Destination Algeria

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Destination Algeria

Gửi bàigửi bởi dongdao » Thứ 6 Tháng 12 30, 2016 2:04 pm

Destination Algeria

Algeria is the most fascinating country you never thought of visiting.

Off limits for decades, Algeria is again struggling to its feet, resilient and ready to show you just why the country is becoming many travellers’ favourite North African destination. Like all countries along the southern Mediterranean rim, Algeria has two primary drawcards: outstanding Roman ruins and the exceptional landscapes of the Sahara. The difference is that Algeria has them in almost embarrassing abundance.

Algeria’s catalogue of ancient Roman cities is astonishingly varied. Tipaza, a favourite of Albert Camus, weaves among the palm trees and down to the shores of the Mediterranean. Djemila, nestled amid the hills, stunningly evokes northeastern Algeria’s ancient past, while Hippo Regius is alive with the echoes of St Augustine. A further four Roman sites, all in the country’s mountainous northeast, make Algeria a paradise for the amateur archaeologist in you.

Further from the coast, you don’t have to travel too deep into the Sahara to be swept up in its magic. The oases of the west – Taghit, Beni Abbès and Timimoun – are surrounded by palm trees and the dunes of the Grand Erg Occidental (Great Western Erg) and are home to glorious mud-brick architecture. Intriguing Ghardaïa stands at the heart of the M’Zab Valley, home to one of the world’s few remnant Ibadi Muslim communities. Deep in the desert’s heart in Algeria’s far south, Assekrem (the End of the World), Atakor and the Tassili du Hoggar, where the otherworldly rock formations are the spiritual home of the Tuareg, are the stuff of legend for even the most experienced of Saharan travellers. Away to the remote southeast is the mythical terrain of the Tassili N’Ajjer where superbly rendered, millennia-old rock art tells the Sahara’s story in shades of ochre and other earth tones.

It all comes together in Algiers, a city that’s as alive as any in the world. When deciding to include Algiers’ Casbah on its World Heritage list, Unesco described it as ‘one of the finest coastal sites on the Mediterranean’ and we’re inclined to agree. Also on the northern coast are Algeria’s most beautiful cities. Constantine is stunning. Oran, the birthplace and home of rai, Algeria’s world-famous musical export, is an intriguing marriage of France and Spain. And Tlemcen could easily be one of Andalusia’s most beautiful cities were it not in Algeria.

There’s something about Algeria that has always given it the quality of an epic and perhaps that’s why so many great travellers of the past have sought to know it, and from St Augustine in Hippo Regius to Isabelle Eberhardt in the oases of the Sahara, from Red Beard the pirate-king to Charles de Foucauld the desert hermit somewhere close to the End of the World.

Algeria’s troubled recent past may have slowed the arrival of travellers and the mere thought of Algeria can be daunting. There’s no doubting that visiting here is a challenge. But Algeria has never lost its mystique and armed with this book, as well as the latest updates on the security situation in Algeria, you’ll quickly discover that there are so many worldclass places to visit in Algeria and that almost all of them are not only safe but crying out for the visitors they so richly deserve.

There are not many destinations left in the world that still possess an edgy cachet, that showcase landscapes of rare beauty and promise the joy of discovering ancient sites of world significance. Algeria is such a place and the time to visit is now.

Getting Started

Algeria can be a challenging destination and many of your pretrip thoughts are likely to centre around arranging a visa, checking out the security situationand deciding which is the best time to visit ( below ). But tracking down books and films before leaving home is a great way to whet your appetite for the journey ahead. Algeria is a fascinating country with a thriving cultural life and landscapes of unrivalled beauty that have drawn writers and travellers down through the centuries.


The best time to visit Algeria is in October and November when the skies are clear, the temperatures are mild and, depending on end-of-summer rains, the desert may even have a greenish tinge in places. The next best alternative is from March through to early May, although there’s a higher chance of sandstorms in April and, by May, temperatures are really starting to rise. December through to February is also a good time, although temperatures can be surprisingly cool and night-time temperatures in the Sahara routinely drop below zero. In summer (mid-May to September), temperatures can be unbearably hot – don’t even think of a desert expedition at this time.

Apart from the weather and a sprinkling of local festivals, the most important consideration for when to visit is the holy month of Ramadan . Few countries take the month of fasting as seriously as Algeria does and the simple fact of closed restaurants alone – most Algerians break the daily fast in private homes and many restaurants close for the month – should make you think seriously about avoiding travelling in Algeria for the duration. Only in five-star hotels in Algiers are you likely to find a place to eat. For details on upcoming dates for Ramadan.

A visa firmly ensconced in your passport

Travel insurance – accidents do happen

Driving licence, car documents and appropriate car insurance if bringing your own car

Extremely warm clothes for winter ( above )

A universal bathplug – you’ll thank us when you emerge from the desert

An MP3 player – the desert can be beautiful but there are days when epic distances and empty horizons can do your head in

Mosquito repellent – that unmistakeable high-pitched whine in the ear is death to sleep in many Saharan oases

A small size-three football (soccer ball) – a great way to meet locals

For more advice on what to bring for travelling in the Sahara.


As you set about planning your Algerian itinerary, remember that uncertain security in some parts of the country means some regions remain off limits to travellers.

For the foreseeable future, you should definitely avoid overland travel through the Kabylie region in Algeria’s northeast. Consider flying into places such as Sétif or Annaba; many of the towns are relatively safe. The town of Bejaïa and the coastal area east to Jijel was particularly volatile and dangerous at the time of research. For more information on the security situation in this region. In the northwest, Mascara and Chlef should also be avoided.

In southern Algeria, concerns remain about security for travellers in some desert regions, which is why independent travel is forbidden in desert regions south of Ghardaïa. In practice, this means that the spectacular Saharan landscapes around Tamanrasset and Djanet can only be visited in the company of a professional guide. For more information see the boxed text.


Algeria is not the region’s most expensive destination and travellers on a tight budget could get by on €35 per day by staying in youth hostels, travelling in shared taxis and eating cheap. Staying in midrange accommodation and eating in decent sit-down restaurants will blow the budget out, but only to a reasonable €60 per day. If you add in car hire, a few internal flights, the odd local tour and a bit of shopping, your daily spend is more likely to approach €100 or more. For advice on the expected cost of accommodation.

The rule when it comes to money in Algeria is simple: bring cash, preferably in euros or British pounds, as ATMs that accept foreign cards are extremely rare and credit cards and travellers cheques will rarely (if ever) have a chance to leave your wallet.

Algiers–Tamanrasset air ticket DA14,000

Algiers–Ghardaïa bus ticket DA650

1 hour’s internet access DA80-150

Tour from Tamanrasset DA4800-7750

Museum entry DA20


The Sword and the Cross (Ian Fleming) This wonderfully readable account of the lives of Charles de Foucauld and Henri Laperrine is a like a journey through French historical fantasies about the Sahara and Algeria in particular.

The Conquest of the Sahara (Douglas Porch) Porch tells a rollicking, even sensationalist tale of the often ill-fated French attempt to seize control of the Sahara and their battles with the equally ill-fated Tuareg.

Sahara Unveiled (William Langeweische) One of the most carefully written narratives of modern Saharan exploration, this fine book combines sparing prose and an epic journey that begins in Algeria.

Tangier to Tunis (Alexandre Dumas) In 1846 Alexandre Dumas was asked by the Ministry of Public Instruction in France to travel and write his way around Algeria and the result is a fascinating window into 19th-century circumstances.

The Tuareg and Sahara Man (Jeremy Keenan) There is no finer academic authority on the Algerian Tuareg than Jeremy Keenan, whose anthropological work in southern Algeria began in the 1960s and is updated with an enlightening return decades later.

The Oblivion Seekers (Isabelle Eberhardt and Paul Bowles) Paul Bowles provides a biography of this most iconic of travellers as a precursor to Eberhardt’s 11 enthralling stories that vividly bring to life late-19th- century Algeria.

The Star of Algiers (Aziz Chouaki) This fast-paced novel of cultural conflict in 1990s Algiers is set against the backdrop of music and civil war, two of the driving forces of recent Algerian history.

The Great War for Civilisation (Robert Fisk) This weighty tome by the doyen of Western Middle East correspondents includes one of the most searing and compelling studies of the Algerian civil war.


153 Club ( One of the best sites for Saharan enthusiasts with a pleasing mix of the aspirational and the practical, and plenty of Algeria-specific information. ( At first glance a little light-on for information, but its range of topics (tourism, news, business and culture) is hard to beat.

Lonely Planet ( Includes background information on Algeria with links to travellers’ reports on visiting the country.

Sahara Overland ( Companion to the excellent desert guidebook of the same name with up-to-date travel reports and news.

Wanadoo – Algérie ( in French) A multipurpose French-language portal that takes a contemporary and tech-savvy look at Algerian culture from writers and traditional costumes to the latest news.

Yakeo ( One of the most extensive listings of (mostly Frenchlanguage) links to Algerian news, music and sport sites.

Algerian Music

The following albums will provide a marvellous soundtrack to your Algerian visit; they’re widely available throughout Europe and elsewhere.

  • Deb – Heart Broken (Souad Massi)

  • Forever King (Khaled)

  • Diwan (Rachid Taha)

  • Meli Meli (Cheb Mami)

  • Rai Roots (Cheikha Rimitti)

Algerian Festivals

There’s no boring time to visit Algeria, but organising your visit around one or more of the following festivals will add an extra dimension to your trip.

  • Fête du tapis (March/April; Ghardaïa)

  • Le Tafsit (end April; Tamanrasset)

  • S’bou de Timimoun (dates vary; Timimoun)

  • Festival National de la Chanson du Rai d’Oran (August; Oran)

  • Sebiba (Djanet)

Algerian Films

These films should give you a taste of one of Africa’s most innovative and respected film industries.

  • The Battle of Algiers (directed by Gillo Pontecorvo; 1966)

  • Bab el-Oued (directed by Merzak Allouache; 1994)

  • Chronicle of the Years of Embers (directed by Mohamed Lakhdar-Hamina; 1975)

  • Barakat! (directed by Djamila Sahraoui; 2006)

  • Days of Glory (directed by Rachid Bouchareb; 2006)




Two Weeks/Tlemcen to Annaba Travelling along Algeria’s Mediterranean coastline is like a journey through the Algerian soul, with all the clamour, historical influences and home-grown creativity on show. There’s no better place to start than Tlemcen with its touch of Andalusia and the Almoravid twist that is Tlemcen’s trademark. On no account miss the Grand Mosque and the Mosque & Tomb of Sidi Boumediene. Just up the road, Oran suggests a Spanish aesthetic grafted onto Algerian soil, but with a French ambience and an irresistible soundtrack of rai music that began in Oran. You could stop off in Cherchell and Tipaza as you head for Algiers, but most people visit these as a day trip from the capital. Algiers, the bustling white capital, can be overwhelming. Fly to evocative Constantine and use it as a base for visiting the Roman cities of Timgad and Djemila. Annaba is one of Algeria’s most agreeable cities, not least because it boasts Hippo Regius.

This route covers around 820km by road, plus the flight from Algiers to Constantine – the flight avoids the roads east of Algiers where the security situation can be unpredictable.


Three Weeks/Algiers to Tassili N’Ajjer National Park Algiers has long been one of the most important gateways into the interior of Africa and it can turn your head for as long as you let it, but you’ve a long journey ahead of you. You could fly to Tamanrasset or Djanet (and you should do so for the return journey), but travelling the first leg of the Trans-Saharan Hwy is one of Africa’s great road trips. By the time you reach the five oasis towns that make up Ghardaïa, you’re already deep into the northern Sahara. Take the opportunity to explore the town itself, but the real fascination here lies in the oases of the M’Zab, home to one of Islam’s smallest minorities, the Mozabites who are Ibadi Muslims. You get a real sense of this community at Beni Isguen which is surrounded by ramparts. Melika offers splendid views, while El-Atteuf is the oldest of the M’Zab villages. The dune-surrounded town of In Salah is another convenient place to break up the journey, before pushing on to Tamanrasset. From here, the excursions into the wonderful world of the Ahaggar are endless, with Atakor, Assekrem and the Tassili du Hoggar some of the most extraordinary vistas anywhere in the Sahara. If you time it right, catch the weekly flight to the often-sleepy, sometimes overrun oasis town of Djanet. The Tassili N’Ajjer National Park – the world’s most astonishing open-air gallery of millennia-old rock art – is close by and you should spend as much time as you have exploring it.

From Algiers to Tamanrasset is just under 2000km – ideally take a week so you can break up Algeria’s longest journey. The excursions from both Tamanrasset and Djanet will require an organised tour using a mixture of 4WD and walking. Flying between Tamanrasset and Djanet is essential.



Two to Three Weeks/Oran to Ghardaïa All great desert journeys begin beyond the Sahara’s borders in your last taste of civilisation before entering the wilderness. There are no more civilised cities in Algeria than Oran and Tlemcen. After crossing the High Plateaus, pause at Aïn Sefra ( p162 ), one of the most agreeable oasis towns of the northern Algerian Sahara . It shouldn’t be too difficult to avoid the fate of Isabelle Eberhardt, that great 19th-century traveller who drowned here in 1904. The road winds through the western reaches of the Saharan Atlas and then down around the silent gravitas of the Grand Erg Occidental, one of the great sand seas of the Sahara. There are few more evocative Saharan villages on the edge of a sand sea than little Taghit – the dunefringed oasis town you always imagined as a child. Beni Abbès is equally beautiful. As magical as these places are, nothing quite prepares you for Timimoun, which would be many travellers’ favourite oasis town in all the Sahara (if they made it this far) and which combines abandoned villages, an escarpment perch and sand dunes. It’s the sort of place to relax and soak up the silence for a few days. If you’ve an extra week up your sleeve, you could make a dash down the Route du Hoggar to In Salah and the rarely visited Tassili d’Immidir. Most of you will, however, be more than satisfied to complete a partial circuit of the southern Grand Erg Occidental and on into the oasis towns of the M’Zab and Ghardaïa.

You can make the entire journey (1715km if you don’t visit the Tassili d’Immidir, almost 2900km if you do) by public transport (mostly bus, with an occasional shared taxi). If you stay longer in the oasis towns, you easily add a week to your journey.


Two to Three Weeks/Ghardaïa to Tassili N’Ajjer National Park Ghardaïa and the oasis towns of the M’Zab are fascinating in their own right and are the starting point of many Saharan expeditions, but a less-frequented and very intriguing road to take from there is the one that heads east. Ouargla is a moderately interesting town and Touggourt won’t win any beauty contests, but the latter is central to the spirit of modern Saharan exploration – it was here that the first motorised crossing of the Sahara to Timbuktu began in 1922. Touggourt also makes a good base for visiting the ruined mud villages of Temacine, which has a ksar (castle; fortified stronghold), and Tamelhat. The road east passes amid the dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental to El-Oued, the ‘Town of a Thousand Domes’ and one that sees far fewer travellers than it deserves. Returning the way you came, leave the main road south of Touggourt and pass through the oil-service town of Hassi Messaoud, whereafter a long, lonely road with almost no public transport bisects the Grand Erg Oriental and finally leaves you in Illizi. Deliciously remote, Illizi is for those who love the desert but without the crowds and who love the possibilities inherent in surveying the empty horizons. Short excursions are possible to the impressive rock-art site of Tamdjert, but true desert aficionados will want to set out to cross the northern Tassili N’Ajjer en route to Djanet. Here you’ll rejoin the tourist trail, but after so long off the beaten track you may welcome the company. The extraordinary rock art and twisted rock formations of the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park are your reward for one of the most challenging but worthwhile Algerian journeys.

You’ll need your own vehicle to travel south of Hassi Messaoud and you must travel with a guide and an organised expedition from Illizi to Djanet and into the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park. This route covers around 2000km.



There’s nothing Roman about modern Algiers, apart from the National Museum of Antiquities and the fact that Romans took the town in AD 146 and held it for almost four centuries. However, it provides the ideal base for visiting the charming last vestiges of Roman Tipaza, which was a favourite of that great Franco-Algerian writer Albert Camus and which meanders amid the pine trees down to the beach. Cherchell doesn’t quite have Tipaza’s enchanted air, but even Tipaza plays second fiddle to Djemila, one of Algeria’s most appealing drawcards and one of the most beautiful extant Roman cities in Africa. The setting among the Petit Kabylie hills and the well preserved state of the ruins make this the premier Roman site in Algeria. Timgad also makes it easy to imagine a lively and prosperous Roman city, while the ruins of Lambèse scattered around the village of Tazoult require a lot more imagination. Tiddis is similarly modest but not-to-be-missed if Roman ruins are your thing, while Hippo Regius is Djemila’s rival for the title of Algeria’s most spectacular Roman site, not to mention a place forever associated with the spirit of St Augustine.


The gritty, labyrinthine and quintessentially Algerian Casbah in Algiers is the most recent addition to Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites in Algeria; it’s a worthy member of what is an exceptional group of signature Algerian attractions. Tipaza has also charmed its way onto the list and there was no way that the doyens of the world’s most important cultural sites could resist Timgad and Djemila – Roman Algeria clearly caught the eye when Unesco sat down to revise its catalogue in 1982. In the same year, the incomparable rock-art sites and extraordinary natural beauty of the Tassili N’Ajjer National Park were inscribed on the list. Few places in the Sahara can quite match the Tassili N’Ajjer for its exquisite rock art that tells the strangely compelling story of the Sahara’s journey from green and pleasant land to the world’s largest desert. The M’Zab Valley similarly tells a strange story of survival and isolation, home as it is to one of the last remaining communities of Ibadi Muslims anywhere in the world. Al-Qal’a of Beni Hammad, the ruined 11th-century seat of the Hammamid emirs, rounds out the list, although the security situation meant that we were unable to visit this time around.


Peace and prosperity, that’s all Algerians ask for. Having not had a lot of either for the last 60 years, it’s scarcely surprising that these are the two topics that dominate most conversations in Algeria.

For a start, one generation of Algerians is still waiting to hear an apology from France for the estimated one million Algerians who died during the 1954–62 Algerian War of Independence. They’ve been waiting a long time and aren’t exactly holding their breath, but many still live in hope. As bitter as the memories are, looking longingly out across the water towards France is something of a national pastime. So many Algerian immigrants have made their homes in France (and so many more would like to) that the old enemy still holds their attention, with every Algerian desperate for France to take notice in return.

GDP per capita: US$6603

Unemployment: 25%

Inflation: 3%

Life expectancy at birth: 73.26 years (men 71.68; women 74.92)

Oil production: 1.373 million barrels per day

Adult/youth literacy rate: 69.9/90.1%

Population: 33 million

Population under 15/over 65: 30.4/4.5%

Doctors per 100,000 people: 113 (UK: 164)

Under-five mortality rate per 1000 live births: 40 (1970: 220)

Meanwhile, the next generation of Algerians with its own recent memories of war is hoping against hope that the relative peace of recent years will hold. Scarred by the terror that rained down upon them from all sides during the 1990s, most Algerians you meet will express misgivings about the 2005 amnesty law, even as they proudly tell you that they were among the 97% of Algerians who voted in favour. Yes, criminals have walked free, but for most Algerians that’s a necessary evil to help the war recede further into history with every passing day. A resumption of isolated attacks in 2006 and the perennially simmering conflict with the Berber (Amazigh) people of the Kabylie, , and the April 2007 Al-Qaeda attacks nonetheless ensure that Algerians can’t imagine relaxing for some time yet.

As the thriving Algerian music, film and literature scenes attest, Algerians are some of North Africa’s most imaginative and creative people if given the chance and that chance is all that most Algerians ask for. What’s the point in having an education or staying in Algeria if there aren’t nearly enough jobs to go around, most Algerians ask. What’s the point of democracy if the best option is President Bouteflika, they wonder. And just what is the government so afraid of that they have to crack down on media freedom, causing Algerians to tune in to satellite channels beamed in from elsewhere, they question. What is the good of oil wealth if life never gets any better, they plead.

For the most part, however, they’ve become tired of asking the same questions over and over again. The cynicism, despair and social dislocation sweeping the country’s young do not bode well for Algeria’s immediate future.

Algerians are desperate for good news, but it’s hard to see from where such good tidings could come. From the banal (Algeria’s much-loved and once-successful national football team seems to have lost the art of winning) to the bleak (the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, the GSPC, changed its name to Al-Qaeda in January 2007), Algerians just can’t take a trick.

The only consolation is that if the travails of Algeria’s recent history have taught Algerians one thing, it is the art of survival.
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