"Algeria, in 2005, an almost safe destination!" Top 5 Page for this destination Algeria by JLBG
Algeria Travel Guide: 1,146 reviews and 3,873 photos
I wanted to give here information from a recent visit (December 2005). I have added a few tips from previous travels but have much more pictures, mostly as slides, and tips. Later, I will both add pages on other locations and new tips under Algeria.
Algeria is the second wider country of Africa (2,400,000 km2) after Sudan. It has a 1200 km coast on the Mediterranean Sea. Her neighbors, from east to west, are : Tunisia, Lybia, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Morocco (and Western Sahara).
The official language of Algeria is Classical Arab (in French "Arabe litteral") but Algerian Arab is the language of everyday's life. After the independence from France (Jul 5th 1962), there was a period of Arabisation of the country. French and Berber were banned. Road signs were only in Arab script, all the teaching had to be performed in Arab, children learnt French as a late option, etc. However, as French remained nevertheless widely used in the country, Algeria has now shifted to a more flexible and realistic language policy. Most road signs are bilingual, ads are bilingual, several national daily newspapers are printed in French, children learn French at an early age, part of the teaching in the Universities is in French, many official documents are printed both in Arab and in French, etc... However, French is not an official language for the country and Algeria is neither among the 49 full members of the "Organisation internationale de la Francophonie", nor among the 4 associated countries or the 10 observers countries. Since 2002, Tamazight (Berber) is the second official language of the country spoken by around one third of the population. Its different dialects are : Kabyle, the most important with 5 to 10 million speakers, Chaouia is second with half less speakers and Tuareg third, spoken only in the Sahara.
The first inhabitants of Algeria were Berbers. At some time many tribes converted to Judaism. When the country was part of the Roman Empire, Christianity became the main religion. When the Arab invaded the country, they brought Islam with them, which soon replaced Christianity that disappeared completely from the country while Judaism remained the religion of a strong minority. In the 19th century, colonization brought mostly French but also Italian, Spanish and Maltese settlers. After the independence, whatever their origin, the "pieds-noirs" (Europeans born in Algeria), emigrated mostly to France as well as the Sephardic Jews (mostly Judaized Berbers). Most of the population of Algeria is Berber : two third are Arabized Berbers (often viewing themselves as Arabs), one third are Berber speaking both Tamazight and Arab, while ethnic Arabs are very few.
In 2005, Algeria has 34 millions inhabitants and comprises 48 wilayas (provinces). Each "wilaya" is ruled by a "wali" appointed by the governement under the control of an elected assembly called APW (for Assembl?e Populaire de Wilaya ie Peoples Wilaya Assembly). Each wilaya has been allotted a number which is part of the registration number for cars and is included in the telephone numbers (first two digits).
A wilaya comprises several "da?ras" ruled by a da?r. A da?ra comprises several "communes" (cities or villages).
The 48 wilayas with their number.
01 Adrar. 02 Chlef. 03 Laghouat. 04 Oum-El-Bouaghi. 05 Batna. 06 B?ja?a. 07 Biskra. 08 B?char. 09 Blida. 10 Bouira. 11 Tamanrasset. 12 T?bessa. 13 Tlemcen. 14 Tiaret. 15 Tizi-Ouzou. 16 Alger. 17 Djelfa. 18 Jijel. 19 S?tif. 20 Sa?da. 21 Skikda. 22 Sidi-Bel-Abb?s. 23 Annaba. 24 Guelma. 25 Constantine. 26 M?d?a. 27 Mostaganem. 28 M'Sila. 29 Mascara. 30 Ouargla. 31 Oran. 32 El-Bayadh. 33 Illizi. 34 Bordj-Bou-Arreridj. 35 Boumerd?s. 36 El-Taref. 37 Tindouf. 38 Tissemsilt. 39 El-Oued. 40 Khenchela. 41 Souk-Ahras. 42 Tipaza. 43 Mila. 44 A?n-Defla. 45 Na?ma. 46 A?n-T?mouchent. 47 Gharda?a. 48 Relizane.
Roughly speaking, Algeria comprises three geographical and climatological parts. The northernmost part is a strip along the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises the coastal plains with a wealthy agriculture and the mountainous massifs of the Aur?s and of Kabylie that are part of the Atlas range. Southernly, spreads the "Hauts-Plateaux" (High plateaux) with very little agriculture possible and mostly sheep-farming. More South are pre-Saharian zones and the Sahara, composed of "reg" (desert of stones, the most important part), "erg" (desert of sand), "Hamada" (rocky desert) and volcanic massifs such as the Hoggar framed by "tassilis" (sandstone plateaux) : Tassili du Hoggar, Tassili des Ajjers, etc?
After the independence, Algeria had chose to develop its heavy industry and not to develop tourism, contrary to its neighbors, Tunisia and Morocco. Thus, from 1962 to 1992, foreign tourism in Algeria was more or less limited to the Mzab and the Saharian districts. Visitors to the northern part of the country were mostly Algerian emigrants, coming back home from Europe for vacations. In 1992, insecurity appeared, raised and hundred of thousand of people were killed. Until 2003-2004, the number of visitors and moreover the number of tourists dropped dramatically and was close to zero. In 2005, Algeria is as safe as any other country of the Maghreb. You can now visit any place in the country. The good thing is that, as there are almost no other tourists, you will be very welcomed by the people. We experienced it during a week, end of November and beginning of December.
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