I have just returned from an amazing three weeks in Algeria. For the first ten days I stayed with friends in Algiers, but for the rest of my time, I travelled around on my own.
So what’s the country like? Well, its big, friendly, and full of amazing things to see.
Algeria is now officially the largest country in Africa since Sudan split in two as a result of the civil war there. You could fit France into Algeria four times, and the UK ten times. So it’s not really somewhere you can get to know in just three weeks. That’s why I concentrated on the north of the country, where over 80% of the people live.
It’s also one of the friendliest and politest places on earth that I have visited. Most people I told of my plans to visit (if they knew where it was on the map) said, “Isn’t that a rather dodgy and dangerous place to visit?” It’s true that in 1992-2002 Algeria went through an extraordinarily destructive and murderous period of violence. This was triggered when the government annulled elections that would have given power to an Islamist government. It’s thought that over 200,000 died. But that is all in the past. Over the last two years well north of 250 people have died in terrorist incidents in Western Europe. In Algeria is less than 10.
I found everyone I met, from village police to restaurant staff unbelievably helpful and solicitous. “What do you think of Algerians? Are we giving you a nice time here?” I was often asked.
Finally, it is stuffed full of wonderful things to say. Apart from the world class Roman ruins at Timgad and Djemila, there are great museums to see. The best thing of all is that you will meet few other tourists. During my three weeks there, I spoke English to any extent just once.
Over the next few weeks, I will be completing the draft of my travel guide to the country. Currently, there is no guide available in English that is in print. So please watch this space!