Friday, January 11, 2008

El Penon - The Spanish period

In 1510, after Bejaïa was conquered by the Spaniards, Algiers became dependent on catholic Spain. To escape destruction, the city authorities abandoned one of the islands facing the city to Spain (El Peñon de Argel). It is D. Diego de Vera, commander of the Mediterranean sea fleet which was in charge of occupying an building a fortress on the small island of the Beni-Mezrena Medina.

It is thus with the "assent" of Algiers inhabitants that supplied the necessary materials and worked even with the Spanish soldiers that this castle was built. Forced, in 1511, El-Djazaïr signed a treaty recognizing the autonomy of the Penon. The loss of the authority of the city on the Penon was then felt in a rough way.

After Ferdinand the Catholic died in 1516, the king of Algiers tried to escape a treaty engaging him to pay an annual tax to Spain ; Selim Etteumi appealed to the Ottoman-Greek pirate Arudj (Arroudj) Barbarossa to dislodge them. After numerous attempts of reconquest, Arroudj gave up the power. His brother Khayr al-Din took over him and thirteen years later in 1529 he destroyed the Penon after a strong attack.

The Peñon fortress was completely destroyed with the the exception of two towers. A part of the Spanish occupants was killed and the other took as slaves.
Christians were then enlisted to take charge with filling the channel separating the island from the continent. A Mole of 200 meters long, 25 meters wide and 4 meters high was built. The mole marked then the beginning of the naval base of the Regency.

In 1541, under the government of Hassan Pacha a tower, which shelters the current lighthouse, was built on the ruins of El Penon. The mole will then experience numerous modifications during the Ottoman and French occupation to become what is called today the Admiralty. Its shelters nowadays barracks of the navy.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The cave of Miguel de Cervantes

One of the historical spots that the Medina offers since the 16th century is the cave of the prestigious Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), author of the immortal novel "Don Quixote de la Mancha", edited in 1605.
This cave is always accessible situated in the district of Belouizdad (Algiers) where it is nestled in a hollow of the cliff overlooking the beach in the Bay of Algiers.

The restoration of this natural and historical spot were recently achieved with the sponsorship of the Spanish company Repsol. This place that inspired the writer in his writings is made up of 4 distinct parts: the cave, preserved in a state close to its origin, the shelter, the balcony with a splendid view over the bay of Algiers and the esplanade. This place was built in the past to ease the cave access. In the middle is erected, thanks to the Spanish community Algiers, a stele since 1887 in memory of the captive of Algiers.

(Picture : Fellous Amina)

Miguel de Cervantes spent five years in Algiers after being captured by the flotilla commanded by the Ottoman Mamí Arnaut (meaning Mami the Albanian) on Sept. 26, 1575 while he was returning to the Spain on the galley Sol after his stay in Naples. Cervantes is assigned with his brother Rodrigo as a slave to the Greek Dali Mamí. Finding in his possession letters of recommendations written by the Don Juan of Austria and the Duke of Sessa led his jailers to think that Cervantes was very important and that they could get a good ransom. The price for his release was set at Five hundred gold Ecu. During a second attempt to escape, Cervantes and his companions had to hide in the cave waiting for a Spanish galley that would come on the beach in Algiers. The galley who tried to approach twice the beach was taken by the guards of the king of Algiers Hassan Pasha. Discovered Cervantes was then put under surveillance. 

Back in his country after his liberty was bought by the Trinitarian Juan Gil in 1580, Cervantes put then all his efforts in writing until his death in 1616.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

El-Jenina or Dar Es´soltan el kedima

This berbre Fort which was the residence of the King of the Thaaliba tribe and King of the Mitidja Selim ETTEUMI (Toumi), owes its name to a small garden placed in its northern side. This palace was built near the center of the Medina.

When the Turks took the power in Algiers in the beginning of the XVI century, Baba Arroudj who became king of the city settled down in this Palace. Place of governance of El-djazair, its first restorations were made between 1552 and 1556 under Salah Raïs Ben Djaafar era.

This State residence was Ali Khodja´s Government hall until 1817; main acts of regency took place there ex. judgements of political crimes ; The Jenina held Diwan meetigs as well as those of algier´s consuls ; Yeni Ceri ( Janissairs) perceived their salary there.

On November, 1st, 1817 Ali Khodja transfered the power place to the Citadel of the Casbah. This foritfied building was placed at the top of the triangle which formed then the city to El-djazair. El-Jenina will then be called by the population Dar El soltane el kadima (Former house of the Sultan) In 1830, the French occupied it and installed the clock of the city there. The Jenina served then as accommodation center for the army.

In 1844, a devastating fire destoyed a part of the building. Regrettably twelve years later, in 1856, the colonial authorities destoyed the anciant palace to replace it by recent buildings. A street of the low Kasbah will be called after this lost palace.