Influenced by multiple cultures, including the Carthaginians, Romans, and Vandals, the history of Algeria is as fertile as its coastal plains. Over the centuries, there have been many rulers of Algeria. Its capital, Algiers, has the distinction of being the center of the Barbery slave trade during the Ottoman Empire. After a brutal war, Algeria became an independent nation in 1962. Algerian music, cuisine, food, and art make it a distinctive part of Africa with a lot of history and heritage to explore.
Overlooking the Bay of Algiers, the Basilique Notre-Dame d'Afrique was founded by Charles Lavigerie, archbishop of Carthage and Algiers and took fourteen years to build. After being inaugurated in 1872, this Neo-Byzantine basilica, which sits on a 400-foot cliff, was accessible via cable car. It has almost fifty stained glass windows that have been replaced and restored at least twice since the 1940s. The apsis on this landmark helps best describe its significance: Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims.
Established in 1832, the 140-acre Jardin d'Essai du Hamma comprises a 94-acre botanical garden and a 49-acre arboretum. It started as marshes that were drained to create a 12-acre model farm and test garden that provided plants for multiple purposes, including commercial and medicinal. In 1900, it added a zoo, and through other acquisitions and expansions. The garden reopened to the public in 2009, 16 years after closing for renovations.
From 1008 AD, Beni Hammad Fort served as the capital of the Hammadid dynasty. It started as a military stronghold with Dar al-Bahr palace as well as other community structures within its walls. Excavated findings show just how sophisticated and wealthy the Hammadid civilization was. Its mosque is the second largest prayer hall after Mansourah, which dates back to the Marinid dynasty, and the minaret is the second oldest in Algeria.
The Casbah of Algiers was a medina, the old, walled part of a town that was known as a Phoenician trading post during the 6th century BCE. During French occupation in 1839, many of the religious buildings were destroyed, and in later years, those that remained were used for non-Islamic purposes. In 1992, the Casbah became a UNESCO site that's being restored due to severe degeneration.
The Bejaia province on the Mediterranean coast is excellent for travelers who want to get close to nature. The Gouraya Biosphere Reserve is home to Mount Gouraya and has a variety of wildlife for hikers to enjoy. In addition to the Aleppo pine forest barbary apes, and sperm whales within this biosphere, there are more than a dozen villages of Berber origin, where beekeeping and arboriculture are ways of life.
Built in 1097, Djamaa el Kebir is the oldest mosque in Algiers, but it has inscriptions in other parts that date back to the fifth century. Its name translates to Great Mosque, and it's one of the few remaining examples of Almoravid architecture. Each of the 11 naves in the prayer hall has its own Moorish arch. The original mihrab, a semicircular niche that indicates the direction of prayer, was destroyed in 1682 and reconstructed in the 18th-century style.
The ancient Berber kingdom of Numidia, located in parts of Libya and Tunisia, was home to the Madghacen, a royal mausoleum temple. Built during the fourth century BCE, it's got a distinctive, truncated cone with cylindrical base design. The temple has survived attempts to ransack and destroy it and is considered one of the most endangered ancient buildings in the world.
Nestled in the Djurdjura mountains of northern Algeria is the Tikjda ski resort. It's surrounded by the Djuradjura National Park, known for cedar-covered peaks and valleys. During the winter months, visitors enjoy snowboarding, picnics, or the scenery. In summer, there are a variety of trails to hike as well as rock climbing. While the resort is more quaint than many in Europe, Tikjda's natural beauty is a great attraction for tourists and locals between 8 am and 6 pm daily.
In the Hoggar Mountains of southern Algeria is the Assekrem plateau. At over 7,000 feet, Assekrem offers stunning panoramic views, including that of Mount Tahat, the highest mountain in Algeria. The drive can be long and bumpy, so visitors can spend the night at the sanctuary.
For those who want to learn about how the climate and environment of Algeria change throughout millennia, the Bardo National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Algiers is a great stop. There are diagrams and information panels as well as fossils, pottery, and carvings from the Neolithic period. The building itself is a former Moorish villa built during the eighteenth century that eventually became a museum in 1927.
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