The ensemble of preserved ruins, the Archaeological site of Al Qal’ah of Beni Hammad, situated on the southern flank of the Djebej Maadid at 1,000 meters above sea level in a mountainous setting of seizing beauty, is one of the most interesting and most precisely dated monumental complexes of the Islamic civilization. Founded in 1007 on an ancient site by Hammad, son of Bologhine (the founder of Algers), it was abandoned in 1090 when it was menaced by a Halian invasion. This, the first capital of the emirs of Hammad, saw great splendour during the 11th century. Located within a 7 kilometers circumference of fortified walls which were partially dismantled by the Almohads in 1152, the Al Qal’ah encompasses a large number of monumental remains, among which are the great Mosque and its minaret, as well as series of palaces. The mosque, with its prayer hall comprising 13 nefs of 8 bays is one of the largest of Algeria after that of Mansourah. It has tight morphological ties with the Mosque of Sidi Okba in Kairouan, another remarkable religious monument of the Maghreb. The minaret of the Al’ Qal’ah, 25 meters high, is the prototype of the three-tiered minaret composition which may be seen, notably at the Giralda of Sevilla.
The palatial ruins bear witness to the great refinement of the civilization of the Hammads. The castle of the beacon light (Dar El Menat), set on a sheer rocky piton from which its donjon dominated the surrounding area, was inspired by the disposition of Eastern palaces. The palace of the emirs of Hammad is a complex made up of 3 residences separated by gardens, pavilIons and cisterns. The largest of the palaces is the Dar El Bahar, so named for the vaste scheme of waters set into one of its courtyards.
An abundance of other material excavated here is presently exhibited in the museums of Setif, Constantine, and Algiers.