Visit Algeria, the largest country in Africa
1. Best view of the city = NOTRE DAME d’AFRIQUE
If you want to get the best view of Algiers, you should definitely visit this Catholic basilica, built in 1872, on top of the city hill.
Designed by a french architect in the late byzantine style, the church has this beautiful inscription saying : “Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims.”
2. Street food is covered with bees
It’s not even a joke. I was walking down the streets of Algiers when I passed by this pastry kiosk and I got surprised to see tens of bees flying all over the food products to the extent of covering them up fully.
I asked for a baclava (turkish origin dessert)* just to see what happens. The vendor gently put his hand inside, retrieving my dessert as the bees simply flew away.. 🐝
* Note: Algeria was part of the Ottoman Empire before being colonized by the French (which lasted until 1962).
3. Safe or not safe
When I first visited Algiers I was told it’s not safe for a young woman like me to wonder the streets alone, because of the past political situation in the country. And there might be some truth in that (considering the kidnap threat in the region – read more about “Sahel kidnappings“), even if i didn’t feel any type of tension when I was walking down the streets. Plus, there is police almost everywhere, just to keep things in order.
4. Not 1, but 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites
In no particular order, this are (all worth visiting):
5. Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert represents 80% of the surface of Algeria. Although transportation by air is more recommended than by car, there is no other way to reach the algerian desert than by land.
I recommend that you take a guide with you, bring water of course (Sahara has the greatest number of oases), a good camera, a light scarf to protect you from the sun radiation and heat.
You can arrange with a travel agency for a camel tour in the desert, also with an overnight camp stay in the sands.
6. Mixed cuisine
In Algiers you can enjoy a wide selection of mediterranean, arabic and french cuisine presented as a mix of fish, lamb chops, couscous, tajines, you name it.
The prices are very good in the city and you’ll want for sure to come back to eat as the berbers.
7. Changing your money
The local currency in Algeria is the algerian dinar. This is the best place to change money in the region if you want to achieve some small profit. But it’s not really easy to get there and they don’t accept just any currency.
It’s better i would say to choose the black market offer for exchanging your money (a common practice) and not the banks or ATMs. And remember the country has severe laws for taking dinars out of the country.
8. Street markets, coffee and a little bit of spices
Same like Morocco, if you are searching to purchase hand-made carpets, ceramics, leatherwear, silverware, pottery, jewelry, you came to the right spot.
Street markets are sparkling with scents and colours and vendors are ready to bargain all the time. Enjoy a coffee with cardamom while doing your shopping or have a small bite of fresh dates or some other fruits (grapes are amazing).
And don’t forget, Fridays and Saturdays are days off in the country, so most probably shops will get closed.
9. Albert Camus
I was surprised to find out that Albert Camus (Nobel Prize winner in 1957), one of my favourite writers, was actually born in Algeria.
Based in France, Camus was impressed by the civil war happening in his native place, with his mother still being in the country, being said that the problems in Algeria “affected him as others feel pain in their lungs“.
10. Shaking hands
Ok, i remember when i was left with my hand hanging in the air. I learned that religious men don’t shake the ladies hand as a form of respect.
Also, if you are a guy travelling to this part of the world, it is mentioned that it’s not really nice to stare into a woman’s eyes or ask too many personal questions.
Respecting the Islamic culture should make aware also of the fact that in the holy month of Ramadan, eating, drinking, smoking or chewing gum is not allowed in public.