Friday, February 27, 2009

Alger La Blanche

The port of Algiers
Culturissima has visited Algeria twice in 2009 to carry out some research on behalf of a British cultural tour operator and can confirm that the Roman sites of Timgad, Tipasa and Tiddis are as beautiful and as captivating as ever… and that the capital Algiers remains one of the Mediterranean's most alluring cities, its superb French architecture an entirely unexpected delight for most European visitors (who are still avoiding Algeria en masse!). 
Caryatids in central Algiers

I was fortunate enough to take a whole-day excursion through some of Algeria’s most breath-taking scenery to the oasis town of Biskra, situated on the northern fringes of the Sahara. My journey south took me through the Aurès Mountains and the gorge of Tighanimine to Biskra, gateway to the desert, where a local family invited me to eat in their private palm grove. En route I visited the abandoned canyon village of Rhoufi and passed through El Kantara, once known as Calceus Herculis (Hercules' Boot).

I’m now back on the coast, at the Hotel Safir, once the favoured haunt of Charlie Chaplin, of all people, overlooking the Bay of Algiers. It’s comforting to be back here - it’s familiar territory to me - but, as I’ve said elsewhere, everyone should have the chance to step foot in the Sahara at least once during their lives.
The mark of Baron Haussmann is alive and well in Algiers

The Bay of Algiers
I lived in Algeria for two years as a child and it is a country I love deeply: the historical sites are superb - Tiddis, with its remote hill-top setting, is perhaps my favourite - and the Algerians I have met have shown nothing but warmth, friendship, respect and hospitality. If you've enjoyed travelling in the Maghreb or Libya, then you are likely to find Algeria an even more rewarding (and even more adventurous!) destination.

Over the coming weeks I hope I’ll be able to write a little more about some of the towns I’ve visited and the people I met.

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