The Sahara wind has sculpted fantastic shapes in the
ancient stones of the vast Hoggar Range
ribbon of mediterranean coastline crowns Algeria. Below
it lie two ranges of the snow capped atlas mountains and,
perhaps the greatest treasure of all, the vast Sahara.
Traditonal Berber silverware glows wih colour
at the crossroads of the East and West, Algeria has existed
as a seat of civilization since the beginning of time. The
North African country witnessed successive invasions of
Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks and
finally the French. Each left their unique mark on Algeria
and its people.
The Arabs had the greatest impact, bringing
Islam in the 7th century. The French arrived in 1830 and
remained until a bitter, 8-year struggle for liberation
culminated in independence on July 5, 1962, with the birth
of the Democratic People's Republic of Algeria.
Algerian architecture reflects a myriad of cultures.
Under the leadership of President Abdelaziz
Bouteflika, the government is embarking on a program of
tourist promotion and welcomes visitors to explore this
diverse and suprising nation.
Much of the past may still be glimpsed in
the gleaming white city of Algiers, founded more than a
thousand years ago and the capital city for almost 500 years.
Modern facades of European-style buildings face east to
the blue Mediterranean. But this city grown up around an
old Muslim town.
An oasis among Saharan mountains.
The dessert, bigger than Brazil, is not all sand.
The old city is dominated by fortress of
the Casbah with its colourful souk (native market or bazaar)
and labyrinth of crowded lanes and open stalls. In the maze
of staircases, passages and croocked lanes, there are many
old buildings with characteristic overhanging upper floors
supported by wooden beams. Mosques from the 11th
and 17th centuries and Moorish palaces
are reminders of earlier times.
Overlooking the city are the El Aurassi
Hotel and historic Aldjazair Hotel, where the room in which
Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower met to plan the
invasion of France during World War II is still preserved.
The hotel, founded as the St. Georges in 1889, also has
an exotic botanical garden.
Becouse of low humidity, relics of earlier civilizations
remain well preserved.
In the city, visitors may stay at the Sofitel
Alger Hotel, a modern, 330-room facility overlooking the
Mediterranean Sea. Located close to the Hamma business centre
and the Belcourt quarter, formerly home to the novelist
Albert Camus, the hotel adjoins the Jardin d' Essai, created
in 1832 and one of the six most beautiful botanical gardens
in the world. Nearby are a shopping centre and the National
Library, the largest in Africa.
The Sheraton Club Des Pins is a modern hotel
on the shoreline at Algiers. The 4-Star Hilton Hotel offers
410 rooms and a full range of amenities in a suburban setting.
The Mercure Hotel also provides excellent accommodations.
Algiers, the capital, is a gleaming city on the Mediterranean
The relatively unspoiled shoreline is traversed
by winding roads that link such luminous harbour cities
as Bejaia and Skikda. The slender steeples of the Tellian
Atlas range reach to the sea. Virgin crescents of sand nestle
between rocky buttresses.
Algeria's coastal region is the area of
greatest cultivation, in part due to a climate tempered
by the Mediterranean. Fruit orchards and vegetables are
abundant in this area, with the plateaus sufficiently well
watered for the cultivation of cereals. Tapping huge reserves
of underground water, modern Algeria is greening the desert
with the variety of crops.
Beyond the capital lies is a land of several
distinct regions, each with its own character and attractions.
Like Indonesia, the peoples of Algeria represent diversity
in unity, representing different, subtly connected cultural
zones. One sees a striking difference between the nomads
in the Sahara, the sedentary farmers in the plateaus and
the city dwellers in the nothern coastal region.
A thriving handicraft industry generates
a rich variety of products, from its renowned carpets to
sheet copperware and traditional Berber silverware.
This is the land once traversed by legions
of Rome. The ancient Roman city of Timgad features many
important Roman ruins. These archeological treasures are
in excellent condition due to the low humidity; the Roman
amphitheatre in the Timgad is still used for performances.
Algerian museums display numerous exquisite mosaics and
Eighty-five percent of the nation-second
largest in Africa-is made up of rugged mountain ranges.
South of the coastal Tellian range is high plateau with
fragrant forests of cedar and pine, eucalyptus and cork
oaks. Beyond the Saharan Atlas Mountains is the gateway
to the desert.
The Sahara is the largest desert in the
world, considerably bigger than Brazil. It spans 11 countries
across North Africa, but it's widely held that Algeria offers
best of the Sahara. The region is the country's center of
wealth and is endowed with rich mineral resources, oil and
gas. The word, Sahara, itself means desert in Arabic. The
vast expanses of sand dunes, caressed by the wind into sensuous
shapes and stark pyramids, are known as irq, oceans in Arabic.
Along with graceful palms, Algeria nurtures fragrant
forests and diverse agriculture
The Sahara is a land of purity and stillness,
of endless spaces and a brilliant sky. It is not all sand,
harbouring open rocky spaces and spectacular mountain ranges,
and it is anything but empty. It is home to more than a
million Algerians, whose lives are a testimony to the adaptability
of humanity. The town of In Salah, for instance, is bisected
by a creeping dune. As the leading edge of the dune buries
homes, others emerge from the trailing edge, to be re-occupied
by the children and grandchildren of the original owners.
The city of Ghardaia, designated by UNESCO as a world heritage
site, is renowned for its teeming market.
The Sahara is home of the Tuareg nomads,
cloaked in traditional blue and mythology, who have long
traversed the trackless immensity of the Sahara. Many now
use their desert survival skills to guide visitors. Travel
is by 4WD vehicles or on foot.
Algeria is home to diverse cultures, from desert nomads
to cosmopolitan urbanites
It's possible to get direct flights from
Algiers and some European cities to Tamanrasset. This Tuareg
city of 40,000 people, is the starting point for many desert
expeditions. At 1,400 meters above sea level, it offers
a mild temperature, charm and abundant places to eat and
For many, the highlight of a Sahara visit
is the vast Hoggar mountain range, three times the size
of Java. Verdant waterfalls at the village of Tamekrest
beckon. Adventurers can explore ancient rock paintings among
the deep chasms and dramatic cliffs of Tassili N'Aijer,
another UNESCO world heritage site. Residents of a less
arid Sahara inked the stones 50 centuries before the pyramids
of Egypt were built. Nearby is Djanet, one of the most beautiful
oases of the south.
Algiers, the capital city, reaches from verdant hillsides
down to a crescent of the Mediterranean Sea
The Hoggar Mountains themselves are gentle
slopes in brown and yellow; stark spires that are remnants
of the throats of volcanoes and peaks soaring to nearly
3,000 meters above sea level.
Despite the region's best developed network
of roads, travel might be slow because there are many occasions
to stop and view a land that is timeless, endless and constantly