Tipaza, home of the gods

The pace of life flows slowly on this Mediterranean coast; the Roman ruins give witness to past glories while the Algerian jet set enjoy the pleasures of fine seafood, a leisurely water pipe, blue skies and sunshine.

This beautiful city by the sea, with its sandy beach and clear skies, was beloved by the philosopher Albert Camus. Close to the cliffs stands a headstone where it's just possible to make out the quotations from Nuptials: “Here, I understand this thing they call glory: the right to love without measure.”

In his writing, Camus says “Tipaza is inhabited by the gods,” and tells how the gods speak in the sun, in the silver-plated sea, and in the flower-covered ruins. Over the centuries, these shores have been conquered and colonised by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Arabs... but the sun still shines from the blue sky over the ancient landscape and it's easy to believe the gods still live here.

Around 70 kilometres from Algiers, Tipaza was founded nearly two thousand years ago by the Phoenicians, and the people are friendly and welcoming, clearly used to the comings and goings of travellers. The marvellous complex of ruins of different civilisations is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a visit to Tipaza offers the opportunity to discover something of the close relationship between this northern coast of Africa and the Mediterranean countries and their classical culture.

Set on three small hills overlooking the Mediterranean, the ruins of the ancient Roman city include a theatre, amphitheatre, basilicas, villas and forums, avenues, baths and fountains. The most impressive monument, though, is the Kbor er Roumia, the great royal mausoleum of Mauritania, which houses the tomb of Cleopatra Selene II, daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony.

The modern city was founded in 1857 and offers a paradisiacal coastline with silver sands and crystal waters. Perhaps the only drawback for sun worshippers is the fact that bikinis are banned. Here the Algerian jet set have their private clubs and there's a lively bustling atmosphere which makes it a pleasure to relax and smoke a water pipe or enjoy a meal of freshly-caught fish as the sun sinks on the horizon.


Getting around
Almost all the hotels in Algiers offer day trips to Tipaza. Alternatively, it is possible to stay in one of the coastal hotels around Tipaza itself, although it's worth noting that an organised trip may be more convenient in view of the Islamic influence in the area.

Where to stay
In Algiers, the Sheraton Club des Pins Resort and Towers (www.starwoodhotels.com), the capital's foremost five-star resort is set amid lush greenery and boasts wonderful sea views. Facilities include a swimming pool and several different restaurants serving local and international cuisine. In Tipaza, the Hotel de la Baie (Tel. 00 213 02 44 61 822), is well situated near to the ruins, making it perfect for those looking for peace and quiet and to experience something of the magic of the early travellers.

Where to eat
The restaurants centred around the harbour at Tipaza are mostly quite simple and specialise in locally-caught fish. If you prefer something a little more sophisticated, you will need to go to Algiers. Here, you might try El Djanina (Tel 00 213 21 74 24 47), whose visitor book includes the Spanish royal family, Le Cedre (Tel. 00 213 21 23 12 83), specialising in French dishes with an Algerian twist, the elegant Grill Room “Es Soufra” (Tel.  00 213 21 66 92 75) with its fine fish and seafood, or Au Bon Gibier www.aubongibier.com/ (Tel. 00 213 21 66 29 80) with its traditional cuisine.

Don't miss
The Kasbah of Algiers, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and witness to some of the most important episodes in the history of Algeria's capital. Dating from the sixteenth century, it retains its medieval atmosphere, with mosques, Ottoman-style palaces and mansions, narrow alleyways and traditional shops and cafes.

Further information:
Algerian tourism