Algeria History - Constantine

Algeria History – Departments of Constantine and Orano

Department of Constantine. – In the department of Constantina the situation is different, as there is an evident dualism. A part of it corresponds to the Mitidja and the Oran plains: the plain of Bona. This is well watered; indeed, from a certain point of view, it could be said that it is too much (immense quagmire of Lake Fetzara, terrible malaria). In the surrounding mountains, at Cape Bougaraun, there is the meteorological station, which, for the average rainfall, marks the highest figure in Algeria (1809 mm, just under 2 meters). At the border of Tunisia, in the Souk-Ahras mountains, there are forests, even more beautiful than those of Kabylia, in which a species of African deer lives. Bona and Guelma are ancient cities (Hippo and Calama): St. Augustine and Procopius speak of the whole plain and surrounding mountains not yet freed from the influence of Carthage. In this province, where Arabic is spoken, the Semitic language has been in use for 2000 years.

Colonization had a strong development; after the war the settlers of Bona turned to the cultivation of cotton with a remarkable spirit of initiative.

But the plain of Bona does not include the whole department; another important and distinct center of colonization is constituted by Constantine. Here the Tell extends to. S. in the highlands, the northern end of which, at the N. of the salt lakes, offers excellent conditions for the cultivation of cereals: deep humus, from 500 to 600 mm. of precipitation, which falls in the form of snow in winter. From the O. to the East., follow the Medjana (Bordj-bou-Arréridj), the plateaus of Sétif (Mauretania Sitifiana of the Romans) and the highlands of Constantina. The Algiers-Tunis railway line, exiting from Kabylia, runs along these fertile plateaus; Bona is served only by one branch of it. The border line between the Tell and the upper region, that is, between agriculture and pastoralism, is in every part an area occupied by cities (in the O. Tiaret, Tlemcen); but here we are dealing with a real province.

Constantina, the ancient Cirta, has always been the capital; such it was at the time of the Turks, and officially remains such; but it is far from occupying the predominant place in the department of Algiers and Orano (73,116 residents). Surrounded by the famous Rummel gorges, it was already a military fortress; in times of peace, it is above all an admirable tourist center; its port, Philippeville, is mediocre. But the city in which life is most lively is Bona (41,777 residents, Of which 13,681 indigenous). The department of Constantine thus remains effectively divided into two separate and distinct areas.

Department of Orano. – In the department of Orano, colonization has a less unitary character; there are centers which retain their own individuality.

The most notable of them is undoubtedly Tlemcen, a city unlike any other in Algeria. It is located at the border of Morocco, at the eastern end of the famous Taza corridor, the western end of which is guarded by Fez. It was the humblest rival of Fez and the historical capital of the Algerian Zenātah nomads. It is a jewel of Hispano-Moorish architecture, and it is the only city in Algeria that escaped destruction in the Middle Ages. It is also the only Algerian city in which France has found an important bourgeois nucleus, a remnant of that Muslim culture, which, although it was already in decline, was overwhelmed by the progress of colonization.

Located at the foot of a limestone plateau, a real causse, all covered with Aleppo pines, Tlemcen is fed by its abundant springs, and has under it the rich Tafna valley, already well colonized. Here the climatic conditions are more favorable than in the rest of the department. On the causse the precipitation reaches 700 mm., Most of which in the form of snow. Tlemcen is the sentinel advanced towards the west of the Oranese settlers, who with ardor have begun to invade Morocco. In 1921 it had 40,775 residents, of which 29,628 indigenous, an enormous percentage, being an Algerian city. For Algeria 2007, please check

Tiaret is also characteristic. Situated on the edge of the steppe plateaus, at a great height (1200 m.), It has very harsh winters. Whoever arrives on the steppe plateaus coming from E., finds in Tiaret, after Boghari, the first great access route to descend into the Oran plains, through the Ouarsenis Atlas. This is the opening of the Mina, followed by the railway, and the plateau of Mendez, followed by the road of the crests. The Tiaret region was an important political center. A Berber dynasty, contemporary of the Byzantine domination, has left curious funeral monuments, the Gedd ā r. The Rustemide dynasty, which had a notable power in the century. X, had Tiaret as its capital. Nothing remains of the ancient city; the modern is the small urban center of an extensive agricultural region, where dry farming has worked wonders. To N., the plateau of Mendez; to E., the Sersou.

Also worth mentioning are Sidi-Bel-Abbès, center of the Foreign Legion, and Mascara, Abd-el-Kader’s homeland, on an expanse of intermediate plains, between the steppe plateaus and the Oran plains. Sidi-Bel-Abbès, then, favored by a soil made fertile by the proximity of phosphate deposits, reported the greatest triumphs of the Oranian colonization, by restoring those methods of crop rotation, as old as Carthage, to which it was then given the name of dry farming. In the Mascara region, in the wide valleys that stretch between the cliffs of the causse, the successes of dry farming reach as far as Saïda.

The Chélif plain, which extends into the Oran plains, has an immense extension; the soil is very fertile there, although talvoha it is necessary to break the limestone crust (the caliche of Americans); but the climatic conditions are much less good than in Mitidja, although the surrounding mountains (Zakkar in N., Ouarsenis in S.) receive a considerable amount of rain. In Ouarsenis (Teniet-el-Hâd) it is the most beautiful cedar forest in all of Algeria. In the plain, on the other hand, the amount of rainfall in certain locations drops to below 400 mm. The whole Oranese, sheltered from rainy winds thanks to the Moroccan mountain barrier, suffers more or less from drought; moreover it has been invaded, over the centuries, by nomads of the steppe plateaus, Zenātah and Arabs; and by countering these, colonization has regained the soil. Unlike the Kabyles, the nomads, outside their steppes, are incapable of strong economic resistance; and the traveler who crosses the plains of the Chélif and Oranese by train has constantly before his eyes the chessboard of European cultivated fields. To increase the quantity of water available, the locks at the mouths of mountain streams multiply; and the remarkable results obtained in the cultivation of cotton give good hopes for the future.

Orléansville, on the Chélif, administratively dependent on Algiers, is already part of the Oranese economic framework. Other small towns of the lower Oranese, the ports of Mostaganem and d’Arzew, have no value. Oran alone predominates; it has no capital claims, like Algiers, but is therefore no less important. The 1921 census gave 138,212 residents, of which 20,059 indigenous. It is common to indicate with the name of Oranese the whole jurisdiction of Oran, that is the department.

Algeria History - Constantine