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Location of Tlemcen in the Tlemcen Province
|o Total||40.11 km2 (15.49 sq mi)|
|Elevation||842 m (2,762 ft)|
|o Density||9,400/km2 (24,000/sq mi)|
Tlemcen (; Arabic: Tilims?n) 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 Rashgun (fr). It had a population of 377,400 at the previous census[when?], while the province had 1,302,000 inhabitants.
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.
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.
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.
In the later eighth century and the ninth century, the city became a Kingdom of Banu Ifran of the Kharijite sufri. 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.
In 1082 the Almoravid leader Yusuf ibn Tashfin founded the city of Tagrart ("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. 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. 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.
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. 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, but also housed a European trading center, or funduk which connected African and European merchants.
African gold arrived in Tlemcen from south of the Sahara through Sijilmasa or Taghaza and entered European hands. 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.
At the peak of its success in the first half of the fourteenth century, Tlemcen was a city of perhaps 40,000 inhabitants. 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. Merchant houses based in Tlemcen, such as the al-Makkari, maintained regular branch offices in Mali and the Sudan.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. After Algerian independence in 1962, most of the small Jewish population evacuated to metropolitan France. 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. In 2009 Jordanian sources reported that the Algerian government intended to restore the damaged Jewish tombs at the historic cemetery.
|Climate data for Tlemcen|
|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||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)|
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.
It is served by the international Zenata - Messali El Hadj Airport.
Tlemcen is twinned with: