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The white city, Algiers is an historically significant city on the Mediterranean coast of Algeria. The Phoenicians were the first to take advantage of the harbour in 1200 BC; the Roman, Vandal and Byzantine empires successively passed through; but it wasn't until the Berbers came along in the 10th century that the Algiers we know today was first established. Now, Algiers is Algeria's main commercial hub, as well as its capital and largest city. Its harbour is important both as a centre for trade and a refuelling station.
Algiers can be divided into two main sections: the old and the new. The latter is situated by the shore and is characterised by French architecture and urban layout. The kasbah is the old part of the city, constructed while the city was under the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. At its centre is the Kasbah, a citadel built for the local ruler, or dey. The kasbah is sprawled along the steep hill behind the modern town.
The Kasbah was built by the Ottomans during the 17th century and now stands as the most prominent building in the kasbah, or old town. It was built on the site of Icosium, the original Phoenician settlement in the area. The kasbah as a whole has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There are a number of historic mosques and churches in Algiers:
Algiers is located along the northern coastline of Algeria and therefore has a Mediterranean climate wit warm, sunny and dry summers (May-September) and relatively mild winters when most of the rain falls (November-March). Temperatures in summer usually are around 30 °C, sometimes more. Winters are around 15 °C to 20 °C but can drop to just a few degrees above zero at night sometimes. Absolute maximum and minimum temperatures are 42 °C (August) and 0 °C (December).
Houari Boumediene Airport (ALG) is located near Algiers. Air Algerie is the national airline, flying to destinations in Algeria like Oran, Constantine, Annaba, Adrar, Ghardaia, Hassi Messaoud, Tamanrasset, Tébessa, Tlemcen and Zarzaitine. International airlines that fly to Algiers include Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Iberia, Alitalia and Royal Air Maroc.
The distance to the centre of Algiers is 20 kilometres and you can use the route N5 following directions of Bab Ezzouar. Taxis are available, but regular buses connect the airport to downtown Algiers as well. The Algiers Metro Line 1 will connect the airport with the centre of Algiers. This connection is planned to be completed by 2010.
There are daily services in the north between Algiers and Oran, Béjaia, Skikda, Annaba and Constantineoperated by the Société Nationale des Transports Ferroviaires (SNTF (French), Algerian Railways).
Being the capital of the country most, if not all major roadways in Algeria begin and end in Algiers. So getting into Algiers is quite easy. However, the infrastructure of Algerian roadways is not highly regarded so arriving by road might not be the most desirable option. There are a number of road projects around the country that are aimed at improving the infrastructure, most notably the East-West highway running from Annaba in the east to Oran in the west, of course coming through Algiers.
Be careful about traffic jams, especially in downtown Algiers. There are almost no traffic lights. Lights are replaced by policemen. There are police and military checkpoints almost in every municipality. Slowing down is highly recommended. Utilization of mobile phones when driving is strictly prohibited. Be sure to have your seat belts on.
SNTF is the national bus company with bus connections from Algeriers to dozens of cities in the country.
Algerie Ferries is one of the major operators, with scheduled services between Marseille and Algiers. SNCM travels between Marseille and Algiers as well. Finally, Cnan Maghreb Lines has boats between both Barcelona and Marseille, and Algiers.
There are ferry services between several port towns, like Algiers, Annaba, Oran and Ghazaouet.
Taxis are a fast and cheap way to get around in Algiers. They can be found at taxi stands but negotiate the price before riding. A tip is not expected but can be given if the service was really good.
Algiers' public transport system is lacking, but there was a major improvement with the opening of the metro. There are buses operating within the city centre and to the suburbs.
After more than three decades of construction the first segment of the Algiers Metro finally opened on 1 November 2011. Line 1 services ten stations from Tafourah Grande Poste just south of Gare d'Alger, the central railway station, in the city centre to Haï El Badr, with stops along several of the most important places in the city.
Tickets can be purchased at the station, either from a ticket machine (multiple languages - but appear to only take coins, not including 200s) or from an attendant. A single trip ticket costs 150 Dinar, or a 10 trip ticket can be purchased for 400 Dinar.
Buses operate within the city centre and to the suburbs: tickets are purchased on the bus for 20 dinar. Typically, a man with a bundle of tickets approaches you when you board.
Much of central Algiers can easily be explored on foot.
There are several restaurants in the Bois des Arcades area. This is the hill 0.5km South East of the big Martyrs memorial. Particularly good views over Algiers and the coast can be found from here. The hill is also a woodland, so is a nice area for walking too.
In recent years, Algeria has resumed the production of wines. Algeria was famous for the production of particularly fine red wines. The new production is also of very high quality and will be appreciated by wine aficionados. It is rarely found on the international market. Locally produced beer is good quality. Alcohol is readily available in hotels, good restaurants and shops.
There are Internet cafés in all larger towns and cities.
See also International Telephone Calls
Algeria Post offers fairly reliable though relatively slow services. Mail posted in any of the main cities along the coast takes three to four days to reach Europe; posted elsewhere, it could take much longer. Parcels sent by surface mail may take up to two months to reach Algeria. You might get better and faster deals with international couriers like DHL, TNT or UPS. Post officies are generally open from Saturday to Wednesday from 8:00am to 5:00pm and Thursday from 8:00am to 12:00pm, but the main post office in Algiers (5 boulevard Mohamed Khémisti) is open 24 hours.
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