This was a lovely Catholic Cathedral not far from my hotel in Algiers. I went walking there. There were many faithful people, mainly from Catolic African countries, because Argelian local people are mainly muslims.
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The Kasbah of Algiers was founded on the ruins of old Icosium, a Phoenician commercial outpost called which later developed into a small Roman town. It is a small city which, built on a hill, goes down towards the sea, divided in two: the High city and the Low city.
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It took two trips to the museum to get in, they are closed on a Sunday. I had an enjoyable visit, there is a mixed collection of historic and more modern pieces.
They have two entrances, and the more prominent rear entrance is closed at different times from the main entrance at the rear of the building.
Address: Rue Mohamed Belouizdad, El Hamma, 16100 - Alger
Phone: +213 (0)21 661 075
The museum was quite an interesting find; it was a busy museum and some of the exhibits were quite disturbing. The war of liberation was quite a terrible experience for the country and this is clearly seen in the images and photographs located in the collection.
There is a lower floor and this is the home to a memorial which is quite moving if simple in appearance.
Address: B.P 168 El Madania,Riad El Fath. Alger
Phone: +213 (0)21 66 92 08
This is a monument that can be seen for many miles and is a constant reminder of the war of Liberation. It was a wet day when I made a visit, but it was dry enough to get some good photographs.
There are military personnel around and they keep you away from the eternal flame.
I found the Téléphérique when I was out walking and then on the map I got from the hotel staff. It was quite an interesting find.
The staff are fairly young men, who seem to spend a great deal of time chatting and laughing with each other. The tourists seem to be a little bit of an inconvenience, but it is a reasonable service.
The trips are very quite fast and the fare is 20 DA each direction.
I took a number of walks through the park during my stay in Algiers. It was quite a pleasant and interesting experience. There is a great wealth of planting to see - they spend much time looking after the pathways and grounds.
There is a huge security presence; this is common around the city. The park seems to have a few amenities, however during my visit the weather was not so good.
I am advised that the first Tarzan film was filmed in the garden.
Telemly is a fairly upmarket residential area behind Rue Didouche Mourad and contains many nice examples of colonial apartment blocks, all white with blue shutters and wrought iron balconies. The neighbourhood stretches up a hillside, and some streets are linked with steps and parks, such as the Parc de la Liberte. At the top of the park, it is a short walk to the Bardo Museum, one fo Algiers' most important museums, but unfortunately closed over the Eid holiday when I was in town. Two more museums, which were also closed, are the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Islamic Arts. With all three museums closed, and the cafe described in my guidebook as the perfect place for breakfast also shuttered up for the day, I was at a loose end, and decided to take a short walk through the area, hoping to find a viewpoint. The road began climbing towards El Biar, another upmarket suburb on top of the hill, but as temperatures were also climbing, I gave up after a while and sought a shortcut on google maps. Well, the road curving its way down the hillside on the map turned into a gravel track, and I ended up in what felt like a rural village in the centre of the city, dogs barking, chickens squawking, and children playing with kites. I must have looked a bit lost when the road disappeared, as a local man came out of his house to find out what on earth this foreigner was doing! He sent me down a path through a sort of wooded area, glimpses of Algiers visible through the trees occasionally, and I emerged, relieved that the dogs hadn't spotted me, back down in Telemly, hot and in need of a cold bottle of water.
In the backstreets of Telemly, the neighbourhood around Rue Didouche Mourad in the centre, have a look for this ugly modernist cathedral. Built in 1956, it became a cathedral in 1962 when the former cathedral was converted to a mosque (Mosque Ketchaoua in the Casbah). It was closed when I stumbled across it, but you can have a look round the outside by walking through the petrol station next door. Photos online show the interior is a lot more impressive than the exterior.
Down below the Martyrs' Monument is a huge botanical garden called Jardin d'Essais (also officially known as Jardin Botanique du Hamma after the neighbourhood). For a small fee, you can gain access to two sections, the Jardin a la Francaise (French style garden with manicured lawns and fountains and grand palm-lines boulevards) and the Jardin a l'Anglaise (a supposedly English style garden with sub-tropical plants arranged around carp-filled ponds). In between the two is a small zoo, which costs extra.
I spent a couple of hours here, as it is huge, and as it was a weekend, the place was busy with local families picnicking in the shade. There are a couple of cafes here too, as well as a school of agriculture and a school of horticulture.
The gardens even have their own metro station, called Jardin d'Essais (Hadeeqat at-tajarib in Arabic), and this makes the gardens and the monument above linked by cable car an easy day trip from central Algiers.
On a hill in the suburbs to the east of the centre, a strange tower of concrete stands head and shoulders abover any other building. This is the Maqam ach Chahid, the Martyrs' Monument, constructed to commemorate all those Algerians who died in the war for independence. It's quite an ugly construction, but I was told the panoramic views of the city are stunning, so I set off one afternoon.
Taking the newly opened metro line from Tafourah (the stop closest to the Grande Poste), I mistakenly got out at Les Fusilles as google maps led me to believe the cable car up to the monument left from here. There was indeed a cable car, but to a residential area on another hill, so I had to walk back along a busy road through an lively neighbourhood to the Jardins d'Essais metro station from where the other cable car left.
Cable cars are always fun, but in Algeria they are also somewhat crowded. As the car approached the platform, a surge of passengers pushed forward so that those coming down could hardly get off. I decided to wait until the next car, hoping for it to be slightly less empty, but was swept up with the crowds and ended up squashed in a corner next to a very surprised grandmother.
Ath the top, far from the sombre atmosphere I had been half expecting at a monument for martyrs, it was more like a carnival. Tom and Jerry were there, dancing on the steps and handing balloons to children, Mickey Mouse was having his photo taken with a very dishevelled Minnie Mouse, and there was Rai music playing in the background.
I climbed the steps to the monument, following lots of Algerian visitors, but before anyone could reach the top, security guards waved them away. The actual monument itself was off limits! So...no panoramic views of Algiers, then.
Around the front of the monument, if you can avoid getting run over by speeding taxis, there is a grass verge where you can admire a view of sorts...part of Algiers is blotted out by trees, but you can still see a large part of the city...not as good as the view must be from the monument though.
Underneath the monument is a museum about the war of independence which ended in 1962, which contained a lot of weapons, some interesting articles from newspapers at the time, and some poignant and disturbing photos. Unfortunately, not much is labelled, so it wasn't always easy to work out who was doing what to who in the photos, or what the significance of all the exhibits was, but it was an interesting place to spend half an hour.
Behind, in a large empty square, is an underground shopping centre, a few cafes, and the Museum of the Armed Forces, which I didn't enter, having decided I'd seen enough weapons for one day.
OK, the original plan was to walk from Bab el Oued to Notre Dame d'Afrique, the famous basilica on a hilltop above the village-like suburb of Bologhine on the coast road heading west out of Algiers. I'd read about a telepherique that whisked visitors from some hidden backstreet up to the basilica
, and the views are supposed to be amazing. So, that was the plan, to avoid having to walk uphill in the August heat.
Well, I never found the telepherique, because, as some locals told me, it has been out of action for some years. There are supposed to be shared taxis heading up here from somewhere in Bab el Oued, but by the time I found out about the telepherique, I was already in Bologhine. Not having the energy to negotiate the winding steep roads to the top of the hill in the heat, I opted to walk along the coast road through Bologhine instead, and it turned out to be a pleasant walk.
From Bab el Oued, I walked along the newly concreted seafront to a brand new stadium where minibuses tout for business for destinations west. Further on, and I came across the first stretch of real sand, almost hidden away in the shadow of the coast road. Inland, parts of Bologhine are quite upmarket, with grand (or what must once have been grand) mansions and colonial era villas on the hillside...sometimes, it looks a bit like France. But down on the coast road, the houses were more ramshackle, perched on rocks overhanging the sea, and in some cases they had partially caved in on themselves. From afar, a collection of houses on a rock above the beach looked abandoned, but close up there were signs of life with washing hanging out to dry on the balconies.
It being August, the patches of sand were absolutely crammed with people, the road clogged with cars, the pavement thronging with families carrying lilos and footballs for an afternoon by the sea. No sand to sit on? Didn't matter...people sat on rocks, on concrete stairs leading to nowhere, on foundations of houses collapsed into the sea, on rocky outcrops in the sea...there were people everywhere!
Another palace that has been restored to its former glory is Dar Mustapha Pacha, a much larger complex than the nearby Dar Khedaoudj. This one has a very similar courtyard, almost identical in fact, but from certain angles, you can see that the palace extends beyond on many different levels. The rooms here are dedicated to calligraphy, and very beautiful it is too. There are the traditional quotations from the Qur'an, as well as more modern forms of calligraphy where the words are twisted around on the canvas to form shapes of animals or trees and some more abstract canvases too. The curators were a lot more relaxed about our visit than those at the museum, preferring to leave us to look round in our own time instead of hovering in the doorways. For now, it seems that only the courtyard is open to the public, or maybe we just didn't find the right staircase.
After visiting Dar Mustapha Pacha, we wandered round the corner and found ourselves in the souq by the Ketchaoua Mosque I'd visited the previous day. That was the end of our tour, and we all went our separate ways, the guide into a restaurant, the Algerian-American couple into a taxi, and me into a cafe for a well-earned coffee.
As I said in the previous tip, the Lower Casbah contains a number of palaces in varying states of disrepair. Dar Khedaoudj is one that has been restored (with the unusual addition of a glass roof over the courtyard, meaning it was slightly hot and stuffy inside), and now operates as the Musee des Arts Traditionnels. Dating from the 16th century, some of the rooms have been decorated to show how the rich used to live using shop mannequins in elaborate clothing, but mostly the displays are of handicrafts and musical instruments from the local area. It is the sort of place where the curators follow you round silently from room to room switching lights on and off, and glower at you as you awkwardly try to feign interest in the 18th century chamber pots on display. More interesting is the building, which has been restored beautifully with coloured tiles all around the two storey courtyard, which inexplicably features a rather grand 4 poster bed and several employees drinking tea. I got the impression that the restoration had not quite been finished, and that we were being given a sneak preview of a soon-to-be-opened museum, but reading up online I see it has been open for some years.
We crossed one of the few roads running through the Casbah with traffic, and headed into a side street, entering the lower Casbah. Whereas the streets in the upper Casbah are maze-like, steep and twisting, the houses closer together and more decrepit, the lower Casbah was always a traditionally more well-off neighbourhood and contained a number of palaces and grand mosques. The guide was just telling us that this part of the Casbah has always been safer too, when a group of young men passed and began to berate him for bringing outsiders in. Some other locals came along and took the side of the guide, and the argument moved off down the street. We were advised to keep our cameras out of sight after that.
This is one reason why having a guide is useful in the Casbah. While the vast majority of people we met were friendly and welcoming, the two groups of unhappy young men objecting to our presence in their area did make me wonder what would have happened had I wandered around the Casbah on my own. Search on the internet and you'll find stories of tourists being robbed or attacked...you'll also find bloggers who walked around without a guide and assure their readers that taking a guide is over-cautious. I'm not usually one for tours or guides, but here it made sense. He knew so many local people, who came to back us up when things could have got nasty. Aside from that, he also knew his stuff, was able to talk about the history of nearly every building and tell us about what life was like growing up in the Casbah, as well as take us inside buildings we never would have seen.
Anyway, to the photos. I said above that the streets are narrower and houses closer together in the upper part of the Casbah, but that doesn't mean you won't find narrow streets in this part too. In fact, one street here was the narrowest I've seen, with two buildings leaning so far over they actually touched above the street.