11 Seriously Useful Travel Tips You Wish You Knew About Algeria Sooner – Mediterranean Sea Chronicles 3

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Port d’ Algers, Algiers, Algeria

The main seaport of Algeria and built on the slopes of Sahel Hills, Port d’ Algers (Port of Algiers) stretches for 10 miles by the Bay of Algiers. This is the most important seaport in North Africa. Located at the city of Algiers, capital of Algeria, it has been founded as a colony of the Phoenicians. They had established a commercial outpost at the site of modern-day Port d’ Algers which they called it “ikosim”. It is centuries old and Algeria’s most important export, the petroleum moves out through the Port d’ Algers. Other products handled for export by this port include oats, olives, wheat, barley, figs, dates and esparto grass. It is also a port of call for hull cleaning and underwater repairs. Port d’ Algers has a special geographic location along the Mediterranean Sea and handles 23% of the Algerian foreign trade.

Officially called the “People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria”, it is another Maghreb country of North Africa. The 10th largest country in the world and the largest in the African Union and the Arab world. Its capital is Algiers, which is often referred as the “white lady” of North Africa due to its dazzling lights reflected by the all-white buildings that dot its skyline. Before its independence in 1962, Algeria has been the empire and dynasties of Numidians, Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Spaniards and the French. Most of its people are of Arab-Berber origin with Algerian Arabic as the main language. French on the other hand serves as the administrative language and medium of instruction at schools. Oil and gas reserves were discovered in Algeria in the 1950s and it is the country’s main export especially butane gas. And, believe it or not, petrol is cheaper than water in Algeria.

The Arab-Berber people of Algeria.

Still under contract with the M/T Adafera in 2012, after our trip in Tunisia, we moved to neighboring Algeria. All throughout my contract with Adafera, our route was mainly concentrated to the Mediterranean-Gibraltar coastlines of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Malta and Spain. For 132 years (1830-1962) Algeria was known as French Algeria. So it is without doubt that the country makes you feel like you are in France rather than in an African nation. Based on OPEC, Algeria is the 9th largest country in natural gas reserve. Sonatrach, the country’s national oil company is Africa’s biggest. Sometime in the past, Algeria has a tainted image as a haven of terrorist groups especially during its civil war in 2002. But that “notoriety” is long gone and over. It is now safe to visit the country. For us seafarers, Algerian visa may not be a challenge to obtain as our crewing company will do it. But for normal travelers, Algerian visa should be applied in advance at their nearest embassy or consulate. Stamps on passport or proof of visit from Israel, Egypt and Jordan will not be entertained. Algeria may not be one of tourists’ bucket lists but it certainly has to offer. And I tell you what, visitors in this country are usually greeted with dates and milk. Since it has a hilly coastline, cable cars are a popular mode of transportation. A little knowledge of French is an advantage since the shops and restaurants use only Arabic and French as a means of communication. So here are 11 strongly useful travel tips you wish you knew about Algeria sooner. Read on.

Map showing M/T Adafera’s route along the Mediterranean-Gibraltar area.

Islam It Is

Islam is the official religion thus it is illegal to its people to promote about other faiths. The majority of Algerians are Sunii Muslims, so it is a seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner that promoting other religion is a taboo. The constitution of Algeria prohibits other groups from engaging in behavior that is not compatible with Islamic morality. “Offending the Prophet” is considered a criminal charge. Churches however are allowed to exist under government’s rules.

Conventional Dress With Veil In The City For Ladies

Ladies take note. As an Islamic country, women are expected to dress modestly (i.e. covering your entire bodies) and wearing a veil is required. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, wearing skimpy clothes is disrespectful . It would stir critical looks from the locals. It is always a good idea for women to wear clothes that do not show too much skin. The thigh, chest and tummy area should be covered.

No Pointing, S’il Vous Plait

Algerians are hospitable and gift giving play a huge part in their culture. However, pointing with your index finger at objects and people is considered rude. It is better to point with the whole hand. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, when handling payment at souks, use only your right hand too.

It’s The Right Hand Only At Cafes

Most dine-in at restaurants is done by hands. Always respect the local custom by using only the thumb, index and middle finger of the right hand to pick your food. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, using all your fingers to get your food is a sign of gluttony. In middle-class families you are even offered to wash your right hand with a perfumed water before meal. Don’t refuse as this will offend your host. Make sure not to use your left hand as it is considered unclean.

Couscous or Baguette? Les Deux Sons Excellents In Algeria

Traditional Algerian cuisine is a mix of Berber, Turkish, French and Arab flavors. Couscous is the national dish with either lamb, chicken or fish and chickpeas on top. Bagita (baguette) is also an integral part of every meal in Algeria. It is served with vegetable curry or stews. Couscous or baguette? Ask that to any Algerian and he/she will answer: “les deux sons excellents.” A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner.

Berber-Roman Ruins At Its best In Djemila

Djemila is a small mountain village in Algeria. It is home to the best preserved Berber-Roman ruins in North Africa. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, Djemila is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It means beautiful in Arabic, Djemila was founded by the Roman Emperor Trajan in AD 96. Originally named as Cuicul, the Roman Empire used this hilltop town as a military base and trading center. Today the ruins serve as the finest example of Roman architecture in Algeria.

The Mysterious Rock Paintings At Tassili N’Ajjer National Park

Tassili N’Ajjer National Park

It is absolutely a tourist attraction you should not miss when in Algeria are the fascinating rock paintings at Tassili National Park. They depict stories of pre-historic human activities and wild animals. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, Tassili N’Ajjer mountain ranges can be reached from the amazing town of Djanet (which means a jewel of the Sahara Desert). Tassili is composed of sand stones which the winds from the Sahara have carved out picturesque rock arches and land formations. A tour at Tassili will give you the chance to discover the marvels of the desert. Djanet is an oasis town reminiscent of an English village. Full of white washed structures with majestic blue doors, this town is ideally located between Tassili mountains and the Mediterranean Sea.

Ancient rock paintings at Tassili National Park.

The town of Djanet, Algeria

A Country of Cherries and Dates

Deglet Nour dates of Algeria.

One of the seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner is that it is sometimes called “a country of cherries and dates.” They reflect how wide a variety of climate Algeria has. The dates here are the best known in the world – Deglet Nour dates. They produce and export so many of it, in fact Algeria is the 10th producer of (deglet nour) dates in the world.

Yes, They Have Nobel Prize Winners Too

We all know that Nobel Peace award is a prize from Norway and Sweden given yearly since 1901 for achievements in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, it has its share of Nobel awardees. Albert Camus, a French philosopher, author and journalist was born in Algeria in 1914 and the first “white” African to win a Nobel prize in Literature. At the age of 44 in 1957, he was the youngest recipient in the history of Nobel winners. His breakthrough novel, L’Etranger (The Stranger, 1942) depicts the absurdity or injustices of life. Claude Cohen-Tannoudji (born 1933) is a French physicist but also born and raised in Algeria. He won the Nobel in 1997 for Physics with his research in methods of laser cooling and trapping atoms.

The Mozabite Women of Ghardaia Only Show One Eye To The World

Ghardaia is a town at the Sahara Desert, a place where the Mozabite tribes live. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, the Mozabite women of Ghardaia are clad entirely in white “hijabs.” While the single ones show both eyes and nose from their veiled faces, the married women only reveal one eye to the world. (Be careful when taking pictures because it is forbidden.)

The desert town of Ghardaia, Algeria.

In Tipasa Lies The Mausoleum of Cleopatra’s and Mark Anthony’s Daughter

An unusual attraction in Tipasa, the Royal Mausoleum of Mauretannia is the tomb of the only daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony. A seriously useful travel tip you wish you knew about Algeria sooner, while her parents were one of world history’s most famous leaders, Princess Cleopatra Selene II was buried in Algeria in 6 B.C. It was known that after her parents comitted suicide following Mark Anthony’s defeat in the Battle of Actium, Cleopatra Selene was brought to Tipasa (a former Roman Empire). She was married to a Berber prince, Juba II and ruled the area of Mauretannia. When she died, her husband buried her in a mausoleum. King Juba was also buried here when he died in 23 A.D. When France occupied Algeria, Emperor Napoleon in 1866, ordered the structure be preserved and protected for visitors to explore and remember the life of a princess which has been forgotten by time.

Only a handful of travelers would really make it to Algeria because of its violent past. But then, this country has a charm. Make sure to add her in your bucket lists someday. It may be a challenge to get into this country but worth it. For now, it’s au revoir et bon voyage bientot.

Reference: Wikipedia; Lonely Planet