JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NESRINE BENSAMRA FROM ALGIERS, ALGERIA !
Nesrine Bensamra is a 30 years old Algerian globetrotter native of Algiers, currently living on the road full time with her husband. After her graduation, she started her career as a journalist in Algiers. Inspired by her experience, she created Summery Touch recently and decided she’d document her travel experiences. Along with traveling, her hobbies include reading, hiking and eating gourmet food.
In all of Africa, the largest country by area is Algeria. It is also the tenth-largest in the world. Algiers is the capital city of Algeria. I bet you’ve never been there, unless you’re an offbeat traveler or a history lover. We call it Algiers the white for its whitewashed buildings, standing tall and looking out over the Mediterranean.
Algiers covers an area of 1190km² and has a population of almost 4 million which makes it one of the largest and busiest cities on the Mediterranean Sea. Hectic streets, traffic chaos, colonial buildings and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean… this is Algiers.
What is the best time to visit Algiers?
Algiers is a year round destination. The city has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and mild winters. If you are a sun seeker, the best time to visit Algiers would be from April to September. During those months, you can expect to have around 12 hours of sunshine each day with temperature being well over the 22°C to 27°C. But this said, August is the hottest month of the year.
Early autumn is a good time to visit Algiers. The weather is still nice with gentle heat and skies are usually clear.
When we say winter in Algiers, we don’t mean snow and freezing temperatures. In winter the average temperature is around 18°C. While it’s true that there are rainy days, we still enjoy gorgeous sunshine.
Which is the most convenient and favored transport of Algiers?
The subway is the fastest, smoothest and safest way to get around Algiers. Along with the tram, it connects all the main districts. It’s also a funnier option as it gives you a local traveling experience. Keep in mind that they can get quite crowded during peak hours. Taxis are your best bet in term of comfort and convenience and ideal for traveling to destinations that aren’t possible on the subway or tram map.
From the airport, you can reach the city center via train, bus or taxi. A train and a shuttle bus service operate between the airport and the city center. Taxis are also available from the taxi rank, which is located directly in front of the terminal.
What are the top three must visit places in Algiers?
The Casbah : Overlooking Algiers and the Mediterranean Sea, the Casbah is a collection of Ottoman-style houses and palaces. Its narrow and charming whitewashed streets are also lined by museums and enchanting old mosques. Although, the citadel is not very well maintained, it’s definitely worth a visit. In fact, in 1992, The casbah was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Botanical Garden Hamma : Built in 1832, the Botanical Garden Hamma is much more than just a park; it’s the green lung of Algiers. Here you can find centennial trees, more than 1200 variety of plants, fountains and sculptures. In the same Park, there is also a zoo as well as the national institute of Agronomical Research.
La Grande Poste : La Grande Poste or the main post office is not just another building in Algiers, it stands out. Located right in the heart of the city center, you can’t miss this beautiful building. While the exterior is quite sober, the interior and the roof are simply stunning. La Grande Poste is a fine example of French-designed, early 20th-century Moorish architecture.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Algiers?
About an hour outside of Algiers, you will find Tipaza, a beautiful, laid-back coastal town. Surrounded by history, Tipaza comprises a unique group of Phoneician, Roman, Palaerchristian and Byzantine ruins alongside indigenous monuments such as the royal mausoleum of Mauretania. Stroll around the ruins by the shore and stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants.
If you are looking to escape Algiers in hopes of getting some fresh air, then Tikjda is the place to visit. Just an hour and thirty minutes east of Algiers, Tikjda has long been a popular high-altitude destination; it’s also the perfect place to get a taste of Algerian’s mountain scenery without straying too far from Algiers.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Algiers?
Ramadan is a big thing in Algeria. A beautiful time of the year when every long day of fasting is followed by a sleepless night. Families and friends often come together for the iftar (ie:the evening meal with which Ramadan fasters end their fast)
After the iftar meal and evening entertainment on TV, comes the time for Ramadan night life when the long nights are all about the subdued lighting, the Ramadan sprit, and enjoying quality time with friends and family. Cafés, streets, and concert venues are packed every night of the week and life keep on going until the first hours of morning.
Other holidays include Independence day, celebrated on July 5th every year commemorating Algeria’s independence from France in 1962 and Revolution day, celebrated on November 1st, commemorating the start of the war of independence against France.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Algiers?
Algeria is known for its dates, especially Deglet Nour. It is also one of the largest producer of dates in the world.
Algerian food is a very important part of Algerians’ life and culture. Each region has its own main traditional dishes. Algerian cuisine, like Maghrebi is famous for its couscous and each region has its own couscous recipe. So if you visit Algiers, your culinary exploration will most likely start with couscous. It is also the national dish of Algeria. But the people of Algiers eat a lot more than couscous. Other popular dishes include Rechta, a dish made with typical Algerian noodles, white sauce, spices, meat, chickpeas, and vegetables, such as white turnip and zucchini. Chorba which isusually made with vegetables, spices, freekeh, and lamb. Mtewem made of meatballs and chickpeas in a red or white sauce. While Djwez and Tajine made with olives or peas and covered with sauce. Can have chicken or red meat.
Although Algerian cooking tends to focus on meat, both vegetarians and vegans will find plenty of options. Hmis, made with grilled peppers and tomato. Mesfouf iscouscous with green peas and broad beans. Chtitha batata is potato stew made with spacy red sauce while Mhadjeb is a Semolina based crepe stuffed with onion and tomato sauce.
Where to head for shopping in Algiers?
If you love street shopping then Ferhat Boussad street (Meissonier) and Djamaa’ Lihoud market, are where you should be headed to. These two bustling spots are like a window to the old traditional marketplaces.
Didouch Mourad is the main street of the city center. It’s vibrant and full of life. Apart from shopping stores, you will find many souvenir shops, cafés and restaurants. Sidi Yahia is another street where you can find numerous shops and restaurants.
Shopping centers: most of people of Algiers, if asked will probably recommend Bab Ezzouar shopping mall. The mall is home to 110 stores and a food court. The other is City Centre, it’s quite small but is also popular with locals. However there are many other shopping malls under construction that will be opened soon, so the popularity of the two mentioned shopping centers might change in the near future.
Which is the local craft or souvenir of Algiers?
Crafts are varied and include Berber rugs, wooden goods, pottery and household pots, jewelry, silver, ceramics, and basketry. There are also many other gorgeous souvenirs such as tea sets and jebbas (dresses worn at home).
Olive oil is also a great souvenir to bring home from Algiers.
Which are the best streets of Algiers worthy of taking a stroll on?
Taking a stroll through Didouch Mourad, and Laarbi Ben Mhidi is a must, especially if that stroll takes you down La Grande Poste and l’Emir AbdelKader square, some of the most famous landmarks in Algiers. These two bustling streets are filled with heritage buildings. You will also find various shopping stores, cafés and restaurants. Don’t forget to take a break from the crowds and visit the Freedom Park and the flower clock park while strolling along these two famous streets.
Ernesto Che Guevara Boulevard is a beautiful boulevard lined with magnificent Haussmannian buildings. It’s perfect for those who wish to take a walk away from the crowd. Here you can enjoy a relaxing urban walk while enjoying the stunning Mediterranean Sea view.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Algiers?
When it comes to viewpoints, there is no shortage of places where you can see the city from above.
Saint-Raphaël Balcony provides a panoramic view of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. Aurassi hotel has a bar and café providing an amazing panoramic view of the city. This is the perfect place to sit outside and sip a drink whilst enjoying the view.
The iconic Roman Catholic basilica, Our Lady of Africa has a gorgeous vantage point over the city and El Boustene is a nice restaurant with a beautiful view over Algiers.
While Palais de la Culture and les Fusillés cable car is another great way to get an amazing view over Algiers.
Do you suggest any shows on music, culture or art performed by the locals?
Algiers is full of talented artists that offer great performances. You can enjoy some great live music in many restaurants such as Le Baroque, Villa Arena, Albies’, and Seven Times.
If you are interested in seeing exhibitions, then make a stop at Mama Museum. This place hosts many different exhibitions throughout the year, with a focus on painting, drawing and photography exhibitions.
You can also find some beautiful graffiti and street art murals, just walk down the streets in the city center and you will spot some great murals.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in your city?
Yassir app is one of the most convenient ways to book a taxi. The fare is often cheaper than a regular taxi service; you can pay by cash when you reach your destination. If you have used Uber before, it works in exactly the same way.
Jumia Food is an app that you can use to order from any restaurant in Algiers that offers food delivery.
Resto 365 is made for people who can’t decide where to eat. It provides nearby recommendations, allowing you filter by rating, cost, distance, popularity, cuisine type, whether the place has live music, outdoor seating, etc.
Do you want to give any suggestion to tourists coming to Algiers?
Algiers is a year round destination but if your main focus is exploring the city and meeting locals, avoid visiting Algiers in the summer. The beaches tend to be very crowded and Algiers looks like a ghost town as people stay out of the heat. Your best bet is any month apart from July/ August.
Another advice I can give you is to meet as many people as you can. Algerians are friendly, helpful and enjoy talking to foreigners as they are not used to seeing tourists often.