but the fort was renamed in their honour and today is a museum hosting many historical and artistic treasures, such as Neolithic tools, Roman artefacts such as pottery and mosaics, and even sculptures. The central piece of the museum is a sculpture by the French artist Camille Claudel. Entitled NEO-BID, it depicts a woman with an arrow piercing her right side and is based on a Greek legend. The museum is also undergoing a renovation to enable it to display paintings by French artists, including Emile Aubrey.Architecturally, the building has stood the test of time and still has its original pillars. It is made up of three large rooms separated by walls two metres thick, as well as two side rooms, a central patio and two look-out points. Pl. du 1er Novembre, 06000, Béjaia; tel: +213 3422 1481
On the far east of the city, next to the Quay, lies this striking building, originally built as a Citadel by the Almohad dynasty in 1154. With spectacular views over the town, it is clear why its location was chosen, and its thick, high walls made it a daunting spectacle for any challengers. The building originally housed a mosque and covers an area of 20,000 m². However, in spite of its defences in 1511 the Spanish conquistadores managed to capture the site and constructed a castle and other fortifications where the Citadel stood. When the French arrived in the area and took over the Casbah, they also made significant changes to the mosque, buildings and the Citadel’s house as well as constructing brand new buildings. In 1903 the Casbah was declared to be a historical monument and as such is now protected. A planned renovation programme was cancelled in 1995, meaning the structure is not open to the public, but you can still admire the views. It may be covered in vegetation, but as you walk around the site you can look down on the town and almost see how it must have been in days gone by. Free; Rue Aissat Idir, Béjaia, 06000; not open to public.
Gouraya National Park is located to the north west of Béjaia and is a coastal park boasting an impressive variety of plants and animals, all just a few kilometres from the city. Gouraya means ‘mountain’, and indeed the park was named after a mountain in the park which stands 660m high. At the summit you will find the Gouraya Fort. Go up the paved steps to the entrance and once there you will find spectacular views over the park, or alternatively climb the Pic des Singes for a view of the bay and beaches. Elsewhere in the park are the rarely seen Barbary Macaques, jackals, wildcats and Algerian hedgehogs, as well as protected plants and trees such as the Aleppo pine, prickly juniper, tree sponge and kermes oak. Away from dry land the marine ecosystem is such that protected species of mammals such as the Bottlenose Dolphin and Sperm Whale can be spotted. Beekeeping is practised within the park, as well as farming,ajd there’s also an olive wood and even a Mausoleum for Saint Yemna, which is now a pilgrimage site. Go to www.png-dz.net/contact for more information and to enquire about visiting.
Just inland from the quay, off the Boulevard Colonel Amirouche, is the Sidi Soufi mosque. It is the biggest mosque in the city and due to its central location it is the most famous place of worship in Béjaia. The building now standing was first constructed in 1889, but actually dates back much further. The mosque was of strategic importance during colonial times; it was used as a school which taught children the Koran and Arabic, helping to preserve Algeria’s Muslim traditions. More recently, some ill-thought out extensions have been added; however, the yellow building still contrasts pleasantly with the street, and the decorative artwork covering the entrance arch is striking, with its blue, green and yellow intricately decorated tiles. On entering (after removing your shoes, of course), the red carpeted interior stretches out into the distance, supported by pillars with a spiral design. Charming keyhole windows let natural light in and illuminate the cream, yellow and gold walls, and you can normally find a few worshippers inside. The mosque’s original structure heavily reflected Maghrebian architectural influences, with bright colours and tiling, and this can still be seen today to some extent. Rue Djouder R, 06000, Béjaia.
Fort Sidi Abdelkader is situated at the mouth of the quay in the city’s historic centre, overlooking the sea. It is thought that the current structure was built by the Spanish, using the remains of Hammadite and Roman structures. The fort is named after an Algerian military and religious leader who led a rebellion against French colonists in the 19th century. In spite of his background as an academic, he and his army of Algerian tribesmen managed to stand against their enemy for many years. Abdelkader was also hailed as a pioneer of human rights, attracting attention in particular for his 1860 campaign in Damascus to protect Christians from slaughter. Seen as someone who united the Algerian people, he is still held in high regard; the building is not currently open to the public, as some of it is derelict and in need of renovation, whilst other parts are used by the military, but if you happen to walk past on a Wednesday, you will see local women gathering at the fort to pray at the tomb of Abdelkader. Underneath the structure is a cistern which is protected by the structure. No entry to the public; military; Quai Nord; 06000; Béjaia
Place Gueydon, named after French civil governor Louis Henri de Gueydon, but recently renamed Place du 1er Novembre, overlooks the port. It is both a popular local meeting place and home to important buildings such as the Moussa Fort and an impressive Bank of Algeria building harking back to the age of French colonialism. This is the place to be if you want to soak up the local atmosphere, have a coffee in one of the local cafés, or sit on one of the square’s benches and drink in the atmosphere as you watch the world go by.
Many tourists come to Béjaia in search of the sea or natural landscapes, and Cap Carbon gives both. Popular with both tourists and locals, it is an area situated in the hills which gives a stunning view of the surrounding landscape and the sea. However at less than 7km away by road, it is within easy reach of the city and can be enjoyed as a day trip or afternoon outing. Also worth a look is the lighthouse situated at the Cap, which was built at 220m above sea level and is one of the tallest in the Mediterranean.
This Roman aqueduct dates back to the year 145 AD and was built to supply Béjaia with water originating from a spring to the west of the city. Legend has it that the architect of this second-century wonder arrived in Saldae (as Béjaia was known at that time) completely naked after being robbed of all his possessions en route. However he recovered enough from his ordeal to construct the aqueduct, parts of which are still standing today. The Roman army were drafted in to speed up construction, and the aqueduct is widely regarded as a feat of engineering even today. Free; in Gouraya National Park.
During the Hammadite rule at the end of the eleventh century, there were six Saracen gates built into the city walls. Now just two remain, the others having fallen into ruins or been taken down. The gate left standing at the entrance to the city coming from the quay is an impressive arching structure standing several metres tall. The trees surrounding it add a picturesque effect, but concerns have been voiced about the damage their roots may do to the gate, so catch it while you can! And if you’re there and want some refreshments, try one of the unofficial but popular roadside stalls. Free, off Boulevard Frères Amrani, 06000, Béjaia
Vacation rentals in Béjaïa (Béjaïa Province)
How to get there ?
Boat service between Marseille and Béjaia is currently suspended but check www.algerieferries.com for updates.By plane: the nearest airport is Soummam ABANE RANDAME. It is served by a variety of airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France. It is around 4.5 km and a 10-minute drive away from the city centre. From the airport, you can take a bus or taxi into town. Aeroport de Béjaia - BP 92, Béjaia; email@example.com; Tel: +213 3421 1638.By bus: There are regular buses to Béjaia from most villages and towns in the province, however it is not recommended you take a bus if you are not familiar with the area. By train: Béjaia’s train station (Gare Ferroviaire de Béjaia) is in the centre of town. You cannot make reservations or buy tickets online, but you can check timetables on the website of SNTF, the train company (www.sntf.dz). There are connections to Algiers, amongst others.By taxi: Bérjaia is small enough to walk around, but should you wish to travel outside the town there are a number of taxi companies circulating around town. A good place to find them is the Place du 1er Novembre, or order one from your hotel.
Hotels in Béjaïa (Béjaïa Province)