Words: Victoria Taylor
Algeria, the largest African nation, is a mosaic of extraordinary experiences, fascinating sights, and treasures that offer valuable insights into the country and its people. Here, the legacy of ancient civilisations intertwines with the allure of the Mediterranean coast.
Encompassing more than two million square kilometres and sharing borders with Mali, Niger, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania, this expansive and enchanting country is nearly five times the size of Spain.
Within its vast borders, Algeria boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranging from the time-forgotten ruins of Timgad, reminiscent of an African Pompeii, to the desert villages of the M’Zab Valley, where indigenous Amazigh architecture blends seamlessly with the Saharan landscape. Algeria’s concealed gems are as diverse as its terrain. So as we embark on a journey through “54 Experiences and Treasures of Algeria,” we invite you to immerse yourself in the grandeur of this North African gem. Every encounter, whether it’s an experience to remember, a sight to behold, or an opportunity to gain deeper knowledge about the country and its people, unveils the essence of a nation brimming with history, culture, and natural beauty.
- Algeria’s linguistic kaleidoscope
Algeria’s linguistic landscape reflects its diverse heritage. Arabic, the official language, and Amazigh, a recognised national language, coexist with French. While Arabic is promoted in schools, French remains widely spoken, intertwining with Arabic in daily life, showcasing the nation’s rich cultural and historical tapestry.
- Collo, Skikda Province
A one-of-a-kind area offering serene coastal beauty with beaches like Oued Zehour Beach and hidden coves. Its soft sands, clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere provide the perfect Mediterranean escape for those seeking relaxation and natural charm in Algeria.
This Roman area lay hidden beneath Sahara’s sands for centuries. The city, a testament to Roman urban planning, thrived before its abandonment following the fall of the Roman Empire. It remained forgotten until its remarkably well-preserved ruins were rediscovered a millennium later. Often dubbed the “Algerian Pompeii,” Timgad offers a unique window into Roman life on the African continent.
- Kabylie Mountains
The Kabylie region is a hiker’s paradise, with picturesque villages nestled among the mountains, offering insights into Berber culture.
This UNESCO-listed town is a living example of how indigenous Amazigh architecture blends seamlessly with the harsh Saharan environment.
- Fennec Fox, Algeria’s National Animal
Algeria’s national animal is the ever-adorable, huge-eared fennec fox. Native to the Sahara Desert and the Sinai Peninsula, these tiny foxes only grow to about 1.5-2 kilos and are famous for their large ears. These cute creatures are so beloved in Algeria that they’re not only the national animal, but also a nickname for the national football team Les Fennecs.
- Relax on the Mediterranean Coast
Enjoy pristine beaches, such as Tipaza and Jijel, for a perfect Mediterranean getaway.
- Tassili n’Ajjer National Park
Marvel at prehistoric rock art, which tells the story of human civilization over millennia, in an otherworldly desert landscape.
- The Mausoleum of Emir Abdelkader
This beautifully designed mausoleum pays homage to the legendary Emir Abdelkader, a symbol of Algeria’s struggle for independence.
- The Ancient City of Annaba
Explore the Ancient City of Annaba and its historic streets. Wander through the well-preserved Roman ruins, which include the Arch of Trajan and the Hippo Regius Basilica. Annaba’s ancient streets reveal the layers of history and culture that have shaped this vibrant city.
- Beni Hammad Fort
Travel back in time at the ruins of this medieval fortress, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
- Djamaa el Djazaïr
The Great Mosque of Algiers, also known as Djamaa el Djazaïr, boasts the world’s tallest minaret, standing at a towering 265 metres. Minarets, traditionally used for the call to prayer, have evolved into significant Islamic landmarks, making this minaret an extraordinary architectural marvel and a Guinness World Record holder.
This town is a window into Saharan culture, with its mud-brick architecture and vibrant markets.
- Ruins of El Mansourah in Tlemcen
Mansourah, despite its name meaning “the victorious,” has a history of unfulfilled triumph. Initially established as a military camp in 1299 by Merinid sultan Abou Yacoub during the Tlemcen siege, it transformed into a small city with a palace and mosque. However, the sultan’s assassination led to the Merinid retreat just before Tlemcen’s fall. Today, the ruins of the massive mosque, reconstructed by Sultan Abou el-Hassan of Fès in 1335, are the main attraction. The site’s defining features include the extensive protective walls and an awe-inspiring 40-metre minaret, reminiscent of iconic structures in Rabat and Seville, despite its inner side being exposed. The site is accessible at all times.
- Tizi Ouzou
The lively capital of Kabylie, Tizi Ouzou boasts a thriving cultural scene, including a museum dedicated to Amazigh culture.
Batna, located between the Atlas Mountains, experiences diverse climate shifts, from intense summer heat to winter cold and snowfall. The city’s origins date back to a French military fortress constructed in 1844 to control passage between the Sahara and the Atlas Mountains. Initially named Nouvelle Lambese, it was later renamed Batna. Today, Batna thrives as an agricultural and forest-based market centre, with a burgeoning cultural scene that includes cinemas and a cultural centre showcasing talented young artists.
A town nestled among scenic mountains, Medea offers a picturesque backdrop for exploring the region’s history and culture.
- Tuareg attire
In the desert, you’ll encounter the timeless elegance of Tuareg attire, characterised by indigo-dyed fabrics, intricate jewellery, and the iconic headgear known as the “tagelmust.” This clothing not only serves a practical purpose in the harsh desert environment but also showcases a sense of tradition and identity
Oran’s bustling port and vibrant culture make it an ideal spot to discover Algeria’s coastal charm and Mediterranean influence.
- El Oued
Known as the “City of a Thousand Domes,” El Oued’s unique architecture and palm groves make it an oasis in the desert.
The “City of Bridges” is perched on dramatic cliffs, connected by stunning bridges that offer breathtaking views of the Rhummel Gorge.
Wander among the remarkably preserved Roman ruins, including temples, basilicas, and ancient houses.
- Jardin d’Essai
This Algiers botanical garden is a serene escape with a diverse collection of plants, providing a peaceful contrast to the city’s hustle and bustle.
Explore this picturesque village and its striking white architecture, which is reminiscent of Greece’s Cyclades islands.
- El Kala National Park
Discover the biodiversity of the park’s ecosystems, including wetlands, forests, and coastal areas, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
Gain insights into the Sahrawi culture and the protracted Western Saharan issue, as the town is home to many refugees from the conflict.
- Opera d’Alger
A stunning opera house featuring an enormous rectangular structure, mirrored in a nearby shallow pool, which leads into an opulent reception area with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows and a grand spiral staircase. With an impressive area of 35,000 square metres, the venue can comfortably accommodate 1,400 seated guests.
This desert oasis with its palm groves and mud-brick houses offers a serene escape into the heart of the Sahara.
- Bordj El Kiffan
This coastal town is known for its pristine beaches and a tranquil atmosphere, making it a great place to unwind.
- Hoggar Mountains
Towering peaks, surreal rock formations, and ancient petroglyphs await intrepid explorers in this rugged mountain range.
- Draa Ben Khedda
A charming town with historical significance and a vibrant cultural scene, offering insights into local traditions.
- Mzab Valley
This picturesque valley is home to the unique architecture of the Mozabite people, showcasing their inventive use of mud and palm wood.
- El Menia
Escape to the peaceful desert town of El Menia, where the traditional way of life is still very much alive.
Hike through the Kabylie Mountains, breathing in the crisp alpine air and enjoying the stunning mountain landscapes.
- Babor Forest
This lush forest offers a rich habitat for diverse wildlife, making it a haven for nature lovers.
- Cheb Khaled
Khaled, renowned as Cheb Khaled, showcased exceptional musical talent from an early age, forming his first band at 14. In the 1980s, he transitioned to Raï, an Algerian desert blues genre blending North African, Middle Eastern, and Western influences. Originating in 1920s Oran, Raï evolved by the 20th century to incorporate rock, reggae, and pop. Khaled was crowned Raï king in the inaugural festival in 1985.
Walk among the well-preserved Roman ruins, which include temples, a forum, and Roman villas, providing a glimpse into ancient life.
- El Bayadh
The tranquil desert city of El Bayadh is a serene escape, with its surrounding desert landscapes offering a sense of isolation and peace.
Explore the Roman ruins, and soak in the rich historical atmosphere of Guelma.
This coastal town boasts stunning beaches, an attractive Old Town, and a vibrant cultural scene, making it a delightful destination.
- El Golea Oasis
Surrounded by rolling sand dunes, this desert oasis is a true oasis of life in the Sahara, with lush date palm groves.
- Chrea National Park
Hiking trails in this serene park lead you through diverse flora and fauna, offering a peaceful escape from city life.
- Béni Abbès
Explore the desert town, known for its unique beauty and tranquility, and enjoy the stunning sunsets over the desert.
- El M’Ghair
Dive into the rich Saharan culture and architecture, where traditional techniques and designs are still very much alive.
- Martyr’s Memorial (Maqam Echahid) in Algiers
Pay your respects at this iconic monument, which stands as a symbol of Algeria’s struggle for independence. The memorial, with its three towering concrete palm fronds reaching skyward, represents the sacrifices made by those who fought for Algeria’s freedom.
- Amazigh traditional wear
The Amazigh Chaoui traditional dress is worn by the Chaoui Berber people in eastern Algeria. It includes a rectangular headpiece called Takama, loose-fitting Thobes with intricate embroidery, hooded cloaks known as Burnous, and silver jewelry. This attire reflects the Chaoui cultural identity and features vibrant colours and natural materials.
- Sufi music and dance
Experience the spiritual and captivating world of Sufi music and dance. In Algeria, Sufi ceremonies offer a mesmerising insight into the mystical and devotional aspects of Islam.
- Illizi, Wilaya d’Illizi, Algeria
Venture to the southernmost part of Algeria, where the Wilaya d’Illizi is a gateway to the enchanting ancient rock art, and cultural treasures that define the region.
- Algerian literature
Delve into the world of Algerian literature not only through the works of past authors but also contemporary writers like Kamel Daoud (Novel: Zabor, or The Psalms) and Yasmina Khadra (Novel: Khalil), who continue to offer fresh perspectives on Algeria’s history and culture.
- Algerian fashion and design
Discover the thriving contemporary fashion scene by exploring boutiques and studios of designers like Yacine Aouadi, who continues to make waves in the world of fashion and design.
- The Legacy Luxury Hotel, Algiers Hydra
The Legacy Luxury Hotel Algiers is a modern oasis in the heart of Algiers’ business district, conveniently situated near major roads and bustling shopping streets. With 126 well-appointed rooms, including 27 premium rooms and nine suites across eight floors, each offers comfort and essential amenities like plush bedding, minibar, in-room safe, 49-inch full HD TV with Chromecast, Wi-Fi, sleek bathrooms, and spacious glass workstations complete with a Media Hub.
- Algerian cinema
Experience the world of Algerian cinema through the works of contemporary filmmakers like Merzak Allouache and Sofia Djama. Merzak Allouache is known for classics such as “Omar Gatlato” (1977), a satirical exploration of urban life in Algiers, and “Bab El-Oued City” (1994), which delves into issues of unemployment and religious extremism. Sofia Djama, on the other hand, has made a significant impact with “Les Bienheureux” (2017), a thought-provoking drama, also known as “The Blessed,” which reflects on post-civil war Algeria and explores generational divides and societal challenges.
- Biskra’s palm trees
The iconic palm trees in Biskra, Algeria, offer a stunning and quintessential Algerian experience. Biskra is renowned for its lush date palm groves that stretch as far as the eye can see. These palm trees not only contribute to the region’s breathtaking landscapes but also play a crucial role in Algeria’s date production. A visit to Biskra allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty and cultural significance of these majestic palms.
- Algerian national dish
A staple in Algerian cuisine and a must-try for any visitor, couscous is a hearty and flavourful dish made from steamed semolina wheat granules, typically served with a rich stew of meat, vegetables, and aromatic spices. Sampling couscous is an essential part of experiencing Algerian culture and its culinary traditions.