What you need to know
ALGIERS- COUNTRY MAP
Algiers is the capital and largest city of Algeria. In 2011, the city’s population was estimated to be around 3,500,000. An estimate puts the population of the larger metropolitan city to be around 5,000,000. Algiers is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the north-central portion of Algeria.
Sometimes nicknamed El-Behdja or alternatively Alger la Blanche (“Algiers the White”) for the glistening white of its buildings as seen rising up from the sea, Algiers is situated on the west side of a bay of the Mediterranean Sea. The modern part of the city is built on the level ground by the seashore; the old part, the ancient city of the deys, climbs the steep hill behind the modern town and is crowned by the casbah or citadel, 122 metres (400 ft) above the sea. The casbah and the two quays form a triangle.
In 2011, the city’s population was estimated to be around 3,500,000.
The official languages of Algeria are Modern Standard Arabic (literary Arabic) and Tamazight (Berber), as specified in its constitution since 1963 for the former and since 2015 for the latter. In addition to this, Berber has been recognized as a “national language” by constitutional amendment since 8 May 2002. Algerian Arabic and Berber are the native languages of over 99 of Algerians, with Algerian Arabic spoken by about 72 and Berber by 27.4. French, though it has no official status, is widely used in government, culture, media (newspapers) and education (from primary school), due to Algeria’s colonial history. Kabyle, the most spoken Berber language in the country, is taught and partially co-official (with a few restrictions) in parts of Kabylie.
Malika Rebai Maamri, author of “The Syndrome of the French Language in Algeria,” said “The language spoken at home and in the street remains a mixture of Algerian dialect and French words.” Due to the number of languages and complexity involving those languages, Maamri argued that “oday the linguistic situation in Algeria is dominated by multiple discourses and positions.
French is a lingua franca of Algeria according to the CIA World Factbook. Algeria is the second largest Francophone country in the world in terms of speakers. In 2008, 11.2 million Algerians (33) could read and write in French. Despite intermittent attempts to eradicate French from public life, by the 2000s there were far more French speakers in Algeria than on the eve of independence in 1962.
A Phoenician commercial outpost called Ikosim which later developed into a small Roman town called Icosium existed on what is now the marine quarter of the city. The rue de la Marine follows the lines of what used to be a Roman street. Roman cemeteries existed near Bab-el-Oued and Bab Azoun. The city was given Latin rights by Emperor Vespasian. The bishops of Icosium are mentioned as late as the 5th century.
The present-day city was founded in 944 by Bologhine ibn Ziri, the founder of the Berber Zirid–Sanhaja dynasty. He had earlier (935) built his own house and a Sanhaja center at Ashir, just south of Algiers. Although his Zirid dynasty was overthrown by Roger II of Sicily in 1148, the Zirids had already lost control of Algiers to their cousins the Hammadids in 1014. The city was wrested from the Hammadids by the Almohads in 1159, and in the 13th century came under the dominion of the Ziyanid sultans of Tlemcen. Nominally part of the sultanate of Tlemcen, Algiers had a large measure of independence under amirs of its own due to Oran being the chief seaport of the Ziyanids.
As early as 1302 the islet of Peñón in front of Algiers harbour had been occupied by Spaniards. Thereafter, a considerable amount of trade began to flow between Algiers and Spain. However, Algiers continued to be of comparatively little importance until after the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, many of whom sought asylum in the city. In 1510, following their occupation of Oran and other towns on the coast of Africa, the Spaniards fortified the islet of Peñon and imposed a levy intended to suppress corsair activity.
In 1516, the amir of Algiers, Selim b. Teumi, invited the corsair brothers Aruj and Hayreddin Barbarossa to expel the Spaniards. Aruj came to Algiers, ordered the assassination of Selim, and seized the town and ousted the Spanish in the Capture of Algiers (1516). Hayreddin, succeeding Aruj after the latter was killed in battle against the Spaniards in the Fall of Tlemcen (1517), was the founder of the pashaluk, which subsequently became the beylik, of Algeria. Barbarossa lost Algiers in 1524 but regained it with the Capture of Algiers (1529), and then formally invited the Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to accept sovereignty over the territory and to annex Algiers to the Ottoman Empire.
Algiers from this time became the chief seat of the Barbary pirates. In October 1541 in the Algiers expedition, the King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V sought to capture the city, but a storm destroyed a great number of his ships, and his army of some 30,000, chiefly made up of Spaniards, was defeated by the Algerians under their Pasha, Hassan.
Formally part of the Ottoman Empire but essentially free from Ottoman control, starting in the 16th century Algiers turned to piracy and ransoming. Due to its location on the periphery of both the Ottoman and European economic spheres, and depending for its existence on a Mediterranean that was increasingly controlled by European shipping, backed by European navies, piracy became the primary economic activity. Repeated attempts were made by various nations to subdue the pirates that disturbed shipping in the western Mediterranean and engaged in slave raids as far north as Iceland. The United States fought two wars (the First and Second Barbary Wars) over Algiers’ attacks on shipping.
Among the notable people held for ransom was the future Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes, who was captive in Algiers almost five years, and who wrote two plays set in Algiers of the period. The primary source for knowledge of Algiers of this period, since there are no contemporary local sources, is the Topografía e historia general de Argel (1612, but written earlier), published by Diego de Haedo, but whose authorship is disputed. This work describes in detail the city, the behavior of its inhabitants, and its military defenses, with the unsuccessful hope of facilitating an attack by Spain so as to end the piracy.
A significant number of renegades lived in Algiers at the time, Christians converted voluntarily to Islam, many fleeing the law or other problems at home. Once converted to Islam, they were safe in Algiers. Many occupied positions of authority, such as Samson Rowlie an Englishman who became Treasurer of Algiers.
The city under Ottoman control was enclosed by a wall on all sides, including along the seafront. In this wall, five gates allowed access to the city, with five roads from each gate dividing the city and meeting in front of the Ketchaoua Mosque. In 1556, a citadel was constructed at the highest point in the wall. A major road running north to south divided the city in two: The upper city (al-Gabal, or ‘the mountain’) which consisted of about fifty small quarters of Andalusian, Jewish, Moorish and Kabyle communities, and the lower city (al-Wata, or ‘the plains’) which was the administrative, military and commercial centre of the city, mostly inhabited by Turkish dignitaries and other upper-class families.
In August 1816, the city was bombarded by a British squadron under Lord Exmouth (a descendant of Thomas Pellew, taken in an Algerian slave raid in 1715, assisted by Dutch men-of-war, destroying the corsair fleet harboured in Algiers.
The history of Algiers from 1830 to 1962 is bound to the larger history of Algeria and its relationship to France. On July 4, 1830, under the pretext of an affront to the French consul—whom the dey had hit with a fly-whisk when the consul said the French government was not prepared to pay its large outstanding debts to two Algerian merchants—a French army under General de Bourmont attacked the city in the 1830 invasion of Algiers. The city capitulated the following day. Algiers became the capital of French Algeria.
Many Europeans settled in Algiers, and by the early 20th century they formed a majority of the city’s population. During the 1930s, the architect Le Corbusier drew up plans for a complete redesign of the colonial city. Le Corbusier was highly critical of the urban style of Algiers, describing the European district as “nothing but crumbling walls and devastated nature, the whole a sullied blot”. He also criticised the difference in living standards he perceived between the European and African residents of the city, describing a situation in which “the ‘civilised’ live like rats in holes” whereas “the ‘barbarians’ live in solitude, in well-being”. However, these plans were ultimately ignored by the French administration.
In 1962, after a bloody independence struggle in which hundreds of thousands (estimates range between 350,000 and 1,500,000) died (mostly Algerians but also French and Pieds-Noirs) during fighting between the French Army and the Algerian Front de Libération Nationale, Algeria gained its independence, with Algiers as its capital. Since then, despite losing its entire pied-noir population, the city has expanded massively. It now has about five million inhabitants, or 10 percent of Algeria’s population—and its suburbs now cover most of the surrounding Mitidja plain.
Algiers also played a pivotal role in the Algerian War (1954–1962), particularly during the Battle of Algiers when the 10th Parachute Division of the French Army, starting on January 7, 1957, and on the orders of then French Minister of Justice François Mitterrand (who authorized any means “to eliminate the insurrectionists”), led attacks against the Algerian fighters for independence. Algiers remains marked by this battle, which was characterized by merciless fighting between FLN forces which carried out a guerrilla campaign against the French military and police and pro-French Algerian soldiers, and the French Army which responded with a bloody repression, torture and blanket terrorism against the native population. The demonstrations of May 13 during the crisis of 1958 provoked the fall of the Fourth Republic in France, as well as the return of General de Gaulle to power.
Algeria achieved independence on July 5, 1962. Run by the FLN that had secured independence, Algiers became a member of Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War. In October 1988, one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall, Algiers was the site of demonstrations demanding the end of the single party system and the creation of a real democracy baptized the “Spring of Algier. The demonstrators were repressed by the authorities (more than 300 dead), but the movement constituted a turning point in the political history of modern Algeria. In 1989, a new constitution was adopted that put an end to the reign of the single party and saw the creation of more than fifty political parties, as well as official freedom of the press.
Crisis of the 1990s
The city became the theatre of many political demonstrations of all descriptions until 1992. In 1991, a political entity dominated by religious conservatives called the Islamic Salvation Front engaged in a political test of wills with the authorities. In the 1992 elections for the Algerian National Assembly, the Islamists garnered a large amount of support in the first round, helped by a massive abstention from disillusioned Algerian voters by the turn of events. Fearing an eventual win by the Islamists, the army cancelled the election process, setting off a civil war between the State and armed religious conservatives which would last for a decade.
On December 11, 2007, two car bombs exploded in Algiers. One bomb targeted two United Nations buildings and the other targeted a government building housing the Supreme Court. The death toll is at least 62, with over two hundred injured in the attacks. However, only 26 remained hospitalized the following day. As of 2008, it is speculated that the attack was carried out by the Al Qaida cell within the city.
Indigenous terrorist groups have been actively operating in Algeria since around 2002.
Algiers has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa) with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea aids in moderating the city’s temperatures. As a result, Algiers usually does not see the extreme temperatures that are experienced in the adjacent interior deserts. Algiers on average receives roughly 600 millimetres (24 in) of rain per year, the bulk of which is seen between October and April. The precipitation is very similar to coastal mediterranean Spain as opposed to the interior North African arid climate.
Snow is very rare; in 2012, the city received 10 centimetres (3.9 in), its first snowfall in eight years.
Algiers is an important economic, commercial and financial center, with in particular a stock exchange with a capitalisation of 60 million euros. The city has the highest cost of living of any city in North Africa, as well as the 50th highest worldwide, as of March 2007, having gained one position compared to the previous year.
Mohamed Ben Ali El Abbar, president of the Council d administration of the emirate group EMAAR, presented five “megaprojects” to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, during a ceremony which took place Saturday, July 15 [what year?] within the Palace of the People of Algiers. These projects will transform the city of Algiers and its surroundings by equipping them with a retail area, and restoration and leisure facilities.
The first project will concentrate on the reorganization and the development of the infrastructures of the railway station “Aga” located in the downtown area. Ultramodern, the station, intended to accommodate more than 80.000 passengers per day, will become a center of circulation in the heart of the grid system, surrounded by commercial offices and buildings and hotels intended for travelers in transit. A shopping centre and three high-rise office buildings rising with the top of the commercial zone will accompany the project.
The second project will not relate to the bay of Algiers and aims to revitalize the sea front. The development of the 44 km (27 mi) sea front will include marinas, channels, luxury hotels, offices, apartments of great standing, luxury stores and leisure amenities. A crescent-shaped peninsula will be set up on the open sea. The project of the bay of Algiers will also comprise six small islands, of which four of round form, connected to each other by bridges and marinas and will include tourist and residential complexes.
The third project will relate to restructuring an area of Algiers, qualified by the originators of the project of “city of wellness”. El Abbar indicated to the journalists that the complex would be “agréable for all those which will want to combine tourism and wellbeing or tourism and relaxation”. The complex will include a university, a research center and a medical centre. It should also include a hospital complex, a care, centre, a hotel zone, an urban centre and a thermal spa with villas and apartments. The university will include a medical school and a school for care male nurses which will be able to accommodate 500 students. The university campus will have the possibility of seeing setting up broad ranges of buildings of research laboratories and residences.
Another project relates to technological implantation of a campus in Sidi Abdellah, 25 km (16 mi) south-east from Algiers. This Arcofina.net90 hectares (222 acres) site will include shopping centres, residential zones with high standard apartments and a golf course surrounded by villas and hotels. Two other residential zones, including 1.800 apartments and 40 high standard villas, will be built on the surrounding hills.
The fifth project is that of the tourist complex Colonel Abbès, which will be located 25 km (16 mi) west from Algiers. This complex will include several retail zones, meeting places, and residential zones composed of apartments and villas with views of the sea.
Currently there is another project under construction, by the name of Algers Medina. The first step of the project is nearly complete.
A Hewlett Packard office for French-speaking countries in Africa is in Algiers.
- ETUSA (urban and suburban bus transportation for Algiers) operates bus service in Algiers and the surrounding suburbs. 54 lines are currently operating, with service from 5:30 a.m. to 12:45 a.m.
- SNTF (national railroad company) operates commuter-rail lines connecting the capital to the surrounding suburbs.
- Algiers Metro, opened November 1, 2011.
- Algiers tramway, opened on May 8, 2011.
- Houari Boumediene Airport is located 20 km (12 mi) from the city. The airport serves domestics, many European cities, West Africa, the Middle East, Asia and North America. On July 5, 2006, a new international air terminal was opened for service. The terminal is managed by Aéroports de Paris.
4 urban ropeways:
- El Madania – Belouizdad
- Notre Dame d’Afrique – Bologhine
- Memorial des Martyres/Riad el Feth – Jardin d’essais
- Palais de la culture – Oued Kniss
Perhaps the first name that comes into the mind when one thinks about a beach vacation in Angiers would be Zeralda. Nestled in Algiers province, it is a beach resort whose prime highlight is a holiday village as well as a replica nomad village. Further, it is a great place to enjoy a number of such water sport activities as kite surfing, windsurfing, and skiing.
The Turquoise Coast lies to the east of Algiers, and boasts some of the most stupendous rocky bays and sandy beaches in the country. Drenched in natural beauty, its beaches are bounded by verdant vegetation such as olive trees, cork oaks, and cypress. Further, it is a Mecca for water sport lovers, and excellent facilities are made available here to enjoy including boat cruises, sailing, fishing, and skiing. You can also find a couple of resorts that offer quality accommodation facilities.
Sidi Fredj Peninsula
A vacation to Algeria would be incomplete without taking a tour to Sidi Fredj, as it has to its credit some of the world’s most magnificent beaches. Located within easy reach of Algiers, it serves as a perfect base to immerse yourself in a spectrum of water sport activities, from skiing and cruising to yachting, fishing, and kite surfing.
However, Sidi Fredj’s attractions are not restricted to its stupendous beaches, and points of interest here also include an old fortress, an open-air theatre, tennis courts, and a commercial centre. To add to the incredibility of the place, there are open leisure spots graced with lawns and landscaped gardens. Apart from these, Sidi Fredj is home to some world-class resorts that provide luxurious accommodation facilities.