From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Clockwise from top: Mansourah Mosque, Great Mosque of Tlemcen, Mechouar Palace, Renaissance Hotel, Centre d'études andalouses
Clockwise from top:
Mansourah Mosque, Great Mosque of Tlemcen, Mechouar Palace, Renaissance Hotel, Centre d'études andalouses
Location of Tlemcen in the Tlemcen Province
Location of Tlemcen in the Tlemcen Province
Tlemcen is located in Algeria
Location within Algeria
Coordinates: 34°52′58″N 01°19′00″W / 34.88278°N 1.31667°W / 34.88278; -1.31667Coordinates: 34°52′58″N 01°19′00″W / 34.88278°N 1.31667°W / 34.88278; -1.31667
Country Algeria
DistrictTlemcen District
 • Total40.11 km2 (15.49 sq mi)
842 m (2,762 ft)
 (2008 census)
 • Total377,400
 • Density9,400/km2 (24,000/sq mi)
Postal code

Tlemcen (/tlɛmˈsɛn/;[1] Arabic: تلمسانTilimsān) is the second-largest city in north-western Algeria after Oran, and capital of the Tlemcen Province. The city has developed leather, carpet and textile industries, which it exports through the port of Rachgoun. It had a population of 377,400 at the previous census[when?], while the province had 1,302,000 inhabitants.[2]


The origin of the name Tlemcen is uncertain. One theory is that it is the feminine plural of the Berber word Talmest, which means a certain type of well which naturally forms a small lake. Another theory traces the name to the Berber words Thala Imsan, which can mean "the dry spring" or "the fountain of lions". The name is sometimes spelled Tlemsen, Tlemsan, or Tilimsen.



The areas surrounding Tlemcen were inhabited during the Neolithic period,[3] as evidenced by the discovery of polished axes in the caves of Boudghene by Gustave-Marie Bleicher in 1875.

There are three important prehistoric sites in the region: lake Karar, located one kilometer south of Remchi; the rock shelters of Mouilah, 5 km north of Maghnia; and the deposit called "d'Ouzidan", 2 km west of Aïn El Hout. The shelters found at the Mouilah and Boudghene sites present favorable habitat conditions for prehistoric man, who settled in the area for a long time.


A man of Tlemcen

In AD 17, Tacfarinas led the Gaetuli to revolt against the Romans. [4]

Tlemcen became a military outpost of Ancient Rome in the 2nd century CE under the name of Pomaria. It was then an important city in the North Africa see of the Roman Catholic Church, where it was the center of a diocese. Its bishop, Victor, was a prominent representative at the Council of Carthage (411), and its bishop Honoratus was exiled in 484 by the Vandal king Huneric for denying Arianism.

It was a center of a large Christian population for many centuries after the city's Arab conquest in 708 AD.[5]

Islamic Dynasties[edit]

In the later eighth century and the ninth century, the city became a Kingdom of Banu Ifran of the Kharijite sufri.[6] These same Berber Kharijis also began to develop various small Saharan oases and to link them into regular trans-Saharan caravan routes terminating at Tlemcen beginning a process that would determine Tlemcen's historical role for almost all of the next millennium.[7]

In 1082 the Almoravid leader Yusuf ibn Tashfin founded the city of Tagrart [fr] ("Encampment" in Berber language), which merged with the existing settlement, now called Agadir, and known since as Tlemcen (Tilimsan). Control of Tlemcen probably passed from the Almoravids to the Almohad Caliphate in the mid-twelfth century. However, in the early thirteenth century, 'Abdallah ibn Ghaniya attempted to restore Almoravid control of the Maghreb.[8] In about 1209, the region around Tlemcen was devastated by retreating Almoravid forces, not long before their final defeat by the Almohads at the Battle of Jebel Nafusa in 1210.[9] Despite the destruction of Tlemcen's already-feeble agricultural base, Tlemcen rose to prominence as a major trading and administrative center in the region under the ensuing reign of the Almohads.

Kingdom of Tlemcen[edit]

Entrance to the Sidi Boumediene Mosque, c. 1900

After the end of Almohad rule in the 1230s, Tlemcen became the capital of one of the three successor states, the Zayyanid Kingdom of Tlemcen (1236–1554). It was thereafter ruled for centuries by successive Zayyanid sultans.[10] Its flag was a white crescent pointing upwards on a blue field. During the Middle Ages, Tlemcen not only served as a trading city connecting the "coastal" route across the Maghreb with the trans-Saharan caravan routes,[11][12] but also housed a European trading center, or funduk[13] which connected African and European merchants.[14]

African gold arrived in Tlemcen from south of the Sahara through Sijilmasa or Taghaza and entered European hands.[15] Consequently, Tlemcen was partially integrated into the European financial system. For example, Genoese bills of exchange circulated there, at least among merchants not subject to (or not deterred by) religious prohibitions.[16]

At the peak of its success in the first half of the fourteenth century, Tlemcen was a city of perhaps 40,000 inhabitants.[17] It housed several well-known madrasas and numerous wealthy religious foundations, and become the principal intellectual center of the central Maghreb. At the souq around the Great Mosque, merchants sold woolen fabrics and rugs from the East, slaves and gold from across the Sahara, local earthenware and leather goods, and a variety of Mediterranean maritime goods "redirected" to Tlemcen by corsairs—in addition to the intentional European imports available at the funduk.[18] Merchant houses based in Tlemcen, such as the al-Makkari, maintained regular branch offices in Mali and the Sudan.[19][20]

Later in the fourteenth century, the city twice fell under the rule of the Marinid sultan, Abu al-Hasan Ali (1337–1348) and his son Abu 'Inan. Both times the Marinids found that they were unable to hold the region against local resistance.[21] Nevertheless, these episodes appear to have marked the beginning of the end. Over the following two centuries, Zayyanid Tlemcen was intermittently a vassal of Ifriqiya (then governed by the Hafsid dynasty), Maghrib al-Aksa (then governed by the Marinid dynasty), or the Aragon.[22] When the Spanish took the city of Oran from the kingdom in 1509, continuous pressure from the Berbers prompted the Spanish to attempt a counterattack against the city of Tlemcen (1543), which the papacy deemed a crusade. The Spanish failed to take the city in the first attack, although the strategic vulnerability of Tlemcen caused the kingdom's weight to shift toward the safer and more heavily fortified corsair base at Algiers.

The ruler of Tlemcen is reported to have been advised by a Jewish viceroy named Abraham, who, in the time of the Inquisition of Torquemada, opened the gates of Tlemcen to Jewish and Muslim refugees fleeing Spain. Abraham is said to have supported them with his own money and with the tolerance of the king of Tlemcen.

Later years[edit]

Entrance to the Sidi Boumediene Mosque

In 1551, Tlemcen came under Ottoman rule after the Campaign of Tlemcen. Tlemcen and the Algerian provinces regained effective independence in their own affairs in 1671, although Tlemcen was no longer a government seat as before. The Spanish were evicted from Oran in 1792, but thirty years later they were replaced by the French, who seized Algiers. A French fleet bombarded Algiers in 1830, at which point the dey capitulated to French colonial rule; a broad coalition of natives continued to resist, coordinated loosely at Tlemcen.

Tlemcen was a vacation spot and retreat for French settlers in Algeria, who found it far more temperate than Oran or Algiers. The city adapted and became more cosmopolitan, with a unique outlook on art and culture, and its architecture and urban life evolved to accommodate this new sense. In the independence movements of the mid-twentieth century, it was relatively quiet, reflecting the city's sense of aloofness from the turbulence of Algiers. In 1943 Tlemcen was little more than a railway halt. On January 13 a British and American train patrol engaged in a skirmish with the retreating troops of the Afrika Korps. As the US Army marched eastwards from its Moroccan landing grounds, the British 8th Army drove west, forcing the Germans into an evacuation pocket at Tunis.[23] Between 1942–1943, before embarking for Italy, the US Army Medical Corps established two fixed hospitals at Tlemcen: 9th Evacuation (as station), 12–26 December 1942. Seven hundred and fifty beds and 32d Station, 28 February – 28 November 1943, 500 beds.[24]

The most important place for pilgrimage of all religions into Tlemcen was the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of town. Up to 10,000 people worldwide made the journey to the site.[when?] Nonetheless, despite religious freedoms, their community had never numbered more than 5,000–6,000 in the 20th century, and discriminatory laws of had been in force since 1881.[citation needed] After Algerian independence in 1962, most of the small Jewish population evacuated to metropolitan France.[25] The Berber tribes historically professed Judaism. During the colonial period they served in the French Army. French Jews of the Alliance Israélite Universelle paid for a local Jewish school, which closed in 1934, perhaps owing to the rise of Fascism.[26] In 2009 Jordanian sources reported that the Algerian government intended to restore the damaged Jewish tombs at the historic cemetery.[27]


Tlemcen has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa).

Climate data for Tlemcen
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 14.5
Daily mean °C (°F) 9.9
Average low °C (°F) 5.3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 61.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 8.4 8.1 7.9 7.6 7.1 3.1 1.2 1.9 4.1 6.8 7.3 8.3 71.8
Source: World Meteorological Organization (average temperatures and precipitation, 1976–2005)[28]


The population of Tlemcen is divided between Hadars (the middle class, descended from the Moors) and Kouloughlis (descendants of Turks and Berber women).[29]


Its centuries of rich history and culture have made the city a center of a unique blend of music and art. Its textiles and handcrafts, its elegant blend of Berber and Al-Andalusian cultures, and its cool climate in the mountains have made it an important center of tourism in Algeria. It is home to a beautiful tomb—that of Sidi Boumédiène, whose tomb adjoins a mosque. The Great Mosque of Tlemcen was completed in 1136 and is said to be the most remarkable remaining example of Almoravid architecture.[30]


It is served by the international Zenata – Messali El Hadj Airport.

Notable people[edit]

  • Ibn Abī Ḥajalah (1325–1375), poet and writer
  • Ahmed Mohammed al-Maqqari (1591–1632), historian
  • Eugénie Buffet (1866–1934), French singer
  • Larbi Bensari (1867–1964), musician
  • Henri Dickson (1872–1938), French singer
  • Cheikha Tetma (1891–1962), musician
  • Messali Hadj (1898–1974), nationalist politician
  • Hocine Benachenhou (1898–1979), political revolutionary
  • Abdelhalim Hemche (1906–1979), painter
  • Abdelhamid Benachenhou (1907–1976), historian
  • Paul Bénichou (1908–2001), French writer and historian
  • Abdelkrim Dali (1914–1978), musician
  • Mohammed Dib (1920–2003), writer
  • Benaouda Benzerdjeb (1921–1956), physician and martyr
  • Bachir Yellès (born 1921), painter
  • Djilali Sari (born 1928), sociologist and historian
  • Abdelmadjid Meziane (1929–2001), scholar and theologian
  • Kamel Malti (born 1929), musicologist [31]
  • Choukri Mesli (born 1931), painter
  • Marie-Claude Gay (born 1942), French novelist
  • Mourad Medelci (1943-2019), politician
  • Ahmed Benhelli (born 1940), diplomat
  • Rachid Baba Ahmed (1946–1995), singer and composer
  • Sami Naïr (born 1946), political philosopher
  • Emile Malet (born 1947), French journalist and writer
  • Latifa Ben Mansour (born 1950), writer
  • Patrick Bruel (born 1959), French actor and singer
  • Mohamed Zaoui (born 1960), boxer
  • Kherris Kheireddine (born 1973), international footballer
  • Anwar Boudjakdji (born 1976), international footballer
  • Kamel Habri (born 1976), international footballer
  • Dahlab Ali (born 1976), international footballer
  • Zaki Allal (born 1987), physician, artist and entrepreneur
  • Shi Empie (born 1998), E-sports personality

International relations[edit]

Twin towns — sister cities[edit]

Tlemcen is twinned with:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tlemcen | Definition of Tlemcen in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  2. ^ "Tlemcen: Administrative Units". GeoHive. Archived from the original on 2012-11-06. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  3. ^ Émile Janier, « Regards sur le passé », Richesses de France, no 18, éd. Delmas, Bordeaux, 1954.
  4. ^ Pierre Bodereau, La Capsa ancienne, la Gafsa moderne, éd. Augustin Challamel, Paris, 1907
  5. ^ "The Last Christians Of North-West Africa: Some Lessons For Orthodox Today". Retrieved 2016-03-27.
  6. ^ Ibn Khaldun, History of Berber
  7. ^ Cedric Barnes (2006), Kharijis (768 CE), in Josef W Meri (ed.), Medieval Islamic Civilization: an Encyclopedia. Routledge., p. 436.
  8. ^ see also: Trudy Ring, Robert M. Salkin, Sharon La Boda International Dictionary of Historic Places: Middle East and Africa, Volume 4 (Taylor & Francis, 1994) p702.
  9. ^ O. Saidi (1997), The unification of the Maghrib under the Almohads, in Joseph Ki-Zerbo & Djibril T Niane (eds.) (1997), General History of Africa, vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (abridged ed.) UNESCO, James Curry Ltd., and Univ. Calif. Press., pp. 8-23.
  10. ^ Delfina S. Ruano (2006), Hafsids, in Josef W Meri (ed.), Medieval Islamic Civilization: an Encyclopedia. Routledge., p. 309.
  11. ^ I. Hrbek (1997), The disintegration of political unity in the Maghrib, in Joseph Ki-Zerbo & Djibril T Niane (eds.) (1997), General History of Africa, vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (abridged ed.) UNESCO, James Curry Ltd., and Univ. Calif. Press., pp. 34-43.
  12. ^ S.M. Cissoko (1997), The Songhay from the twelfth to the sixteenth century, in Joseph Ki-Zerbo & Djibril T Niane (eds.) (1997), General History of Africa, vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (abridged ed.) UNESCO, James Curry Ltd., and Univ. Calif. Press., pp. 77-86.
  13. ^ "funduk". Oxford Reference.
  14. ^ Talbi (1997: 29).
  15. ^ Id.
  16. ^ Fernand Braudel (1979), Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century: Vol. III: The Perspective of the World. Transl. Sian Reynolds. Univ. Calif. Press & HarperCollins (1992), p. 66.
  17. ^ Christopher Ehret (2002), The Civilizations of Africa: a History to 1800. Univ. Virginia Press, p. 334.
  18. ^ R. Idris (1997), Society in the Maghrib after the disappearance of the Almohads, in Joseph Ki-Zerbo & Djibril T Niane (eds.) (1997), General History of Africa, vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (abridged ed.) UNESCO, James Curry Ltd., and Univ. Calif. Press., pp. 44-49.
  19. ^ D.T Niane (1997), Relationships and exchanges among the different regions, in Joseph Ki-Zerbo & Djibril T Niane (eds.) (1997), General History of Africa, vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (abridged ed.) UNESCO, James Curry Ltd., and Univ. Calif. Press., pp. 245-253).
  20. ^ Masatochi Kasaichi (2004), "Three renowned 'ulama' families of Tlemcen: The Maqqari, the Marzuqi and the 'Uqbani". J. Sophia Asian Studies 22: 121-137.
  21. ^ Hrbek (1997: 39).
  22. ^ Hrbek (1997: 41).
  23. ^ the battle was depicted in the film Casablanca Express (1989) Casablanca Express Retrieved 1 December 2016
  24. ^ US Medical Corps during Second World War Retrieved 1 December 2016
  25. ^ Algerian archive file Retrieved 1 December 2016
  26. ^ Tlemcen Jewish heritage Retrieved 1 December 2016
  27. ^ "International Jewish Cemetery Project". (Jordan). 2 July 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  28. ^ "World Weather Information Service–Tlemcen". World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  29. ^ "Tlemcen", Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2012
  30. ^ M. Talbi (1997), The Spread of Civilization in the Maghrib and its Impact on Western Civilization, in Joseph Ki-Zerbo & Djibril T Niane (eds.) (1997), General History of Africa, vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century (abridged ed.) UNESCO, James Curry Ltd., and Univ. Calif. Press., pp. 24-33.
  31. ^ Hommage à Mahieddine Kamel Malti : L'immensité discrète, El Watan du 14/05/2011
  32. ^ since 11 July 1989
  33. ^ "Jumelage entre les villes de Tlemcen et de Lille : Martine Aubry reçue par Bouteflika et plusieurs ministres - Diplomatie - Tout sur l'Algérie - page 1". Archived from the original on 2013-02-21. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
  34. ^ "Fraternity cities on Sarajevo Official Web Site". ©City of Sarajevo 2001–2008. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
  35. ^ since 1964

External links[edit]