Guelma is a city in Northeast Algeria, the capital of the homonymous province.
Though Guelma was settled from early prehistory, it was first established as a town under the Phoenicians, who called it Malaca, probably a Phoenician word meaning "salt" (sharing a common etymology with Málaga in Spain). Later, the Romans settled the area and renamed it Calama, part of the Roman province of Numidia. Calama prospered during the rise of Christianity; Saint Possidius was bishop of Guelma during the 5th century. Later, the Vandal invasion devastated the area until the coming of the Byzantines, who settled the area and built city walls to protect it from further invasions. It was located in the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa. However, after the successful Islamic conquest of Algeria, the area was abandoned as a formal settlement, even later, during Ottoman rule.
Guelma was re-established as a formal settlement during the French invasion of Algeria, after seven centuries of abandonment. The annexation of the area began with the advancing of the French Army going to Constantine from Annaba (the occupation of Constantine would make north-eastern Algeria officially a part of France) who discovered (and temporarily occupied) the ruins of Calama from 10–15 November 1836 under the command of general Bertrand Clausel.
Guelma was established as a city in 1836. Its communal constitution dates from 17 June 1854. A modern city quickly developed around the Roman ruins, first inside the restored Byzantine city walls, later also outside the walls, which continued to function during these times, and near the railroad which crossed the city from the west to the east. The Roman theater of Guelma was restored in 1905 under the rule of mayor M. Joly. The city had a high percentage of European settlers during these times, supported by the French colonial policy. Its civilians suffered greatly during the Sétif massacre of 8 May 1945. Guelma's oldest still-operating religious building (1837) is the El-Atik Mosque, or "The Great Mosque Of Guelma". Guelma has also had a synagogue, which served the local Jews as well as a church on the place de Saint Augustin for the European settlers.
General view of Guelma After the Independence of Algeria, both the European settlers and the indigenous Jews left, and the synagogue and the church were converted into mosques. The population of Guelma grew at a rapid pace.
The closest airport to the city is Annaba airport. Which serve international flights with Air Algérie to: Istanbul, Lyon, Marseille, Paris CDG, and Paris Orly. Also serve domestic flights to Algiers and Oran (Air Algérie) and Algiers, El oued, and Hassi Messaoud (Tassili Airlines)
The top attractions to visit in Guelma are:
- Hammam Debagh Hot Springs
- Guelma Roman Theatre
- Ghar Hiraa Mosque
- Martyrs Mosque
- Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque
There is an enormous number of small hotels and hostels in or near the hotspots, nightly rates are 500 - 3000 dinars. At these establishments, showers and toilets are communal and hot water costs extra.
Generally, Guelma is a very safe city compared with many places in Europe though this does not necessarily apply to the suburbs.
Try to look as little as tourist as possible. Dressing like a local will help you blend in and get good reception from merchants, who will often quote you actual prices instead of inflated tourist prices. There are tons of expats in this city that speak French first, then English and then Spanish. A polite no thank you and then simply ignoring touts does get rid of them.