Tlemcen is one of the most beautiful towns in Algeria. With its sand red old city walls, elegant minarets and palaces filled with graceful arches and Moorish atmosphere, Tlemcen looks like the love child of Marrakesh and Cordoba – without the other tourists.
Best Time to Visit
The best times to visit Tlemcen for ideal weather are March to June and September to November based on average temperature and humidity.
Top Places to Visit in Tlemcen
1. Grand Mosque
Tlemcen’s Grand Mosque is one of North Africa’s most important Islamic buildings. Begun by the Almoravid leader Youssef ben Tachfine around 1091, it has been substantially rebuilt several times over the centuries but retains some important early features, including the mihrab, elaborately decorated in stucco and carved stone, and a fine cupola with a massive chandelier. More impressive, however, is the atmosphere of reverence that fills the building. There are 133 steps to the top of the minaret, the oldest in this part of the Maghreb and the highest in town. To visit the mosque, you must dress conservatively.
2. Mosque & Tomb of Sidi Boumediene
About 1.6km southeast of the city centre, as the crow flies, lies one of Algeria’s most beautiful complexes, the mosque and tomb of Sidi Boumediene, which remains a place of huge spiritual significance for Algerians even today. Across the way stands the mosque, built by Abou el-Hassan in 1328. The building is both grand and beautiful. A stairway leads to a massive entrance porch and, through massive bronze-clad cedar doors, to the mosque, an open-sided, rectangular prayer space, beautifully proportioned and finely decorated in tiles and carved stucco.
3. Tlemcen Museum
Given the wealth of history in these parts, you would be forgiven for expecting the museum to be equally rich. It is not. Arranged over two floors, the collection is basic and the arrangement is confusing, with Almoravid, Merenid and Zianid coins, brass lamps, carved stile and stucco all jumbled together. Among the treasures are 15th-century carved epitaphs from royal tombs. Also worth finding are the 1940s oil paintings by local artist Abdelhalim Hemeche.
The Mechouar, a 12th Century citadel, is one of the town’s centrepieces. The Zianide ruler Yaghmorassen moved his residence here in the early 14th century and a mosque was built in the 1310s. The Ottoman admiral Barbarossa used it as his stronghold in the 16th century and the French followed suit, using it as a barracks and hospital. Today the Mechouar offers a place of peace inside its massive walls and across its broad esplanade. The entrance is on Ave Cdt Ferradj.
Mansourah – the victorious – never lived up to its name. It started as the camp where Merinid sultan Abou Yacoub settled his army in 1299, when he besieged Tlemcen. The siege lasted eight years, during which the camp became a residence, complete with palace and mosque. Just as the city was about to fall, the sultan was murdered by one of his slaves and the Merinids retreated. Remains of the 12m-high walls that protected the camp stretch across the olive groves far into the distance. The main sight here is the remains of the massive mosque, rebuilt by Sultan Abou el-Hassan of Fès when he came to besiege Tlemcen in 1335.