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Djémila is a town in Northeast Algeria that holds some of the best preserved Roman ruins in North Africa. The ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Cosinus Market

Under the name of Cuicul, the city was built 900 metres (3,000 ft) above sea level during the 1st century AD as a Roman military garrison situated on a narrow triangular plateau in the province of Numidia. The terrain is somewhat rugged, being located at the confluence of two rivers. Cuicul's builders followed a standard plan with a forum at the center and two main streets, the Cardo Maximus and the Decumanus Maximus, composing the major axes. The city was initially populated by a colony of Roman soldiers from Italy, and eventually grew to become a large trading market.

The theatre

During the reign of Caracalla in the 3rd century, Cuicul's administrators took down some of the old ramparts and constructed a new forum. They surrounded it with larger and more impressive edifices than those that bordered the old forum. The terrain hindered building, so that they built the theatre outside the town walls, which was exceptional.

The city was slowly abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire around the 5th century and 6th century. There were some improvements under emperor Justinian I, with wall reinforcements. Muslims later dominated the region, but did not reoccupy the site of Cuicul, which they renamed Djémila ("beautiful" in Arabic).

Get in


There is a loosely-enforced rule that you need a permit and an escort to visit the Djémila ruins, particularly if you are a foreigner. You can often talk your way out of both (or have your driver talk you out of them for you) if you simply show up to the site, although there are reports of people being denied entry without the proper paperwork. Permits can supposedly be obtained in Constantine or Sétif at a local police station, however they may say you do not need a permit (while the guard at the site will insist that you do). The police and/or the guard may also insist you go as part of a tour group. This is easier said than done. If you visit various travel/tour agencies in Constantine or Sétif, you may be able jump on a tour that is already scheduled to depart (you will likely have better luck in Constantine, since that city receives more tourists). In all, just showing up is a risk, but then the paperwork to make things official can be a pain, so you'll just have to pick your poison. If you are already part of an organised tour, then you won't need to worry about any of this.

By car


From Constantine, you can arrange a private driver for about €40 round trip including wait-time (as of 2013), or less than that if you are staying in Djémila. The drive from Constantine takes about two hours one way.

By bus


Buses and shared taxis from Constantine go to Sétif or El Eulma. From one of these cities you can arrange a driver to take you to Djémila. El Eulma will be the cheaper option, as it is only 20 km (12 mi) from Djémila, whereas Sétif is 50 km (31 mi) away.

Get around

Map of Djémila

The town is small and walkable (at least in the part near the ruins). The ruins are also walkable within a few hours, although note the terrain is hilly.



Within the ruins

Arch of Caracalla

The entrance gate is to the south of the ruins on the north edge of town. Entrance costs DA130. You can obtain a guide (almost certainly French/Arabic-speaking only) at the entrance gate for about DA700 (you may be forced to do this – there are no signs or information in the ruins so this may be a good idea anyway). The main road within the ruins is the cardo maximus, which begins about 100 metres (330 ft) north of the entrance gate and runs northwest, downhill and through the centre of the old city.

  • 1 Christian Quarter (At the beginning of the cardo maximus, off to the right). Holds the Cresconius Basilica, baths and a chapel.
  • 2 House of Bacchus (50 m down the cardo maximus, on the left). Mansion built in the 5th century AD.
  • 3 Grand Baths (60 m down the cardo maximus, on the left, immediately after the House of Bacchus). Built in AD 183. Has an underground level where fires heated the bathwater.
  • 4 Place des Sévères (200 m down the cardo maximus). The city's central plaza.
  • 5 Arch of Caracalla (To the left of the Place des Sévères). The decorated west gate of the city, 12.5 m (40 ft) high. Reconstructed in 1922 after it was dismantled in 1839 in a failed attempt to ship it to Paris.
  • 6 Severan Temple (On the southeastern edge of the Place des Sévères). Landmark temple of the Severan family built in the 3rd century AD.
  • 7 Theatre (100 m west of the Place des Sévères; take the road going northeast, downhill from the Place). Built outside of the town's walls, cut into the hillside of a valley.
  • 8 Forum (100 m past the Place des Sévères on the cardo maximus). Ringed by the remains of the Julia Basilica and the Capitol building, a temple dedicated to the gods Jupiter, Juno and Minerva.
  • 9 Cosinus Market (On the northwestern edge of the forum). The city's central market.
  • 10 Prison (Below the Cosinus Market, underground). A subterranean prison consisting of an outer cell and an inner cell.

Outside the ruins

Inside the Djémila Museum
  • 11 Djémila Museum (Near the entrance to the ruins). Small museum (just three rooms) displaying beautiful Roman statues and mosaics. DA120 entrance – your ticket to the ruins should get you into the museum as well, but you can also visit it independently, for example in the case that your "paperwork" is not in order and they won't let you into the ruins.


  • Hiking. There are hiking trails to the southeast of town with fantastic viewpoints.



In the centre of town, near the Hotêl Cuicul, there are several small supermarkets.



There are restaurants scattered along the main street in the centre of town. There is no food available within the ruins.





Accommodation in Djémila is simple and not necessarily clean. On the bright side, it is cheap.

  • 1 Auberge de Jeunesse, +213 36 46 52 21. A youth hostel next to the ruins. Private rooms and dorms available. Beds start at DA700.
  • 2 Beautiful Sight Hotel, +213 656 71 25 46. Basic hotel with a courtyard restaurant located next to the ruins.
  • 3 Hotêl Cuicul, +213 775 63 34 21. Basic hotel in the centre of town just south of the ruins. Probably the best option in town. DA2500 for double room.



Go next

  • Sétif – a pleasant-enough city with some barely-visible Roman ruins
  • Constantine – one of Algeria's must-see cities, famous for its setting and its bridges

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