Assekrem pji

Immediately north of Tamanrasset, and part of the Ahaggar National Park, is the plateau of Atakor, a Tolkein-esque land of dry earth and dark peaks, at the heart of which is Assekrem, 73km from Tamanrasset, where Charles de Foucauld (see the boxed text, opposite) built his hermitage in 1911. Without your own transport, getting out to the Atakor plateau can be difficult, but it's worth making the effort to get up to Assekrem. The route up to Assekrem is long and bumpy but the spectacular...

Transforming Algiers

Algiers long ago expanded seemingly beyond the capacity of Its traditional architecture to cope. The Casbah, for example, Is believed to have lost more than a thousand homes since Independence because Its cramped conditions can no longer meet the growing needs of the population. This Is a major reason why Unesco Inscribed the Casbah on Its World Heritage list of endangered sites In 1992. But there Is also something about Algiers that captures the Imagination - Its clamour, Its Mediterranean...

Land

Algeria has land borders with Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Morocco. At the time of writing many of Algeria's borders were closed to tourists and the only possible crossings were at Taleb Larbi and Souq Ahras with Tunisia, In Guezzam with Niger and Deb Deb with Libya. On arriving at the border you will normally fill out an immigration card and a currency declaration form and get a passport stamp. If you're driving you'll also fill out a registration form for your vehicle and buy...

National Museum Of Antiquities

The richness of Algeria's heritage is brought home in the understated but well chosen collection on display at the National Museum of Antiquities (& 1021 746686 www.musee-antlquites .art.dz adult child DA20 10 9am-noon & 1-4.30pm Sun-Thu, 1-4.30pm Sat), a short walk from the Bardo Museum. The collection of antiquities is drawn from sites around the city and throughout Algeria. Among the early works are fine ivory carvings and large, totemic Libyan-period warriors on horseback. There is...

May Day In Setif

The date 8 May 1945, also the name given to the main street in town, was a decisive moment in Algerian history as the day the War of Independence began. There had long been unrest in Algeria over French colonial rule, but things came to a head at the end of WWII. Algerians had been encouraged to believe that they would earn independence by supporting the Allied fight against fascism. As the war drew to a close, the Algerians realised they had been fooled -General de Gaulle gave a speech in...

The Climatic Contextthe English Patient

When the Ice Age was at its coldest in the northern hemisphere, around (directed by Anthony 20,000 years ago (18,000 BC), it ushered in a period of low rainfall and Minghella) yes, it's pure barren landscapes across the Sahara - much the same as prevails today. Hollywood and no, it With the thaw of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago (10,000 BC), the climate wasn't filmed in Algeria, of the Sahara again became temperate and wild animals and people re- but no film captures turned to occupy most of the...

Algerian Operators

Akar Akar ( 029 344638 www.akar-akar.com in French Tamanrasset) Long-established Tamanrasset agency with tours around the Hoggar. Club d'Aventure Africaine ( 021 697922 www.caa-dz.com in French 7 rue des Fr res Oughlls, Algiers) Allows you to organise everything from Algiers. Essendil ne Voyages ( 029 475295 www.essendilene-voyages.com Djanet) Has strong local contacts and Is especially good if you're planning to cross Into Niger, but also offers tours that Include yoga, art therapy and...

Visas

All visitors to Algeria except the nationals of Libya, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, the Seychelles, Syria, Tunisia, Western Sahara and Yemen need a visa to enter Algeria. All visas must be arranged in advance at an Algerian embassy or consulate you cannot get a visa on entry to the country. In general you should get a visa before leaving your home country, although if travelling up to Algeria through West Africa, it might be possible to get a transit visa en route in...

France Takes Control

The French presence in North Africa started in earnest in 1830, when they blockaded and attacked Algiers, supposedly because the dey of Algiers had insulted the French consul, but a more likely motive was the need at home for a military success to revive the flagging fortunes of Charles X. Within three weeks of the French landing, 34,000 French troops took Algiers and the government of the dey had capitulated. The victorious French soldiers wreaked havoc on the Algerian capital, killing and...

Kabylie Music

Although not as well known beyond Algeria's shores, the music of the Berber (Amazigh) people of the Kabylie region of northeastern Algeria is a mainstay of the local music scene. With its roots in the music and poetry of the Kabylie villages and in the exile and disaffection felt by many Amazigh in post-independence Algeria, Kabylie music has always provided something of a barometer for the health of Algerian society. Kabylie singers from the colonial era such as Slimane Azem (1918-83)...

Glossary

Abbasids - Baghdad-based ruling dynasty (AD 749-1258) of the Arab Islamic empire adrar - Tuareg for mountain see also msak and tadrart Aghlabids - Arab dynasty based In Kalrouan who ruled agora - main public square of ancient Greek cities akerbai - loose-fitting Tuareg pants akhle- haphazard network of sand dunes without Al-Andalus - Muslim Spain and Portugal Algerian War of Independence - the 1954-62 war against the French that led to Algerian independence Allah-God Almohads - puritanical...

Sport

When Lakhdar Belloumi fired home Algeria's second goal to defeat West Germany in the first game of the 1982 World Cup, hopes were high that Algerian football (soccer) was entering a golden age and that Algeria was on the verge of becoming a major footballing power. Those hopes continued as Algeria again qualified for the World Cup finals in 1986 and The Architecture of Memory A Jewish-Muslim Household in Colonial Algeria 1937-62, by Joelle Bahloul, is an intimate portrait of the last days of...

The Formation Of Sand Dunes

Sand dunes are among the great mysteries of the Sahara. In the desert, sand particles are relatively heavy so even the strongest winds can rarely lift them much higher than an adult's shoulders. The slightest bump in the landscape can cause a phenomenon known as cresting, where an accumulation of drifting sand builds up. The slopes facing the wind are generally more compacted and less steep than those that lie on the other side of the ridge-line. The actual formation takes place where there...

Tassili Du Hoggar

Traversed for many centuries by nomad camel caravans bearing cloth, salt and spices, the Tassili du Hoggar, part of the Ahaggar National Park, is a set of sedimentary rock plateaus that begins approximately 300km south of Tamanrasset and extends to the Niger border. The plateau is characterised by some of the most haunting landscapes imaginable, presenting a mind-boggling series of photo opportunities. Whale-back boulders and craggy mountains share billing space with enormous figures of...

Tamanrasset Djanet the Sahara

If you thought that the Sahara was all about sand and camels then you'd better think again. While you'll get your fix of unwieldy dromedaries and undulating dunes, this part of the Sahara is also home to an alien landscape of twisted stone forests, stark volcanic mountain ranges, endless black gravel plains and deep dark canyons. It's the trump card of Algerian tourism and, now that the security situation has stabilised, thousands of visitors are heading back to marvel at its eye-popping...

Food

The food you're likely to eat as a traveller in Algeria is unlikely to live long in the memory. Couscous with a meat or vegetable sauce, salads, rotis-serie chicken, pizza and vegetable or lamb stews will be your staples. Meal times in Algeria are broadly similar to what you may be used to at home. Breakfast is eaten generally until 9am or 10am, while lunch can be any time from 1pm onwards. Dinner can begin any time between 6pm and 8pm, although it's more likely to be the former. In...

Sights

An amusement park might not be what you came to Algeria to see (and its attractions are lame by comparison to any European park), but it is worth walking through here, if only to marvel at its existence and at the fact that it is so popular. For while cinemas, bowling alleys and other civic amenities in so many northern towns have remained closed since the end of the black years of sectarian violence, the Pared'Attractions pulls in the pundits. The park is a large open space of gardens, caf s,...

Insect Bites Stings

Mosquitoes might not always carry malaria or dengue fever, but they (and other insects) can cause irritation and infected bites. To avoid this, take the same precautions as you would for avoiding malaria (see p222). Use DEET-based insect repellents. Excellent clothing treatments are also available mosquitoes that land on treated clothing will die. Bee and wasp stings cause real problems only to those who have a severe allergy to the stings (anaphylaxis.) If you are one of these people, carry an...

Things Change

The information in this chapter is particularly vulnerable to change. Check directly with the airline or a travel agent to make sure you understand how a fare (and any ticket you may buy) works and be aware of the security requirements for international travel. Shop carefully. The details given in this chapter should be regarded as pointers and are not a substitute for your own careful, up-to-date research. Climate change is a serious threat to the ecosystems that humans rely upon, and air...

Drinking

Considering its image abroad as a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism, there are a surprising number of places to drink in the city. Most of these will be filled with men out to get drunk and are, therefore, not the sort of place where a foreign girl is going to have a quiet time. The exceptions are hotel bars, where access is often restricted to hotel guests. Bar Dey ( 021 230933 H tel el-Djaza r, 24 av Souldani Boujmaa) This is one of the most relaxing places to drink, especially on a warm day...

Place Du Novembre

Oran's main square, the place du 1 Novembre, is the definitive expression of French rule in Oran. The city's main meeting place called place Napoleon, place d'Armes and place Mar chal Foch at various times in its history , it has a baroque theatre on one side and the town hall on the other. In the middle of the square stands an obelisk topped with a Winged Victory, erected by French sculptor Dalou in 1898. The original work commemorated the French soldiers who died at the battle of Sidi-Brahim...

Monument To The Dead

Just beyond the Sidi M'Cid Bridge, on a hill of the same name, stands the Monument to the Dead. It was built specifically for the people of Constantine, from Alfred Abdilla to Jacob Zitoun who died 'Pro Patria', the country being France, not Algeria. The monument is a copy of the arch of Trajan at Timgad pl28 . The statue of winged Victory that tops the monument is an enlarged replica of the bronze sculpture in the Cirta Museum pi 19 . With its winding streets, sloping alleys, sudden staircases...

Maps

Navigating the Sahara requires good maps and an experienced local guide. A satellite-generated Global Positioning System GPS can also come in handy, but it's no substitute for the local knowledge of an experienced guide - a GPS can point you in the right direction but can't tell what lies in your path, and hence the most appropriate route. For an overview of the area, the regularly updated Michelin map Africa North and West sheet 953, formerly 153, scale 1 4,000,000 is one of the best and most...

Djemaa Ali Bitchine

In the rough days of Algerian piracy, when a man might be snatched off a ship in the high sea and given a choice of slavery or conversion, there were many so-called renegades, people around the Mediterranean who changed religion. Ali Bitchine was one. A sailor from Venice, his original name may have been Piccinino. Whoever he had been in Italy, in Algiers he was a sailor who rose to become a grand admiral of the fleet. In 1622 he built the Djemma Ali Bitchine rue Soualah . The plan is unusual,...

Beni Isguen Jj

The town is built on the slope of the hill, 2.5km southeast of Gharda a. This is the most important religious town in the M'Zab and also has an excellent reputation for science and education. Constructed in the 14th century, it's also known for its ramparts, which are 2.5km long and 3m high. The people here hang on very firmly to their traditional ways, and the amount of outside influence is kept to an absolute minimum. The town's narrow streets are entered from the main Gharda a road. It is...

Q

Ramadan 46, 201 Rasel-Hamra 115 Red Beard, iff Barbarossa religion 44-50 Christianity 49 Islam 44-50 responsible travel 71-2 rock art 80-5, 166, 190-1, 194-5,5 carvings 81-3 conservation 82,84 discovery 80-1 history 80,81 Internet resources 83,84 locations 83-4 paintings 81-3 periods 83 Tassili N'Ajjer National Park 20, 21, 64, 77-8, 83-4, 190-1, 194-5,5 Tinakachaker190 rock-climbing 198 Roman ruins 13,21 Djemlla 133-5 Guelma 116 Hippo Regius 113-15 Tlmgad 126-8,8 Tlpaza 104 Routedu...

Drinking Q

The modem city revolves around the Cours de la R volution, a large open space, covered in trees and lined with grand buildings, leading down to the port. The colonial city has seen much development since independence, and has spread north, west and south of here, while due east of the Cours lies the older Ottoman town. The remains of ancient Hippone and the Basilica of St Augustine lie just over 1.5km southwest of the Cours. CULTURAL CENTRES Centre Culturel Fran ais g 038 864540 www.ctf...

Abdelkaders Last Years

Abdelkader was by far the greatest figure in Algeria's nationalist movement and is a national hero today, with many streets named after him and a major statue commemorating him in central Algiers. But few Algerian nationalists in the past few centuries have enjoyed such an unlikely retirement as did Abdelkader. After he surrendered in 1846, he was imprisoned despite having been promised exile. The reason The French minister of war had once been a French general in Algeria and had bitter...

Sbou De Timimoun

For seven days and seven nights the residents of the Gourara region hold celebrations marking the birth of the prophet Mohammed. The S'bou Festival marks the seventh day of the celebrations. During this time the inhabitants of the Gourara region as well as thousands of worshippers from around the country descend on Timimoun. During the day the streets are deserted but at night they're full to the brim as people come to spend the night in prayer. Its origins lie five centuries ago when Sidi...

The Mozabites

Mozabites are a close-knit group that practises a form of Islam known as Ibadi Islam see the boxed text, p48 . The Ibadis arrived in the M'Zab Valley in the 11th century after being driven from their homes in the north they chose the harshest and least accessible region they could in order to protect their community. The Ibadis of this region came to be known as the Mozabites. They're a very traditional people who have managed to cling on to their unique lifestyle, clothing, traditions and...

Travel Agencies

Most of these agencies deal with bookings from foreign agencies. However, if contacted in advance they should be able to work something out for independent travellers. Prices range from 50 to 80 a day including food and equipment, depending on how many people there are in your party. You won't usually be permitted to join an already existing group and will almost certainly have to arrange an individually tailored tour. If you haven't arranged a tour in advance your best bet is to contact ONAT...