People's Democratic Republic of Algeria
Quick Facts About the Country
Capital - Algiers
Government - Republic
Currency - Algerian dinar (DZD)
Area total: 2,381,740 km2
water: 0 km2
land: 2,381,740 km2
Population - 32,277,942 (July 2002 est.)
Language - Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects
Religion - Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%
Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is a country in north Africa, and the second largest country on the African continent, Sudan being the largest. It is bordered by Tunisia in the northeast, Libya in the east, Niger in the southeast, Mali and Mauritania in the southwest, and Morocco as well as a few kilometers of its annexed territory, Western Sahara, in the west. Constitutionally, it is defined as an Islamic, Arab, and Amazigh (Berber) country. The name Algeria is derived from the name of the city of Algiers, from the Arabic word al-jazā’ir, which translates as the islands, referring to the four islands which lay off that city's coast until becoming part of the mainland in 1525; al-jazā’ir is itself short for the older name jazā’ir banī mazghannā, "the islands of (the tribe) Bani Mazghanna", used by early medieval geographers such as al-Idrisi and Yaqut al-Hamawi.
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Weather and Climate
The Tell region in the north has a typical Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. This is the most humid area of Algeria, with an annual precipitation ranging from 400 to 1,000 mm (16 to 39 in). The mean summer and winter temperatures are 25°C (77°F) and 11°C (52°F), respectively. During the summer an exceedingly hot, dry wind, the sirocco (known locally as the Chehili), blows north from the Sahara. To the south the climate becomes increasingly dry. Annual precipitation in the High Plateau and Saharan Atlas ranges from about 200 to 400 mm (about 8 to 16 in). The Sahara is a region of daily temperature extremes, wind, and great aridity; annual rainfall is less than 130 mm (5 in) in all places.
(Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003)
Major Travel and Tourism Info (Travel Guide)
Much of recent Algerian history has been dominated by civil wars and subsequent warlordism. That said, the country is gradually restoring order and will prove an interesting - if difficult - destination.
Officially 220V 50Hz. Outlets are the European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" or the compatible, but non-grounded, CEE-7/16 "Europlug" types. Generally speaking, U.S. and Canadian travelers should pack an adapter for these outlets if they plan to use North American electrical equipment in Algeria.
Traveling by Plane
Regular direct flights from:
Spain: Barcelona, Madrid & Alicante
France: All major cities
Italy: Rome & Milan
You can reach Algeria by train from Tunisia, but you will have to change the train at the border post. Trains are reasonable, but less comfortable than in Europe.
The only realistic way to reach Algeria by car is across the Tunisian border, as the Moroccan border is closed. The Mauritanian and Malian borders present some security problems as well. Note that if you want to get into Algeria from Niger or from the Tozeur border post in southern Tunisia you'll have to contract an official guide to go with you across the Saharian routes, other way police will not allow you to get into Algeria with your car. No problem at all if you want to get into Algeria from Tunisian border posts in the north.
Regular sails from:
Spain: Alicante to Algiers and Oran. Almeria to Gazhaouet Barcelona to Algiers and Oran.
France: Marseilles to almost every Algerian harbour.
Language and Communication
The official language is Arabic. Be warned, though, that North African (Maghrebi) Arabic is quite a different dialect to that spoken in other parts of the Arab World (such as Egypt). The influence of the French language has resulted in different vocabulary and pronunciation.
French, the former colonial language, is still widely spoken, particularly in urban areas.
Algeria's Berber (Tamazigh) population also hold strongly to their own languages, which are different again.
Arabic-sabah al khair-means Welcome Arabic-sabah ol khayr-Good Morning Arabic-ahlan/Marhaba-means hello Beber-Azul-means Hello
Note: nearly nobody in Algeria understands English, but most people are able to communicate in basic French.
Despite many Western Foreign Offices will advise you to travel to Algeria you must know that the terrorism is, at April 2005, focused only in certain areas by the evening. These are: Chlef, Ain Defla, Relizane, Laarba, Medea and Collo. Do not travel by night, travel by plane if you can instead of by car, avoid minor roads, ask the police if you are not sure about a region and nothing will happen.
As in all of North Africa, the majority religion is Islam and the normal religious prohibitions and attitudes will apply. When visiting a mosque, for example, be sure to remove your shoes as well as dress conservatively. The exact situation regarding alcohol is not the same around the country, some conservative cities do not have any bars or liquor stores. Keep in mind to only drink at home or in a bar, never on the street.
Also, given the recent political strife, talking politics is probably not advisable.
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History in Brief: Summary
After more than a century of rule by France, Algerians fought through much of the 1950s to achieve independence in 1962. Algeria's primary political party, the National Liberation Front (FLN), has dominated politics ever since.
Many Algerians in the subsequent generation were not satisfied, however, and moved to counter the FLN's centrality in Algerian politics. The surprising first round success of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in the December 1991 balloting spurred the Algerian army to intervene and postpone the second round of elections to prevent what the secular elite feared would be an extremist-led government from assuming power. The army began a crack down on the FIS that spurred FIS supporters to begin attacking government targets.
The government later allowed elections featuring pro-government and moderate religious-based parties, but did not appease the activists who progressively widened their attacks. The fighting escalated into an insurgency, which saw intense fighting between 1992-98 and which resulted in over 100,000 deaths - many attributed to indiscriminate massacres of villagers by extremists. The government gained the upper hand by the late 1990s and FIS's armed wing, the Islamic Salvation Army, disbanded in January 2000.
However, small numbers of armed militants persist in confronting government forces and conducting ambushes and occasional attacks on villages. The army placed Abdelaziz Bouteflika in the presidency in 1999 in a fraudulent election but claimed neutrality in his 2004 landslide reelection victory.
Longstanding problems continue to face Bouteflika in his second term, including the ethnic minority Berbers' ongoing autonomy campaign, large-scale unemployment, a shortage of housing, unreliable electrical and water supplies, government inefficiencies and corruption, and the continuing - although significantly degraded - activities of extremist militants. Algeria must also diversify its petroleum-based economy, which has yielded a large cash reserve but which has not been used to redress Algeria's many social and infrastructure problems.
(The World Factbook 2006)
Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Microsoft® Encarta® Reference Library 2003
The World Factbook 2006
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