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Introducing Batna

It may only be a 100km drive from Constantine, but Batna is a world away. Separated from the coastal northeast by a series of salt flats, Batna is the capital of the Aurès Massif, a continuation of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains. South of the Aurès, the Sahara begins.

There isn’t much history here: Batna’s beginning was its most significant moment, created by a decree signed by the Emperor Napoleon III on 12 September 1848. The reason for its creation is the reason you might want to visit: it sits at the crossroads of east–west and north–south trade routes and has good transport links, which makes it a useful base for visiting the Roman site at Timgad.

Ville propre, citoyen propre (clean town, clean citizen) is the slogan plastered on billboards around town and it seems to have been a successful campaign in most places, because, at least in its centre, Batna is clean and tidy. Sitting in the middle of a broad valley at 980m above sea level, it also boasts good air, though winters are cold and summers very hot. Batna is going through a massive building boom and the centre is surrounded by a landscape of concrete apartment blocks, among them housing for the more than 30, 000 students attending the city’s thriving university.

The centre of town is around the junction of the avs de l’Indépendance and de la Révolution.