Posted on Jul 02, 2013 by
I`m just back from a 2 weeks trip to Algeria. As anyone can guess, there are not many tourists in Algeria, at least in the north while in the south of the country, in the Sahara desert, tourism of organized groups is common.
The north is not well prepared for tourism so that you can find some archeological sites or historically palaces closed and nice cities not so well preserved. Anyway people are kind and welcoming even if it is difficult for them accept that you are a tourist rather than an occidental working in Algeria for a western company.
Going around is pretty easy by public transportation if you can speak some French since almost nobody can speak English, even in the tourist offices or in the airports! To remember you the terrorism problems that still suffer the country, there are thousand of policeman everywhere, lots of check points even inside the cities and metal detectors even to entry in shopping centers in Algiers. Anyway I did never feel in danger but I felt safety with so many police everywhere. Police don`t annoy tourists anyway.
I flew into Algiers then to Tlemcen, in the north west of the country, then by public transportation to Oran, a seaside city. From Oran I flew to the north east into Constantine, a lovely city with the old city on the top of a rock surrounded by a canyon on 3 sides and connected to the new city by impressive bridges on the canyon. After that I went to Annaba, a seaside city not far to the border with Tunisia where I went to catch my flight back to Italy.
Algiers has many colonial-like palaces with the impressive Post central office. Compared to other north African cities like Tunis, Marrakech or Tripoli, Algiers doesn`t have a lovely old city center (the casbah is in ruin and not well preserved), it rather has got nice spots like some old palaces, interesting museums, historical mosque and the cathedral of Notre Dame D`Afrique (Our Lady of Africa).
Nevertheless the whole city is intriguing and fascinating and an overview from a high point can reveal the reason because Algiers is know as the "white city". Tlemcen is a lovely small city with a citadel, a lovely central square with an old mosque. Oran is the second city in Algeria, pretty interesting with old monument and a colonial style new city but is suffering of the decrease of the job opportunity and there are many unemployed.
Constantine is an interesting and nice city, as said, with the old city rounded by a canyon and a is a good base to discover the area that is rich of roman ruins. At the end, Annaba is a nothing special city but has some ruins of the old roman city of Hippona, that used to be the city of Saint Augustine, and there is the Basilica of Saint Augustine.
I didn`t have any problem visiting the mosques both in Algiers and in other cities and people has been kind especially when they realized I was a tourist. Talking to them it seems that the situation is improving, especially the economic problems: after the dark 90`s when many foreign companies left the country suddenly raising up the unemployment, nowadays banks have money that would invest in the country and many foreign companies are coming back to invests in Algeria.
The major problem, that was also the reason because the Islamic party won the elections in 90`s was the high rate of corruption of politician and state establishment, that is still going on, is believed to be the reason of the whole differences between the poor life level of a big part of the population in a country rich of oil and gas. Now people was just live in peace and accept, with resignation, the security hassle needed to prevent terrorists attacks. This was what I have been told by more Algerians.
Anyway I enjoyed my trip even because Algeria is not a touristic destination at the moment so you are not ripped- off, are not annoyed visiting street markets or pushed to buy when you enter in a souvenir shop. It is worth a visit.