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Algeria Cruises

Algiers, Algeria

About Algeria

The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria boasts remarkable historic cities and a rich culture that’s been shaped over centuries by Berber, Carthaginian, Roman, Ottoman, French and many other civilizations that have ruled here.

Carthage, the ancient city whose remains spread across the northern regions of neighboring Tunisia, was one of the first cities to hold sway over the indigenous Berbers, as early as the 4th century BC. Native Berbers eventually rebelled, but it was the Romans who destroyed Carthage in 146 BC. Rome claimed Algeria as its own and cultivated its land to feed the growing empire. By the 5th century, Rome faltered in the region, opening the door for many Arab dynasties to emerge. In 1516, Algeria came under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Its rule would last until 1830, with the arrival of the French.

The French agenda was to “civilize” Algeria; the nation’s traditions and centuries-old culture suffered during French rule, which lasted 130 years. By the early 20th century, Europeans outnumbered Algerians. Tensions grew for France to leave, which it did at the close of the Algerian War, which lasted from 1954 to 1962. Algeria won its independence that year, and most French-Algerians returned to France. As in any newly established country, conflicts over political control erupted over the next several decades.

Nowhere is Algeria’s rich blend of historic cultures on fuller display than in Algiers, the nation’s seaside capital. Inside the whitewashed hillside Casbah, ancient mosques and tidy houses dot the streets. Outside the ancient city walls, whispers of France echo along long boulevards and in Parisian-style cafés.

Algeria Lifestyle and Culture

After millennia, indigenous Berbers still call Algeria home, but they are a minority today. Arabs make up over 80 percent of the nation’s inhabitants. Their two distinct languages are the most often heard. French, however, is still widely used in government, the media and other segments of culture, though it is not officially recognized.

Cuisine in Algeria differs from region to region. As the nation is predominantly Muslim, the most devout avoid the consumption of pork. Other types of meat are highly consumed, including mutton, poultry, beef and, less commonly, venison and different types of birds.

Cabbage, carrots, eggplant, garlic, onions and potatoes are commonly found in Algerian dishes. Kesra, Algerian flatbread, is central to national fare and is often included in many meals. Couscous, small steamed balls of semolina, and shakshouka, poached eggs in a tomato-based sauce, are also favorites of Algerians.

The music of Algeria is dominated by raï—a combination of pop and folk whose lyrics address important social issues. A number of other musical genres are also popular, from the classical music of medieval Muslim territories to shaabi, working-class music often enjoyed by older Algerians.

Algeria Sights and Landmarks

The nation’s capital, Algiers, draws many visitors. In this seaside cultural center, shimmering, whitewashed buildings climb the coastal hills, comprising the centuries-old Casbah. Within this citadel, ancient mosques call the devout to prayer, vendors invite you to browse their shops along narrow warrens and traditional houses cluster around courtyards. Nearby, the sprawling gardens of Jardin d’Essai du Hamma are among the world’s most picturesque botanical gardens. Meticulously landscaped, it opened in 1832 and features palm-lined pathways, ornate fountains, exotic trees and plants and even a small zoo.

Perched atop a high cliff overlooking the Bay of Algiers, the neo-Byzantine Notre Dame d’Afrique basilica is a center of Catholicism for the entire country. Built in 1872, the imposing sandstone structure is notable for its gleaming silver dome and colorful mosaic tile border.

Today, Algeria is among the most stable North African countries. Its French flavor is part of its charm, from colonial-era architecture to freshly baked baguettes. And though most visitors see only the stunning whitewashed city of Algiers, the nation is home to a wide range of natural beauty, from the dramatic red-hued desert rock formations of Tadrart Rouge and rocky coast of Béjaïa to the grassy plains of El Taref province and snow-covered peaks of the Djurdjura mountain range.