Algiers La Blanche: queen of the sea
From the top of the ridge, Algiers overlooks the Mediterranean Sea with its majestic white facade to which it owes its name of Algiers La Blanche.
Genesis of Algiers
A free and welcoming land, Algiers has never ceased to attract, throughout history, the gaze of other peoples, who have all succumbed to its charm. Already in antiquity, its masters, the Berber kings must have had trouble protecting it. The Phoenicians, from the 4th century . av. I made it a trading post and built the Ikosim. The Romans, from the middle of the 2nd century BC. J moved to Icosium. The Vandals also took their place from the V th century AD. J. and, it was the turn of the Byzantines to succeed them, a century later. Thanks to an alternating game of alliance and resistance, the Berber Kings were able to manage this eventful episode of ancient Algiers. However, the foundation of Djezaïr-Béni-Mezghanna, from which it takes its current name (the name of Al-Djezaïr, means in Arabic the islands) belongs to the Berber prince Bologhine Ibnou Ziri. In 960, on the remains of Icosium, he built the city which was to become the capital of Algeria. Medieval Algiers was marked above all by the reign of two dynasties, the Béni Ziri and the Mourabitines. In the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Turks settled on the heights of the city and built the Casbah. South of the ridge, they laid out gardens and built palaces and country houses. The French during the colonization in 1830 were to extend the arms of the city, initiating a movement of extension east and west, along the sea. Since the independence of Algeria in 1962, Algiers continues to grow. and to grow in importance, due to its role as an economic and political capital.
Sea and City
The history of Algiers, like its urbanization, testifies to the love that the city reserves for its sea.
From the sea the city arose. She then had to withdraw towards the ridge (the Casbah), to overlook the sea and take control of her territory. It quickly reconnected with the sea, to extend and develop along its coasts, before making timid breakthroughs to the south.
Since then, Algiers has continued to extend its arms along its coasts to jealously contain its sea. Facing the sea, it erects its majestic facade to welcome its guests.
The sea marks the daily life of the people of Algiers, their culinary art, their activities, their hobbies, their dreams, their imagination, their literature, their music, their art and their architecture. It never ceases to arouse the interest of artists, architects, poets, etc., to draw inspiration from it.
You can’t resist the fish dishes served at the Algiers fishery, at Le Sauveur and many others. We quickly fall in love with all the architectural works of the marine district of Algiers, the Casbah and the fishery.
The city, art and architecture
Algiers has the privilege of containing one of the richest and most varied architectural repertoires in the world.
If fragments of prehistory and antiquity are jealously guarded in the Bardo museum, in open-air sites and in other museums. The entire city offers a living mosaic of styles. The great mosque of Algiers located in the fishing district bears witness to the architectural and artistic richness of medieval Algiers. The mosques, palaces and residences of the fishing, marine and lower Casbah quarters bear witness to the Ottoman influence. The Sidi Abderrahmane At-taalibi district, with its domes and places of prayer, marks the imprint of the spiritual masters of Algiers, at a time when Algiers was going to sink if not for recourse to the wisdom of its masters. The Didouche and Ben Mhidi districts (previously Michelet and Isly) mark the urban architecture of the 9th century . century and bear witness to the colonial imprint.
The Grande Poste, the seat of the wilaya of Algiers, the University of Kharrouba (work of Abderrahmane Bouchama) are beautiful living monuments that bear witness to the neo-Moorish style. Aero-habitat (work by Le Corbusier), Diar El Mahçoul (work by Pouillon), peripheral cities of Algiers, the University of Science and Technology of Algiers (work by Oscar Niemeyer), etc. bear witness to the influence of modern architecture. The district of Maqam Echahid (memorial of the martyr) and other recent monuments bear witness to the influence of contemporary architecture. Generations of artists have known through their beautiful works, their love of Algiers. Among the European artists, we can mention: Delacroix, Dinet, Fromentin, Chassérian, Vornet, Gérôme, Guillaumet and many others. We also learn (according to Marion Vidal-Bué, 2000) that Renoir, Marquet, Dufy, Friesz or Maurice Denis painted Algiers. Among the Algerian artists, we can mention: the Racim brothers, Baya, Issiakhem, Khadda, Koreïchi, Kara-Ahmed, Boukerche, Boutaleb, Mesli, Yellès, Mammeri, Zmirli and many others.
Algiers continues, thanks to the genius of its young architects and artists, to mark its space and enrich its repertoire.
City and culture
Algiers is answered to be the cradle of a refined art as well musical, culinary, as clothing, etc.
If the chorba, the bourek, the couscous, the fish, are deemed to garnish the Algiers table, the almond pastry, and the dziriyates, are essential, as essential desserts.
It is also in Algiers that Chaabi (popular) music was born. A unique style specific to Algiers, to sing of love and pain.
Without the Chaabi, the bourek, the dziriyates, Algiers would lose all its spirit. It is indeed to his spirit that the place owes its entire existence.
1. Explore the old city
Officially known as the Casbah, this is an ancient part of Algiers that is built on a hill overlooking modern Algiers. This part of the city dates back to the 17th century, founded on the ruins of old Icosium.
The Casbah is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its exceptional architecture, which includes Ketchaoua mosque, mosque el Djedid and mosque El Kébir. It is also home to the Casbah Palace, which is well worth visiting.
The palace, or Dar Aziza, was built in 1791 and named after the Princess Aziza Bent ed-Dey. It is a beautiful, white palace with a courtyard, numerous terraces and a spectacular grand staircase.
2. Visit the Notre Dame d’Afrique
This magnificent Catholic basilica was built in the late 1800s and is a great example of the Neo-Byzantine style that was happening in French Algeria at the time. It took fourteen years to build the church, which opened its doors on 1872.
Notre Dame d’Afrique sits on the north side of the city on a cliff overlooking the bay of Algiers. It’s often pegged as being a mirror for the Notre-Dame de la Garde, which is located in Marseille on the other side of the Mediterranean.
The basilica is unlike many others built at the time, as its floor plan means that the choir is at the southeast of the chapel, rather than the east. It also features 14 beautiful stained glass windows.
3. Stroll around the Bab El Oued neighbourhood
This was once the neighbourhood for the poor pied-noirs, though it has now changed into one of the city’s most well-liked areas.
Bab El Oued sits along the coast in Algiers’ city centre. It is the home of famous Algerian footballer Djamel Keddou, athlete Baya Rahouli and world-renowned Muay Thai champion Dida Diafat.
The neighbourhood is most known for its square with the three clocks and for its great market Triplet. Spending an afternoon wandering around the area is a great way to get out of the main tourist drags and explore a more local part of the city.
4. Pay respect to those killed in the Algerian war of independence
The Maqam Echahid is an iconic monument that opened on the 20th anniversary of the country’s independence. It is a large concrete structure that was built to look like three palm leaves that are joined together to protect a flame beneath it; the ‘Eternal Flame’.
The monument is 92 metres high, consisting of the three palms, three Islamic turrets with a diameter of 10 metres each, and a six metre dome at the top. The site also has an amphitheatre and a crypt, as well as being home to the Museum of El Mujahid.
Maqam Echahid is located on the hills overlooking the Hamma neighbourhood. It took nine months to build and in February 1986 it was inaugurated by the then President Chadli Bendjedid .
5. Walk along Rue Didouche Mourad
Stretching from the Grande Post office to the Heights of Algiers, Didouche Mourad Street is one of Algiers’ main shopping strips. It is right in the centre of the city, with small shops and restaurants being lined along it.
It is a popular attraction, home to landmarks like the Grande Post office, the Faculty of Algiers and the park of Galland. It is a vibrant street that demonstrates what real life is like in Algiers.
The tree-lined street is a great place to people watch while sipping a coffee in a café or enjoying a beer at a local pub. Still, one of the biggest draws is its Haussmann-style architecture.
6. Visit the city’s oldest mosque
Dating back to 1097, the Great Mosque of Algiers is the oldest in the city. It is one of the world’s few remaining examples of Almoravid architecture.
The mosque was built under sultan Ali ibn Yusuf and features a large rectangular courtyard, a prayer hall with 11 naves, an 18th century mihrab and 14th century minarets. It also has an enclosed courtyard.
The Great Mosque of Algiers is located in the ancient Casbah area near the harbour. It is a beautiful white building that was constructed out of stone, brick and wood, decorated with elaborate ceramic and wood ornaments.
7. Escape the heat
Just west of the city are some lovely seaside resorts that are great for escaping the heat and getting out of the vibrant city. All of these towns have accommodations, restaurants and shops that sell souvenirs.
The coastal town of Sidi Fredj is one of the most visited resorts, which sits on a peninsula around 30 kilometres outside of Algiers. It is an attractive town with lovely architecture, a harbour and sandy beaches.
The town of Zéralda is also popular, especially thanks to the Mazafran tourist complex. It too has some great hotels, shops and restaurants.
8. Spend a day at Aquafortland
No matter what age you are, Aquafortland will have something for you. It is a fun waterpark and a relaxing spa all in one.
The waterpark features three swimming pools, four water slides, an outdoor Jacuzzi and a man-made sandy beach. It also boasts trampolines, basketball courts, a games room and an adventure course.
Aquafortland Spa is a tranquil, indoor space to enjoy getting completely pampered. It has a heated indoor pool, Jacuzzis, a steam room and even a fitness centre that offers group classes.
9. Wine and dine at the Sheraton Club des Pins Resort
This seaside resort is a great place to spend an evening, and you don’t need to be a guest of the resort. Anyone can enjoy dining in one its fantastic restaurants and sipping cocktails in its bars.
Dine on Italian cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine or Asian cuisine at one of the resort’s restaurants, or enjoy seafood at its seasonal terrace restaurant while overlooking the bay. Afterwards, head to the resort’s lounge for some live music played on the piano, or sip on a cocktail in the chic lobby bar.
10. Admire local art
The Farid Benyaa Gallery, or Galerie d’art Farid Benyaa, is a gallery that focuses on the life and work of the local artist. Farid Benyaa is said to be one of the country’s most talented artists in history.
The gallery was opened by the artist himself to showcase his own artwork and host personal exhibitions. It also features art of others Algerian artists, be it visual art or music.
The Museum of Popular Arts features a wide collection of local arts and crafts. It has both traditional and modern items, all of which were crafted by local artists.
11. Play a round of golf
The city’s main golf course, the Algiers Golf Course is a top notch golf course that is easily accessible from any hotel in the city. The golf course boasts spectacular views of the city and the coast, making it very appealing to visitors.
It is an 18-hole golf course that is spread across 10 kilometres. Visitors that forgot their clubs can rent a set while enjoying a round at this beautiful course.
12. Become a historian
There are a few fantastic museums in Algiers that are a must for anyone interested in the history of the country. The Bardo Museum is arguably the best in the city, which is not only a museum but also an architectural landmark.
The Bardo Museum is located in a magnificent, restored Turkish mansion. It features some of the finest artefacts ever found in Algeria, including ancient fossils, rock carvings, leatherwork and jewellery.
The National Museum of Antiquities really takes visitors back in time, as it displays numerous ancient relics that tell the story of the country’s ancient times. These include ivory carvings, Libyan period totemic warriors and an impressive coin collection.
13. Discover different architectural styles
The Djemaa el-Djedid Mosque is an extremely unique mosque, as it mixes a variety of architectural styles in its design. The mosque was originally constructed in 1660 in Ottoman style, but since then it has gone through numerous changes.
Today, the Djemaa el-Djedid Mosque shows examples of Turkish, Italian and Andalusian architecture, as well as its original Ottoman design. It is a spectacular building that features vaults, domes, columns and wood finishes, all of which are perfectly designed.
Non-Muslims can’t enter the mosque, but they can admire it from the outside.
14. Head to a mall
There are a few massive malls in the city, though the best by far are the Centre Commercial Bab Ezzouar and the Centre Commercial Al Qods.
The Centre Commercial Bab Ezzouar is a 60,000 square metre mall that houses over 230 shops and services. It is a six level building, three of which are part of the shopping mall and feature numerous international brand shops, including Zara, Adidas, Lacoaste and MAC.
The Centre Commercial Al Qods is the largest mall in Algiers, consisting of 165 square metres of space.
It features over 430 shops and services that are spread across 18 floors.
15. Stop and smell the flowers
The Botanical Garden of Hamma is a stunning garden located in the Mohamed Belouizdad district. The garden is considered to be one of the world’s most important botanical gardens.
The Botanical Garden of Hamma opened in 1832 on five hectares of land. In 1837, it increased to 18 hectares, and today it is a whopping 58 hectares.
There are over 1,200 plant species in the garden, though this number used to be much larger. In addition to the public gardens, it is also home to the Algerian National Institute of Agronomical Research.