Click above for a short video highlight reel from my trip earlier this month to Algeria leading a tour for Lupine Travel, or carry on for a blog post. I’m planning to make more video content of my trips so make sure to subscribe on YouTube if you want to see more 🙂 . Algeria was the final country I’d yet to visit in North Africa having previously made visits to Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and it certainly didn’t disappoint…

After the division of Sudan in 2011, Algeria took the crown as the largest country in Africa by size, with a population of over 40 million people. The country, in it’s current form, has existed since it’s 1962 independence from French rule, although there is still a long legacy extending from this in the forms of French architecture, language and food.

The journey to independence for Algeria was not easy, with the Algerian War of Independence lasting 7 years from 1954-62, and by some counts, having a death toll close to 1,000,000 people. The war was not popular in France either, with rumors of torture being used by French soldiers and comparisons being made to the Nazi’s weighing heavy in French public opinion.

The two sides of the conflict were mainly a clear cut Algeria vs. France, but to further complicate things a 3rd group, the OAS, came in to play made of mostly French, and ethnic French born in Algeria (known as Black Foots or pieds noirs). The OAS wanted Algeria to remain a part of France, even when France no longer wanted to.

Towards the end of the conflict, and in particular after a referendum in France which voted in favor of granting Algeria independence, the OAS then turned on France with a spate of terrorist attacks there. To get even more complicated, during an Algerian ceasefire, the OAS made mortar attacks against the Algerians (who would assume these mortars where from the French military) in attempt to force them to break the ceasefire and push France to continue fighting.

One of my favorite little facts, is that right towards the end of independence negotiations, Charles de Gaulle offered to grant the coastal regions of Algeria (where the population lived) independence. They would do this as long as the lucrative oil fields inland remained a part of France. I’ll let you imagine how well that suggestion went down.

Algeria currently spends a decent amount of it’s fairly vast annual budget on it’s military (95% of which is driven by Oil and Gas deposits within the country, which Morocco is trying to claim as theirs). The reason for this vast military spending (the largest military budget in Africa) is due to Algeria’s position of being surrounded by countries in various states of turmoil (Libya, Niger and Mali mainly) leading to the provision of large amounts of border security.

Many people, when thinking of Algeria, may think of the sandy Sahara with it’s sea of dunes. This is a pretty dead-on assumption for the south of the country, but the coastal areas along the Mediterranean Sea are a world part form these scenes. The cities of Algiers and Constantine could easily be mistaken for France with their promenades and theaters and French signage.

In the past Algeria also made up parts of both the vast Mauritanian empire and the Roman empire, the remains of both are still visible throughout the country. The Mauritanians left their giant burial mounds and the Romans swathes of mosaics, statues and ruins all along the coast…

An absolute highlight for me was the incredible Roman ruins at Djemila on the way to Constantine. The ruins are now a UNESCO world heritage site due the relative uniqueness of a Roman city being built up in a mountain environment at 900m elevation. This was to improve its function as a defensive military garrison. Initially the city, formally known as Cuicul, was home to a colony of soldiers shipped over from Italy, but later became a bustling trading market. The museum on the site, without exaggeration, contains hundreds of square meters of mosaics lifted from the ruins and preserved on the walls.

After a short drive from Djemila we then reached Constantine, another city with a lot of French architecture as well as a modern mosque with an incredible dome inside…

After our brief tour of the coast of the country, we hopped on a flight down to Bechar airport in the south and drove onto Taghit, an oasis town in the desert. Taghit was stunning, your real stereotypical desert scene. Big dunes to the horizon made of pure dry sand lead to some amazing photos, as well as some absolutely amazing quad biking at rock bottom prices!

Even after 9 days, there’s still a lot more to see in Algeria and I’d love to go back one day and spend more time in the desert. I was genuinely quite sad to leave the place, and Taghit in particular. Apart from it being quite tricky to get a beer in Taghit (Not illegal but just no widely available) it would like a lovely holiday spot, setting up by the pool in the local hotel with some trips into the dunes on the side!

As always, thanks for reading! And if you like these posts and want to stay updated, then feel free to follow me here on wordpress or you can join my mailing list by filling in your details here. I’ll also be giving a talk in London on April 3rd about my trip to Pitcairn Island and hopefully debut short film from that trip. Tickets can be found here.