From the 12th to the 16th century, Tlemcen was an important imperial city. Here in the wooded foothills of the Tell Atlas it is pleasantly cool even in midsummer. Sights include the Grand Mosque, Mansourah Fortress and the Almohad Walls.
Constantine is located in the east of the country on a mighty plateau that can only be reached by bridges spanning the Rhumel river valley. The oldest inhabited city in Algeria was founded as Cirta by the Carthaginians. Sights include the Ahmed Bey Palace ( one of the most beautiful palaces in the Maghreb) and the Djamma El Kebir Mosque.
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The Sahara is the most impressive and inhospitable landscape of Algeria. Although the desert is sparsely inhabited, it increasingly attracts visitors in winter. Hotels are relatively good and inexpensive here. However, during the season it is often difficult to find accommodation in the oases. Road conditions are good, but summer sandstorms and winter rains can affect even the main routes.
Most Algerian oases do not conform to the European notion of small palm-fringed towns, but are often relatively large cities with pretty walled gardens, mosques, shops and monuments. Laghouat or the five cities of the M’Zab are ideal starting points for Saharan expeditions, picture-perfect villages with white cottages on earthen ramparts, rising out of a desert moat about a kilometer apart. The most famous of these places is Ghardaia. This region is inhabited by a very old Mozabite Islamic sect. The oasis of El Golea has an interesting old fort. Tamanrasset, the only major town in the far south, is the best place to explore the Hoggar Mountains and western desert. “Tam”, as it is also known, is a popular winter holiday resort and oil center. The city is regularly visited by camel caravans of the Les hommes Al, the blue-clad Tuareg. The little oasis of Djanet
, another welcome stopover for business travelers and trans-Saharan expeditions, is on Tassili N’Ajjer, the »Plateau of the Abyss«. This large volcanic plain is traversed by huge canyons, originally formed by large rivers that have long since dried up or run underground. The area covers 130,000 square km and some of the rock paintings found here are over 6000 years old. Travel agencies in Algiers or Djanet organize trips lasting from one day to a week.
Good souvenirs include leather goods, rugs, copper and brass items, local clothing, jewelery and beautifully patterned Berber rugs. Beautifully lacquered basketwork, pottery and earthenware are on offer from the Sahara. Bargaining is common in the markets and small shops. Rue Didouche Mourad is the best shopping street in Algiers. There are two government crafts centers with fixed prices (one at Algiers airport). Shop opening hours: Sat-Thurs 08.00-12.00 and 14.00-19.00.
In the larger cities, entertainment includes folk music and dance events, nightclubs, discos and hotel restaurants. Some cinemas in Oran and Algiers show French and English language films.
There is a good range of restaurants in Algiers and the coastal towns, offering mostly French or Italian dishes, although some of the T. spicy sauces distinguish them from European cuisine. Even classic dishes have an unmistakable Algerian flavor. Fish dishes are particularly tasty. The meal usually includes soup or salad, roasted meat (lamb or beef) or fish for the main course and fresh fruit for dessert. In the cities there are food stalls with spicy lamb sausages (merguez) and brochettes, toasted baguettes with different fillings, if desired with hot sauce (harissa). Shakshuba (vegetable stew with onions, peppers, tomatoes and eggs). In the southern part of the country the choice is limited and the menu depends on the food supply. Local cuisine, as offered in private homes, often consists of roast meat (usually lamb), cous-cous with vegetable sauce and fresh fruit. Food is relatively expensive. Beverages: Alcohol only served in upmarket hotels and restaurants; Hotel bars are open until the last guest has left. Algeria has some good local wines, but the country’s selection is limited. The red wines Medea, Mansourah and Mascara as well as the rosé wines Medea, Mascara and Lismara are recommended. European wines are also available in the larger hotels. Alcohol in Algeria is very expensive.
In Algiers and other commercial centers, the offer is essentially limited to luxury hotels and inexpensive hotels. The latter are popular with local business travelers and for visiting relatives and are therefore often crowded. Despite a reservation, a room cannot be guaranteed. Business travelers are advised to book only in the best hotels. Categories: All hotels are controlled by the government and are classified according to the star system: deluxe (5 stars), 2nd class (3-4 stars) and tourist class (1- 2 stars). On the Coast: New hotels are being built all the time in the resorts of the Mediterranean coast, many of which are of a high standard. Many of the better holiday hotels also have nightclubs. From 1 Oct – 31 Oct May winter prices apply, the rest of the year summer season prices apply. In the oases: There are few good hotels in the big oases like Ghardaia and Ouargla. During the season (October – May) you should book early. In the south: Hotel rooms in the extreme south of the country are rare. In Djanet e.g. B., a popular stopover on Sahara expeditions and starting point for tours to Tassili N’Ajjer, the only hotel is the Zeribas, which consists of only a campement of 20 straw huts. Better hotels have become available as Tamanrsasset has become a popular winter resort. The selection of hotel rooms is still limited overall.
Camping on communal land and on the beach is free but requires a permit from the local authorities. There are campsites with good facilities in Larhat, Ain El Turk and Annaba.
Other accommodation options
There are youth hostels almost everywhere. Information is available from the Fédération Algérienne des Auberges de Jeunesse, 213 Rue Hassiba Ben Bouali, BP 15, El Annasser, Algiers. (Tel: (021) 678 65 8/7).
Almost 100% Muslim (mostly Sunni), Christian and Jewish minorities.
Social Rules of Conduct
French politeness and manners are appropriate. Hospitality plays an important role in Arabic and thus also in Algerian culture. Revealing clothing such as shorts and skirts or short-sleeved tops should be avoided. An invitation is generally only meant seriously if it has been extended three times. Before entering a private apartment, one should take off one’s shoes. Photography: Military installations and soldiers may not be photographed. Tipping: 10% is customary. Smoking: There is no general smoking ban, some hotels restrict smoking.
Best travel time
South: Summer temperatures are high across the country, but the south is particularly hot and dry. Sandstorms often occur in the summer, making cross-country journeys difficult and hampering air traffic. The oases in the south are very pleasant in winter. In the desert, temperatures drop sharply at night. Storms are frequent on the coast. There is little precipitation across the country, but rain rarely occurs in the southern part of the country.
Atlas Mountains: Continental climate with wet winters where snowfall is possible. The summers are characterized by a long dry season.
North: It is often humid in the cities in the north, only on the coast do sea breezes cool down all year round.
The best travel times for the desert are October and November as well as March and April. The best travel time for the Algerian coast and for the Atlas Mountains is from March to August.
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