Welcome to Algeria
Australian residents, Alec and Alison, who I met on the train across the Caucasus last year, were going to travel on this trip to Algeria with me, but their visa paperwork never arrived back from Algiers - no real explanation - and they had to rearrange their European trip. Our trip was supposed to be a party of 13, including George the English leader and Jamie from the office in England. So now we’re down to eleven, as we assemble in the airport arrivals area. Except we’re not, as Sarah, from the UK, has not been allowed to enter the country. None of us have even seen her get off the plane. Mind you, we don’t know what she looks like. Again, no explanation given. There’s much speculation of course. A journalist? A spy? Something more mundane, like the date missing from the visa?
Unusually, we are all solo travellers, three men and five women (two of the ladies are American, everyone else is at least part British) plus George and Jamie. Our passports have all been re-examined and collected (my own exchange with the immigration officers was very amicable), so now we’re all waiting with trepidation to see if we are to be deported too. After an hour or so we are sent on our way. All is well. Except we are now ten. It’s like an Agatha Christie novel.
Algeria - Snippets of Information
- The word Algeria comes from the Arabic name for Algiers, which means island- El Djazeira.
- With a population of approximately 40 million, Algeria is geographically North Africa's largest country by area. Before 2011, when South Sudan became independent, Sudan was the largest.
- The official languages of Algeria are literary Arabic and Tamazight (Berber). French is a semi-official language and the currency is the Algerian dinar.
- The renowned Algerian novelist, Albert Camus, played as goalkeeper in the football team for the University of Algiers, which may therefore be the world’s only university to have had a Nobel Prize-winning goalkeeper in its team.
Is Algeria All Desert?
The Sahara Desert covers 80 per cent of Algeria.
Who Colonised Algeria?
Algeria has a long history of invasion. It has been subject to rule by the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and French over many years. Over a million Algerians were killed in the fight for independence from France in 1962 following colonisation in the nineteenth century.
Is Algeria a Poor Country?
Algeria has the third most important economy in the Middle East and North Africa, but many of its people are poor. The national rate of poverty in Algeria is reported as 23 percent.
Is It Safe to Go to Algeria?
The latest FCO bulletin on Algeria:
‘Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Algeria, including kidnappings. Terrorist attacks have focussed on the Algerian state, but attacks could be indiscriminate and include foreigners. There’s also a risk that lone actors could target foreigners. You should be vigilant at all times and take additional security precautions, especially in: towns and cities; the southern, Libyan and Tunisian border areas; rural and mountainous areas in the north; and the Sahara.
The Algerian authorities devote considerable resources to the safety of foreign visitors. In cities there’s a clear security presence, which can feel intrusive. Authorities will want to know your travel plans when travelling outside major cities and may assign police or gendarmes to protect you.’
This is all entirely accurate. We have an armed guard most of the time in the desert. but no hint of trouble anywhere. The Algerians so far (except in airport queues) have been very gentle, polite and respectful. There is no hassle or belligerent selling. But there are very few tourists and not many souvenir stalls to promote anyway.
What to Do in Algeria?