The Sahara Desert takes up the southern four – fifths of Algeria and can climb up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). The highest sand dunes shift with the wind. A wind called sirocco sometimes carries desert sand northward across the Mediterranean and into Europe. In the southern desert, on the main route to Niger, an upland area called the Ahaggar bakes by day and freezes by night.
The Sahara is a barren wilderness yet it provides most of the country’s wealth. Beneath the sands are reserves of oil and natural gas which are piped north for processing and export. The people live mainly in the north, where the land is green and the climate is more bearable. The northern cities are linked by roads while desert tracks cross the interior. The improved main roads in the southward region form part of the trans-Saharan highway.
Here are the top ten not to be missed places in Algeria.
Le Jardin d’Essai du Hamma
The Le Jardin d’Essai du Hamma was built since 1832 and contains many species of flowers and plants. It has been completely redesigned after many years of neglect and threats of terrorism. It can be reached from the center of Algiers metro and is an oasis of peace in a capital city that is quite chaotic because of the heavy traffic. The most interesting part of the park is the meadows in the central area (on the right looking towards the sea) where the trees are taller and where you can enjoy the breeze of fresh mountain air. After the restoration work was done it is dubbed as the place of peace and maintained with care to replace the old image of devastation.
The horticultural garden is open to the public where every visitor can enjoy long avenues of eucalyptus and palm trees, a view of the picturesque ocean, man-made lakes, rare plants, shaded walking pathways, a central fountain and rows of flower beds. It is a nice garden with the botanical classification of the specimens present. Inside you will find an excellent restaurant serving traditional cuisine. From the top you can see container ships and oil tankers lie at anchor off the Bay of Algiers. The national capital is one of the chief ports of the North African coast and a major center for industry, business and communications. The park is an ideal family place and highly recommended for a walk and a bit of relaxation.
La Basilique Notre Dame d’Afrique
The minute you enter the Basilica of Notre Dame d’Afrique you will be immediately struck by the sense of peace that reigns in the vicinity. Or be surprised by the great impression that the Muslim Algerians have a form of respect for this place of worship, perhaps due to the recognition that the French inscription on the altar reads; “Notre Dame d’Afrique Priez pour nous et pour les Musulmans” (Our Lady d ‘ Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims). Of significant interest are the numerous votive offerings in the Black Madonna statue of the basilica.
The exterior is striking for its architectural features and the architectural style is reminiscent of the Byzantine era with its characteristic blue band that runs along the top of the façade and the perimeter walls. From the church, built at the end of a promontory at 124 m above sea level you can admire the view of Algiers from the sea that bathes. A few meters from its entrance is where the Embassy of the Holy See (Vatican City) is located, so it is easy to meet dozens of nuns in prayer every day. On weekends, the holy masses are offered in French and Italian Language. If you are in the city of Algiers, it is worth investing at least a couple of hours to visit this place.
La Grande Poste d’Alger
If you are in Algiers, look at the quiet Grande Poste, a landmark large white building with a Neo – Moorish Architectural façade built since 1910. The main post office in Algiers city is situated right at the end of the Didouche Mourad and Larbi Ben M’Hidi street. If you need to buy stamps to send postcards or mails, enjoy this beautiful building from the square in front, then go down to the waterfront where magnificent palaces of the same period stand in front of the adjacent commercial port.
You can see and visit the Palais du Gouvernment and the Hotel Aurassi both located in the heart of downtown’s waterfront. There is a main shopping street right across the Grande Poste where you can find book shops, clothes store, cafes and restaurants, antique stores with a rustic and old world ambience. It is a monument that includes art and modernity in an elegant and grandiose setting.
Kasbah of Algiers
The quaint Kasbah of Algiers is an alley full of traders who sell items that carry the diverse characteristics of the country. You can find anything around here from events, concerts, pizzas, freshly baked baguettes, turnover breads, beers and many more. Officially declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beautiful alleys of the Kasbah still have ruins of destroyed homes that were razed to the ground during the early years of French colonization. Some buildings even have the risk of collapsing but the small shops still operate in this narrow alley trading place.
At the lower Kasbah, there is a wealth of Arab market shops with a view of the roofs that almost touch each other. The steps to the provided staircases are often broken in an almost state of near ruin. Hire a good guide (possibly an inhabitant of the Kasbah) to have a better understanding of the historical Ottoman era up to the total independence of Algeria. The locals that live within the Kasbah are adorable and friendly people and always ready to engage in a conversation especially about heir rich cultural history and the origin of the place. The visit can be done on foot and offers spellbinding views of the bay.
La Rue Didouche Mourad
The La Rue Didouche Mourad is in the historic heart of Algiers and within the proximity of the Kasbah and the Grand Post Office. Tourists love to stroll on this place where old buildings, signature shops, university, and café reflect the time when the province was once ruled by France. The government has done well to preserve this place as a charming avenue by making a concerned effort with the local modern shops to maintain its cleanliness. It has become Algiers main shopping street filled with fashion boutiques, jewelers, opticians, fine bakeries, and bookshops that line the road on both sides.
You cannot miss this place as it is very clean, lively, and ideal for the whole family to enjoy. The downside is you can’t see everything in one day due to the variety of shops and events to see. There are rows of typical fast food diners along the main road but towards the bottom part there are more fine dining restaurants and bars that specializes in international cuisine designed for tourists to appreciate.
Memorial du Martyr
The Monument of the Martyrs symbolizes the three palms of the Algerian shamrock tree and serves as a memorial for the Algerian martyrs who perished during the French Revolution era (1954 up to 1962). Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the museum that highlights the country’s decolonization process. The exhibition ranges from portraits of “martyrs” in old photos and newspaper clippings, their propaganda for independence in weapons, war relics, soldier statues, uniforms, flags and memorabilia of the fathers of modern Algeria. Very interesting is the section where they were subjected to torture and the Algerian patriots who laid down their lives as a contribution for freedom and the struggle for complete liberation.
The tour ends in the zenith of the monument in a circular room in which guests can listen to a transmitted recording of some verses of the Koran all done in Arabic language. Around the landmark one can enjoy a pleasant stroll and a good view of the city and the ocean. The huge monument is visible from all parts of the city and can be easily reached by taking a taxi from the city center of Algiers. The tourist spot is more popularly known to the locals and cab drivers as the “Maqam Al Shaheed”.
Le Musee National Des Beaux Arts
Overlooking the Jardin d’Essai, the National Museum of Arts has an interesting collection of paintings and sculptures made before independence as well as contemporary works made by Algerian painters and artists. The room with miniature objects (Mr. Racim) is particularly interesting. The ride is pretty quick but over the wanderings, you can admire the various works, whether of European artist more or less known or Algerian artists who deserve to be recognized. There is an accessible terrace with magnificent views over the garden and the port of Algiers Bay.
In an intimate setting you feel like being retro projected in the past admiring masterpieces of Celebrity Orientalist painters and other famous artists. The museum which re-opened in 2008 also highlights the Galleries de France and the Algerian Nouvelle exhibition. Visit the library and section and discover interesting books under their collection. You can also see the commemorative plates and the names of its French sponsors who oversee its construction in the 19th century. The impressionist artworks are displayed in a separate room in the huge museum. All the artifacts are well laid out and the sculptures are properly cased in glass. A visit to this informative museum is a must.
Musee des Antiquities
The Museum of Antiquities is well maintained and located at the top of the Park Galland (The Liberty Garden) and features an interesting display to understand the history of the country. The beautiful heritage and wonders hidden in the basements of this museum, the century old antique furniture, potteries, flags, war documents, and the exhumed memories of the yesteryears are properly explained by the entertaining guide who leads every guests and answer their question regarding what every piece symbolizes.
Overall it is a splendid little museum with collections that cover a long period from pre-historic times up to the Turkish regency rule over Algeria. At this museum you will also notice that since gaining their independence in 1962, the country has moved away from any European influences. How they push their right to have the Arabic language be used again in courts and schools and to focus on studying the Arabic culture and the Berber people. On weekdays there are a few visitors and you can spend lots of time to discover the colorful history and culture of the country.
Place du 1er Novembre – Oran Region
The Place of 1st November is an attractive place in the heart of downtown Oran surrounded by an old theater and the famous Santa Cruz Chapel. The region is accessible by riding the Tramway from the capital city of Algiers.
The landmark attraction honoring Prince Abdul Kadir provides good photo opportunities and a pleasant stroll along its grounds to feed the pigeons or just simply observe the people and sit on the bench. The monument also serves a viewing platform to see the scenic views of the Oran province.
Fort Santa Cruz
The limestone castle of the Fort Santa Cruz offers stunning views of the city and the port of Oran. The castle was built during the Spanish colonization on this strategic location for the purpose of protecting them from colonizers since it is very high and quite difficult to attack from the sea. The splendid fort is a must visit if you are travelling to Oran.
While there, cross the nearby Chapelle de Santa Cruz (Church Of Santa Cruz) and do not hesitate to ask the security guard to show you some secret passage of the old, strong, and beautiful white painted church to understand its historical value to the city. The surrounding nature and the breathtaking views of the bay is what attract tourists to visit this mighty castle and cathedral.