Tipasa is worth a day trip if you are in Algiers and you have access to car or bus. Tipasa is a Punic trading post which was a Roman city later and you can still marvel at the well preserved ruins. From Algiers it takes you about 45 minutes by car to the West along the Mediterranean coast. You can park at the port of Tipasa which has plenty of parking available. There are also a lot of seafood restaurants if you fancy a fresh catch, they even do barbecues and grill the fish for you. After stuffing yourself with fresh grilled seafood make your way up the hill on the right hand side of the port. There is no need to pay entry to the site, but make sure that you travel in a group of people and take no belongings with you - just in case- and you should feel more secure as well. It is totally up to you what you will discover, but you can make out the pillar of the western basilica, the several cemetries with the coffins and grave stones, the amphittheatre as well as several other buildings made of stone and you will most certainly also find mosaics and enscriptions from the Romans or earlier. Tipasa is an UNESCO world heritage site and it is good to have a look at their website before you go to get informed about the history. Unfortunately, there are no guides in Tipasa, at least when I travelled there. However well guided or informed you'll arrive, you will most certainly feel like an adventurer discovering the ruins of an old important sea side town and you will be proud of this discovery as it's one of the most beautiful and historical things you can see in Algeria. When you are in this area, you'll also need to go and see the mausoleum of Juab I and Cleopatra Selene II which is an ancient tomb. I've heard that there is also a friendly man with a white camel waiting for tourists, but I can't confirm it myself. This is on my next trip to Tipasa.
Just next to the area of Bab-el-Ouad you'll find an old Ottoman palace, the Palace des Rais or commonly known as Bastion 23. From outside it looks a bit like a prison and you would never expect those marvellous palaces inside. The palaces have been renovated and conservated from 1987 to 1993. It first opened to the public in 1994 and it is still a hidden gem! It costs a small entrance fee comparable to 1 EUR or even less, but you can wander around freely and discover the three palaces which date back to 1576 during he Ottoman empire as a fortress to protect the medina (casbah). You will discover the cannons of the fortress, the hammam (bath), the kitchen and the sleeping and living rooms of the pacha as well as several exhibitions ranging from contemporary art to the history of the casbah. You can even see excavation works if you are lucky. You will have a wonderful sea view from the outside and learn a lot about the Ottoman architecture such as the marble pillars and mosaics. But never forget to mind your head, the Ottomans were dwarfs compared to the modern humans.
I'm not really sure what to call this part of central Algiers, but its French streets and quaint shopping areas took my fancy. It is located to the south of the Place de la Grande Poste, and is quite obviously the product of French efforts to create a European-style city in North Africa. Unlike the Casbah, the streets here are wide and well-organized, complete with the little kiosks and flower sellers who are more common in Paris or Marseille than in Cairo or Marrakech. The stores here offer a variety of mid-range goods, and you should not expect to find either luxury products or local handicrafts. This is an area for middle class Algerians, and indeed there is a heavy concentration of students (notable from the internet cafés). Nevertheless, it provides for a nice stroll if the day is pleasant, and for more than a few photographs.
Abd el Kader was an prince (emir in Arabic) who was an active organizer of the resistance to French colonisation in the 1830s. He occupies and important place in Algerian history and folklore, and his memory has been consecrated in more than a few songs and poems. In Algiers itself, the Place de l'Émir Abd el Kader (formerly de la Burguade) contains a statue to this resistant. The prince is show atop his steed, with a arm raised high above his head, while the base of the statue contains bas-reliefs of him riding into battle. The square itself is located to the north of the Place de la Grande Poste and constitutes a component of the city's central commercial quarter, with shops ringing the plaza.
The Clock Gardens, or Jardins de l'Horloge, are contiguous to the Place de la Grande Poste, and they are really quite hard to miss if you visit the latter. They are built up the slope that leads to the Casbah, and are quite interesting in the fact that the clock from which they take their name is not in some sort of erect structure, but rather is sculpted into the gardens themselves. Of course, the centre of the gardens has a large structure that is emblazoned with a bas-relief depicting two hands and shattered chains (Algeria's liberation from French colonial rule), but the actual clock is a large mechanism that is surrounded by a lush green lawn. The gardens themselves are small and are typical French manicured lawns and trees, with little walkways and benches. The gardens provide an excellent vantage point for photographs and vistas of the Place de la Grande Poste and the surrounding buildings, but you should be careful about not taking pictures of the offices of political parties that are along the edge of the park.
The Place de la Grande Poste, and the Grande Poste (Great Post Office) are probably the focal point of any orientation in Algiers. In typical French style, they create a huge open space for traffic and pedestrians, and complete a bisection of the French part of the city that allows for proper placement and orientation of other landmarks in Algiers. The Grande Poste is built in neo-Moorish style, and, despite the fact that the square is named after this particular building, it fails to dominate the area. The square is nevertheless ringed by many beautiful Belle Époque buildings. This square should become even more of a hub now that the Algiers Metro has been opened (it was not open when I was there, although it looked more like it was temporarily shut, rather than under construction). The centre of the square has a large depression into which commuters will filter, giving rise to similar arrangements at the Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona. A word of caution to those who might be eager to snap photographs: this area has a number of politically sensitive buildings, and you should expect to be followed if you have a camera. I was at first frightened that I was being targeted by thieves, but during my two visits to the square I noticed men in their thirties who were obviously following and watching me, but made no attempt to get close enough to steal anything.
Rue d'Angkor is effectively Algiers' Corniche - the long, coastal road that provides a sort of natural entertainment area for residents of any seaside city in the Arab world. Unlike in many other cities along the Mediterranean, where the Corniche was built up by wealthy businesspeople and thus exhibits a fair amount of diversity in architectural styles, the one in Algiers is notable for the uniformity of its esprit, likely due to French planning. There are a number of imposing buildings, usually belonging to banks or to maritime shippers, but the vast majority of other structures are done in the same Belle Époque style, featuring smalls balconies, white and blue hues, and embellishments that harken back to the heyday of French colonialism at the turn of the century. I had the misfortune of visiting Algiers on a day when it was cold and rainy, which left much of the Corniche deserted, but it is easy to see how this part of the city could quickly become a magnet for those seeking to escape the drudgery of newer developments.
The Casbah was, during the French colonial period, the Arab quarter of the city. There is a clear divide in not only the architecture and layout of the Casbah and the French-built areas, but also in the philosophy of their respective developments. While the French areas are built along Cartesian planes, rational and measured, the Casbah is a mess of winding laneways, some blind while others interconnect. Some are miniscule and dark, while others open out to inspiring vistas over the entire city of Algiers. The Casbah was, likely, made famous in the West through the film La Bataille d'Algers, in which the protagonists seek refuge from Colonial authorities in the confusion of its streets and alleyways. Today you are unlikely to find insurgents or revolutionaries in the Casbah, but it is no less confusing or bewildering for the outsider. The laneways are narrow but they are also steep, and you should not attempt an hour or two of wandering if you are not prepared to climb. Those who are, however, are rewarded with spectacular views of Algiers, as well as surprises of intimate neighbourhood scenes. It is well advised, however, that you do not do your exploring after dark, as the area is confusing enough as to leave strangers prey to pickpockets and muggers once the daytime traffic has come to an end.
The Kechawa mosque is Algiers' version of the Mezquita in Cordoba. It was initially erected in the 1430s by the Rebai tribe as a mosque in a Maghrebi Turkish-influenced style (you'll notice that, despite Turkish influence, the minarets are still of the North African style). In the 1840s, after the French colonized Algeria, it was converted into a Cathedral and was the Cathédrale Saint-Philippe, which it remained until liberation of Algeria in 1962. At that point, it was reconverted to a mosque, which it remains today. Despite the fact that the mosque was made into a Church, the external structure of the mosque was retained throughout its history, with changes made to the interior in order to accommodate Christian services, rather than Muslim prayer. The mosque has been rebuilt several times, in order to repair damage, and, in each reconstruction, has grown in size. Today the structure is out of bounds for tourists, as it is once again being restored.
Algiers' Great Mosque, known in Arabic as el-Djemaa el-kebiir, is nearly a millenium old and stands, rather oddly-placed, at the end of the Corniche, behind the city's Naval barracks. Much like the great cathedrals of European cities, the mosque's current structure was completed in a piecemeal fashion, with the initial mosque erected in 1097, followed by the current minaret in the 14th century, and the galleries in the early half of the 1800s. The result, at least on the exterior, is still harmonious, although the mosque itself is not set back from the surrounding development with enough space for one to really contemplate it as a complete structure. The initial structure of the msoque was Almoravid style. I did not venture into the mosque, but the exterior is remarkable for its arches, a feature that is a specialization of the Almoravid style, and one that is supposedly continued throughout the interior of the mosque. As tourism is not well-developed in Algiers, it did not seem to be respectful to venture in with a camera. Nevertheless, I am sure that as more foreigners venture to Algiers, and as Islam becomes less controversial a subject, more individuals will be welcomed in to view the inner beauty of this house of worship.
La Mosquée de la Pecherie is a mosque built in the typical whitewash style of Algiers' non-French buildings. It should not be confused with the Great Mosque of Algiers, which is, ironically, located a stone's throw away from this place of worship. The Fishery Mosque, as it is called in English, is perhaps more remarkable given its strategic location next to the Place des Martyrs, and the manner in which its bright white façade shines on the edge of the Corniche. The mosque is also known by its Arabic name of el-Djemaa el-jedid, or the new Mosque, owing to the fact that it was constructed during the Turkish regime in the 17th century. Legend has it that it was designed by a Christian captive, who based its plan on a Latin cross. I didn't have the opportunity to go into this particular mosque, but the sheer story-book nature of its design captures the imagination and makes it a good subject for photographs.
La Place des Martyrs is a typical French-style square, or place, which leads me to believe that its initial name was something quite different from its current one. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to see the French influence on this part of the Corniche, with its open, tiled space ringed by the typical white and blue façades that make up the bulk of the corniche. The Place des Martyrs is, in fact, not a very notable place except for the fact that it is one of the easier openings to the Casbah from the Corniche, and that it is next to the Mosquée de la Pecherie.
The Casbah dates back from the Ottoman era. It's the old town of Algiers, and I was told by Algerians that the French never went into during their 130 years of occupation.
However, Jealn-Louis (JLBG) clarified the issue:
"When Algeria was « a part of France », of course the French went into the
casbah. During the struggle for independence, it was a stronghold of the FLN and
the French army had to struggle hard (and dirty) to win the “bataille d’Alger”.
The army finally won militarily but lost politically."
The name Casbah comes from Arabic Qasba, which means citadel, or the labyrinth (as my Algerian friends told me). Before it used to be the classy part of the town, and nowadays it's the place of the poorer part of the inhabitants of Algiers. It needs serious refurbishment, but precisely for its ruined state it is so remarkable and exciting. Inside there are still old artisans, some museums, old water fountains, beautiful doors...
My Algerian friends told me that after 4pm the place gets "dangerous" (insecure) so try to visit it before that hour. And the best of course is to go there with a local, although if you're prudent and use common sense, you can go on your own as well.
A funny thing is that some of my Algerian friends have never been to Casbah, even though they live in Algiers or nearby!
Casbah of Algiers is listed on the UNESCO world heritage list.
This is small square, a traffic circle on Larbi ben m'hidi street, just few steps from the Central post office (La grande poste) building, with an impressive statue of the same person 'El-emir Abdel Kader' (1808-1883) a leader of the algerian resistance against the french occupation during the 19th century, but also an author and poet. On the statue is writen in arabic one of his citations 'I did'n make the events but events made me, a human is like a mirror and the mirror doesn't reflect the real image except if it is very clear.'
This is one of the most impressive statues in Algiers.
This impressive collection of indigenous artefacts from various regions of Algeria is housed in a beautiful Moorish style big house (mansion).
The museum features exhibits on prehistoric findings and ethnography as well as regional jewellery, costumes, leatherwork and weaponry plus the famous tin helmets of Algiers...