Discovering Africa: Touring Algiers
IMAGE: Palais des Raïs »
Algiers, Algeria’s beautiful capital city, never fails to make an impression. This city is a marvelous combination of enticing beauty, rich history, and thrilling contrast. You can practically see the city’s rocky history in its architecture – wide French-built boulevards with elegant apartments and villas, Socialist-era monuments and public buildings, and an enduring Islamic heart concealed in the steep, hillside Casbah. You could get lost in the labyrinthine streets that spill down to the yawning big blue of the Bay of Algiers, which give amazing views of the sea and sky and green ravines. Algiers is truly a fascinating place that one should take at least a few days to explore.
A few of the places you might see are:
The Casbah: More or less the heart of the city. The Casbah is a steep and narrow maze of streets just west of the Pl des Martyrs. You’ll have the opportunity to explore a number of magnificent Ottoman palaces, most of which are concentrated around the Ketchaoua Mosque at the end of Rue Ahmed Bouzrina. Above the medina is the city’s Citadel. Although it’s mostly safe, it’s advisable to tour this area with a guide.
Palais des Raïs: The palace is actually a row of several large waterfront houses, joined to make up a single compound which is now home to the Centre des Arts et de la Culture. The main building is Palace 18 and was completed around 1798 by the Dey Mustapha Pacha, who used it as one of his residences. After being occupied by the French military, it served as the American consulate, a school and a library before being established as the city’s most successful restoration. You might get lucky and catch a show or exhibition at one of the buildingsor you can just tour the palace and get a sense of what it was like to have lived there.
National Museum of Antiquities: You will find a wealth of Algeria’s heritage in the excellent collection of antiquities at display here, gotten from sites around the city and throughout Algeria. On display are some early works like fine ivory carvings and large, Libyan-period warriors on horseback, a sculpture from Cherchell and mosaics from Tipaza. Also, there is a bronze display which includes a wonderful fragment of a horse’s leg and hoof, and an extraordinary 3rd-century figure of a chubby child holding an eagle to its chest. The museum also holds a collection of Islamic art from across the Maghreb.
Musee de Beaux Arts: The Musée des Beaux Arts is a short walk from the Martyrs’ Memorial and just at the edge of the Jardin d’Essai. This museum, which opeed in 1930, is said to hold the best art collection in the country. The artwork traces the progress of European art (particularly that of the French) from the 16th century, starting with Barnaba di Modena, to the neoclassicists such as David and Delacroix, the Orientalists including Fromentin, and a Renoir painted during the artist’s visit in 1882. Also there is a sizeable collection of work by Algerian artists and by artists from elsewhere, donated when Algeria won independence.
Notre Dame D’Afrique: This Catholic church is one of the city’s most famous buildings, and, in spite of its steadily decreasing flock, still holds mass at 6pm daily. It’s worth visiting just to appreciate its stunning neo-Byzantine architecture and freshly restored, largely elegant interior. From inside, you have amazing views of the sea and the capital.
Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions: Of all the buildings in the Casbah, this museum is the most accessible one can visit. The building, the Dar Khedaoudj el-Amia, is a brilliant example of an Ottoman-period town house; with an entrance leading to an inner hall and a staircase up to the principal rooms. The museum contains an intriguing collection of traditional Algerian arts and crafts.
If you’re a foodie itching to try some local or foreign cuisine, then you can stop by Le Maison de CousCous, a local no-frills place that serves couscous with chorba (soup) and bourek (filled pastry). Usually, Algerians prefer to eat couscous at home, but they make an exception for this place. Or you can enjoy breakfast on a terrace at Café Tontonville which also serves some great, heavier meals.
Article Credit: Ventures-africa