Algeria is a country of Africa
with a surface area of 2,381,741 km² (density of 15.58 inhab./km²). The population of Algeria is 37,100,000 inhabitants in the last census.The capital of Algeria is the city of Algiers which has 2,364,230 inhabitants. The president of the presidential republic is Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
"By the people and the people"
Algeria or the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is a country in North Africa that is part of the Little Maghreb. It shares borders with Morocco, Mali, Libya, Tunisia, Niger, Mauritania and Western Sahara.
Algeria has been independent since 1962, after remaining a French colony for 132 years.
The largest country in the Mediterranean and the Arab world, Algeria offers its visitors many landscapes and climates, from the Tell resorts to the Sahara desert through the Atlas Mountains. The vast majority of its inhabitants are concentrated in the cities of the north of the country despite attempts by the government to stem the rural exodus.
The capital Alger is home to more than 6 million people and is the largest city in the Maghreb.
Algeria at a glance
Democratic Republic of Algeria
Administrative divisions: 48 wilayas divided into daïras regrouping several municipalities
Population: more than 40 million inhabitants
Official languages: Arabic, Kabyle, Chaoui, French
Main religion: Islam
Current President: Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Currency: Algerian dinar (1 Algerian dinar = 100 cents)
Conversion into euro: 100 afghani =, 82 euro
Tourism: large areas of the country are not recommended due to the risk of terrorist attacks.
A country of contrasts
Between the coastline with the Mediterranean climate and the Sahara desert, Algeria is a land offering many landscapes to its visitors.
A broad strip of mountainous terrain, plains and valleys called Tell separates the coast from the steppes of the High Plateaux and further from the Saharan Atlas and the Algerian Sahara. Stretching along the 1,622 km of coastline, it is composed of 25 wilayas (administrative division) of the 48 that counts the country. It is in the Tell that more than 60% of the Algerian population lives, which thus benefits from the tourist attraction of the seaside resorts and the fertile lands little present in the country. Indeed, Algeria consists of almost 85% of desert areas and mountain ranges with the Hoggar climaxing at 3,003 meters above sea level.
This succession of different reliefs also explains the strong climatic variations between the north, the center and the south of the country.
Coastal cities benefit from a pleasant Mediterranean climate while the climate is much harsher in the mountainous regions, especially in Kabylia which is experiencing severe winters with snow and temperatures largely negative and hot and dry summers.
Due to their isolation in the midst of mountain ranges, the plateaus and valleys in the center of the country have particularly stuffy summers and temperatures can exceed 45 degrees.
The Sahara knows the typical desert climate with diurnal temperatures of over 40 degrees and nocturnal temperatures around 5 degrees in summer. In winter, temperatures are more bearable and range from 15 to 28 degrees.
While rainfall is regular and sometimes abundant in the north of the country, which allows agriculture and forest areas to develop, the Sahara has a dry and arid climate with winds that can raise significant amounts of dust and sand. This hot dry wind called Sirocco sometimes blows for several days from the South to the North, moving sand to the Alps.
If there are a few streams in the north of the country, mostly saline rivers and lakes south of Tell are not permanent.
Paradoxically, the subsoil of the Algerian desert shelters the largest aquifer in the world, the Albian aquifer constituting an immense reserve of fresh water. Oases and palm plantations are fed by groundwater.
Algeria is a land of welcome for many species of animals and many parks have been created in order to protect them effectively. Hyenas, foxes, wild cats, jackals and wild boars are found in the north of the country, while the south of Algeria is populated by desert fauna such as fennec, gerbera or sand cat. The coastline is home to many migratory birds, including the stork and the sparrow hawk of Europe, who spend the bad season in a milder climate.
Algerians quickly domesticated horses and dromedaries to move.
A country nearly two million years old
The region corresponding to the present Algeria has had a turbulent history since the dawn of time. Archaeological findings allow us to say that the site of Ain El Ahnech, in the wilaya of Setif in the north-east of the country, was already occupied during the Palaeolithic, 1.8 million years ago. The remains of hominids discovered in situ are the oldest in North Africa.
During the Neolithic, a new civilization appeared in the region of Constantine. They are the Capsiens, ancestors of the Numides Berbers who gradually develop throughout the Maghreb. The Capsians live in huts, offer a burial to their dead, domesticate flocks of sheep and cattle, and produce pottery and handicrafts, including jewelery made from shells and authors of magnificent cave paintings. They will also become the first farmers in North Africa.
A part of the Capsiens migrates towards the Sahara in the third millennium BC. It is this branch that will probably give birth to the Gétules, an emerging civilization throughout Algerian Antiquity. Writings mention inter alia trade between them and the Egyptians around 1350 BC.
During the first millennium BC, the Berber Sheshonq raised several tribes Gules and defeated the Pharaoh Psousennes II whose daughter he married that allows him to reign over Egypt and to found the XXII dynasty. Thus the horse already known by the Egyptians because of their contacts with Asia is introduced in Algeria.
Under the influence of Rome
The Getulians, now nomadic warriors and eminent cavaliers, migrate northward, driven by the desertification of the Sahara. They organize raids against the sedentary tribes and become more and more powerful, which has not gone unnoticed.
It is for this reason that these cavaliers will be recruited as mercenaries by Hannibal the Carthaginian who then campaigns against the Romans (Punic Wars).
These wars lasted more than a century and ended with the victory of the Romans who seized Carthage and secured their dominion over the Western Mediterranean. If Rome succeeded in emerging victorious from these conflicts, it was partly thanks to Getulians, who during the last Punic War offered their services to the Romans to fight Jugurtha, King of the Numidians in exchange for his lands and Roman citizenship. The Numidians are descendants of the sedentary Capsians and control the plains between the coast and the Atlas since the 3rd century BC
the Getulians settled on the lands confiscated from the Numidians and gradually lost their cavalry art and became integrated into the local populations. The people and the culture of Getulians disappear definitively in the 3rd century AD.
At the same time, in the Sahara, the Garamantes, a cousin of Getulians, founded a kingdom that extends in part to Algeria, Libya, Mali, Chad and Niger. Like Garrigas, the Garamantes are skilful cavaliers but they also domesticate dromedaries, which would tend to confirm the hypothesis according to which the Garamantes are the ancestors of the Tuaregs.
They settle in fortified oases and control all the trade routes of a vast region, becoming a great power.
They were nevertheless defeated by the Romans and disappeared as a people around 400 AD.
The Romans set up many veterans in Africa and these will mingle with the existing population while the supply of land to the nomadic tribes push them to settle. Rome occupied the country in a gentle manner, in spite of a few revolts of the Numidians driven from their lands in favor of the Getulians and the Roman colonists. The Romans then rebuilt the Numidian cities on the model of the Roman plan and built new cities including the main monuments such as amphitheatres, thermal baths, forums and temples.
The cities attracted the nomadic Numidians, causing a rural exodus and a rapid romanization of the region, which will enjoy a great economic and cultural boom. Algeria will not only live off its productions but will also grow thanks to exports to Rome.
Under the influence of Byzantium
Numidia experienced an economic decline parallel to that of Rome by the middle of the 3rd century. The revolts erupted again and Donatism (a schismatic Christian doctrine) gradually settled in a region hostile to Rome. Extremists baptized Circumcellions will interpret the Scriptures in their own way, wishing to die as martyrs in order to deserve paradise. They will attack the farmers and travelers indiscriminately and even commit suicide to achieve it. The sect considered heretical was suppressed and disappeared in the 4th century. In 430, the Vandals invaded the country, pushing the Romans to abandon their territories on the African continent. They were in turn driven out by the Byzantines led to victory by General Belisaire in 534.
Under the Muslim influence
The Byzantines occupied the Algerian territory for nearly 150 years before they had to abandon it to the hands of the Arabs during the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb. The Muslims, however, met with strong resistance from the Berbers and many tribes coalesced to oppose the Umayyads, the dominant dynasty of caliphs. In 708, the Muslim victory is assured and marks the beginning of the Islamization of Algeria.
The Arabs will reign for more than four centuries in a country often torn by tensions, revolts and even wars according to the alliances of different Berber tribes.
Finally, a new Berber dynasty, the Almohades, will emerge at the beginning of the 12th century. It reunited the Maghreb as well as the Muslim possessions of the Iberian Peninsula (Al-Andalus) and ruled the region until 1269. It was at this time that North Africa opened itself to trade with the Christian world that particularly appreciates the work of leather.
Different dynasties are imposed in turn to direct the Maghreb. This situation shows the weakening of the Muslims and urged the Spaniards and the Portuguese to recover their territories during the "Reconquista" which ends in 1492 during the capture of Granada, the ultimate Muslim possession on the Iberian Peninsula by the Catholic Monarchs Spanish.
This reconquest led to an exodus of Jews and Muslims expelled from Spain (the Moriscos) to the African continent and especially in Algeria. They settle in the cities of the north of the country and are at the origin of a new mix of cultures.
Under the influence of the Ottomans
The Spaniards continued their expansion in Algeria during the 16th century, notably taking Oran and Algiers. Under the impulse of the Sufi Muslim chiefs and the Barbarossa brothers, the country was placed under the protection of the Ottomans after the revival of Algiers. Kheireddine Barbarossa becomes sultan of the regency of Algiers, a state of the Ottoman Empire.
He follows a troubled period of looting of ships cruising off Algiers and raids on the Iberian Peninsula. The city of Alger has become an important port of war reputed impregnable launches in the conquest of the neighboring regions still in the hands of the Spaniards. Charles V. defeated an expedition destined to secure the Mediterranean.
Under the influence of France
Algeria remained a vassal of the Turks until 1830 when France decided to seize the country. This conquest is marked by violence. Massacres, famine, murderous raids, plundering, destruction of crops and villages, as many war crimes that allow the French troops to seize the country. This dirty war is all the more incomprehensible because Algeria supported the revolutionary France attacked by a European coalition. It supplies wheat to the hungry population and lends money without interest. It is this debt that is at the origin of the tensions since the different French regimes put in place after the Revolution do not intend to regulate it, at least not entirely.
The situation worsened when the dey of Alger discovered that a commercial warehouse occupied by French had been fortified without authorization. Not getting any reply from the consul, the dey no longer dominates and insults and strikes him. The incident gives a pretext to France which says outraged to attack its former allies and Algeria is annexed in 1834. Many settlers baptized "Black Feet" will settle in the country while local populations get French citizenship.
A hard-won independence
It is from the beginning of the 20th century, that the Algerians claim their independence or a recognition of the equality of their rights. Many associations as well as political parties are born to support this will but it is necessary to wait until the end of the Second World War to see things really move.
Demonstrations erupted in 1945 in several cities of the country and degenerate sometimes into riots repressed with violence by the French military. Several thousand protesters lose their lives in a few days while nationalist parties are banned and their leaders accused of attacking French sovereignty are imprisoned.
These tensions eventually led to the War of Independence, on 1 November 1954, during the "All Saints Day", marked by numerous attacks on French military and civilian installations.
The war lasted eight years, the ceasefire was signed on March 19, 1962, and Algeria's independence was proclaimed in July of the same year, prompting a massive return of the "Black Feet" in France. Ahmed Ben Bella becomes the first Algerian president.
Algeria nevertheless has an internal crisis between the different parties and the revolt of the Kabyles as well as the Tuaregs. A putsch dismissed Ben Bella in 1965 and Houari Boumedienne then Minister of Defense takes power. He wants to develop the economy and strengthen the independence of his country by nationalizing gas and oil, which will cause a real oil crisis on an international scale, especially since the Algerian example is followed by Iraq And Libya.
Boumedienne governed Algeria and participated in its Arabization until his death in 1978.
In 1991, Algeria experienced a new black episode in its history with a civil war between the government and Islamist groups. They use terrorism to destabilize the government but the latter will emerge victorious from the conflict when the Armed Islamic Group recognizes its defeat in 2002. This victory is however tarnished by the attacks that regularly mourn the country.
Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been President of the Republic of Algeria since 1999.
The political life
Algeria has been a democratic republic since its independence in 1962.
Executive power is assured by the Head of State elected by universal suffrage every five years, the mandate is renewable without limit. He appoints the Prime Minister in person and validates the government team on the proposal of the Prime Minister.
Legislative power is assured by the Council of the Nation (Upper House) and by the National People's Assembly (Lower House).
Algeria is influential in the Arab world, and has played the role of intermediary in conflicts, notably between Egypt and Eritrea.
A stable but fragile economy
Since its independence, Algeria has pursued a policy of nationalization, in particular of foreign companies based in its territory. This handing in and the recovery of the natural resources of its subsoil enabled it to quickly find a stable economy even if the unemployment of the young people remains worrying.
However, the situation remains fragile as it is linked to the oil and gas market, a sector in sharp decline which could lead to a serious financial crisis.
It is therefore important for the country to open itself up to investors who may concern other sectors than energy and develop tourism or telecommunications in particular.
A Berber country
The vast majority of Algerians descend directly from the Berber tribes and in some remote areas, the Kabyles and the Chauis speak Tamazight, derived from ancient Berber even though Arabic became the first language of the country.
The Arabic language of Algeria, the Dardja, is dialectal and testifies to the history of the country because it contains words with Berber, French, Turkish and Spanish consonance.
Most Algerians also speak French.
The various invasions and colonizations of Algeria have nevertheless had an impact on the demography of the country but also on the rate of emigration since it is estimated that more than 2 million Algerians live outside their borders, of which half in France.
Islam is the main religion in Algeria and affects about 98% of the population although there is a freedom of worship guaranteed by the State. However, it is not permissible to try to convert a Muslim to another religion under penalty of fine and imprisonment.
In addition, society tends to become more and more Islamic in everyday life (wearing the Islamic veil in progress, closing bars and cinemas, etc.).
Algerian Muslims are generally Sunni and, in smaller proportions, Ibadi and Sufi.
Religious affairs are managed by the Islamic High Council and by the Minister of Religious Affairs, who is also responsible for the remuneration of imams, rabbis and priests and the funding of places of worship.
The Algerian craftsmanship is varied and of high quality. It concerns traditional sectors such as jewelery, brassware, needlework, carpet making, pottery and basketry.
The Algerian cuisine is very different from the north to the south of the country. There are Mediterranean specialties along the coast and Saharan gastronomy in the south.
The wide variety of vegetables, fruits, spices, meats and seafood offers a tasty, colorful and varied cuisine.
Couscous, tajines, soups, salads, puff pastry accompanied by traditional breads are on the menu of Algerians who also appreciate the mixed flavors of salty and sweet.
To finish the meal in style, they offer oriental pastries and cream or semolina entremets flavored with orange blossom or cinnamon while cakes are for big events.
Mint tea, coffee, lemonade and milk are the main drinks of the country even though local sodas are very popular. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited by religion and their consumption if it is not illegal must remain discreet.
An exceptional architectural heritage
Algeria has an important cultural heritage and seven of its sites have been included on the UNESCO list. Unfortunately, the maintenance of this heritage is not a government priority that privileges natural resources for tourism and some witnesses of the country's history are abandoned or even destroyed.
When visiting the country, it is essential to discover some unavoidable sites:
• the Kasbah of Algiers, a maze of small streets housing treasures such as the ruins of the citadel, mosques and Ottoman palaces
• Remains of Djemila, Tipaza and Timgad, witnesses of the Roman occupation in the region
• the fortified villages of the Mzab founded from the 11th to the 17th century by the Ibadites
• the rock paintings of Tassili n'Ajjer
Tourism is not valued and even Algerians go to Tunisia to spend their holidays because of infrastructures unwelcoming in their own country which has yet treasures to discover.
Saharan tourism is currently experiencing a real success and many agencies propose the discovery of the Tuareg capital Tamanrasset on camel back or 4x4.
Despite the efforts to improve security in the country, some areas of Algeria as well as large cities remain targets of terrorist acts, kidnappings and murders. It is not recommended to go to the south and east of the country and the utmost vigilance is necessary in case of stay or travel in the other regions.
Only the cities of Alger, Tipasa, Oran and Tlemcen are really safe, but again, we must remain vigilant, choose safe hotels and do not go to risky neighborhoods.
The health risk is reduced but it is recommended to be up to date of vaccinations against Diphtheria-Tetanus-Poliomyelitis, viral hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever and rabies.
It is also necessary to observe some basic hygiene rules, not to consume water without a bottle, to bathe only in the supervised places (the presence of bacteria in the water especially in the outskirts of the cities) and not to caress the stray animals.