Algiers is the capital of Algeria and the largest city at the same time, it stands proudly on the Mediterranean coast, earning its nickname as the White City.
Nestled between Tunisia and Morocco, the city enjoys a Mediterranean climate, a striking contrast to the arid desert climate prevalent in the southern provinces of Algeria.
When did Algiers Become the Capital?
Algiers became the capital of Algeria on July 4, 1830, when the French, led by General Bourmont, captured the city following a supposed insult to their consulate. The French were victorious, and Algiers subsequently emerged as the main city in French-controlled Algeria. With the dawn of the 20th century, a significant influx of Europeans moved to Algeria, soon constituting the majority of Algiers’ urban population.
This status of Algiers was retained even after the hard-fought Algerian War of Independence. In 1962, following a brutal conflict that cost hundreds of thousands of lives (primarily Algerians), Algeria achieved its independence, yet Algiers persisted as its capital.
Algiers, the capital city, was also the epicenter of demands for a genuine democracy and the termination of the single-party rule. The authorities initially suppressed these protests, but they nonetheless marked a turning point in Algeria’s recent political history. Subsequently, in 1989, a new constitution was enacted that terminated the single-party rule, paved the way for more than eight political parties, and ensured press freedom.
History of Algiers
Algiers, or Al-Jazā’ir in Arabic, is Algeria’s capital and a key city in North Africa. Its history is long and complex, with influences from various empires and cultures.
People have lived in the Algiers area since around 1000 BC, starting with the Berber people. Then came the Phoenicians and Romans. It became a city under Roman rule in the 3rd century BC, and later a Germanic group, the Vandals, took over.
In the 10th century, the Berbers revived Algiers under the Zirid dynasty, and it was named Bologhine. It grew considerably during the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, becoming a center for trade and pirates.
In 1830, the French took over Algiers and it became the center of French Algeria. The city changed a lot under French rule, with new buildings and roads being built. After a long and violent war, Algeria became independent of France in 1962, and Algiers was chosen as the capital.
Today, Algiers is a lively city with a mix of different styles in its architecture, from the Ottoman and Andalusian styles in the Kasbah quarter to the French colonial buildings. It’s the political, economic, and cultural center of Algeria.
Features of Algiers
Geography and Climate
Located in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea, Algiers nestles in a bay on the western coast of Algeria. The city is built on the slopes of the Sahel Hills, which run parallel to the Mediterranean coastline. This unique hillside location offers many buildings in Algiers spectacular sea views.
Algiers experiences a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Average high summer temperatures typically range between 28 °C and 32 °C (82 °F to 90 °F), but can occasionally exceed 40°C (104 °F).
In contrast, winters usually have temperatures around 10-15 °C (50-59 °F), accompanied by occasional rainfall. This mild fluctuation in temperature throughout the year is typical of coastal Mediterranean climates.
The population of Algiers was approximately between 2.85 million in 2022. The city is rich in cultural diversity, a testament to the multitude of civilizations that have left their mark on Algiers throughout history.
The majority of the population has Berber roots, but many identify as Arab due to Arabization policies implemented by successive governments. Arabic serves as the official language, but both Berber and French are also extensively spoken.
Predominantly, Algiers is a Muslim city, reflecting the overall religious demography of Northern Africa. Nonetheless, the city is known for its cultural tolerance and diversity, with a history that includes Jewish, Christian, and other religious communities.
As the capital city of Algeria, Algiers plays a pivotal role in the country’s economy. It’s the political and administrative center of the country and the hub of the nation’s economic activities.
Algeria is a significant oil and natural gas producer, and Algiers is the center of this industry, hosting many national and international oil companies.
The Port of Algiers is one of the most important in North Africa, facilitating international trade. The city and surrounding region also have significant manufacturing sectors, producing textiles, processed food, metal goods, and chemicals.
The service sector has grown significantly, including finance, real estate, and various professional services. Algiers also has a developing tourism industry, attracting visitors with its rich history, cultural sites, and Mediterranean climate.
The government has been working to develop the IT sector as part of diversification efforts. Algiers hosts a growing number of tech and digital companies.
However, it’s worth noting that Algiers, like many cities in developing countries, also has issues with unemployment and underemployment. They have also been implementing reforms to address these challenges and diversify the economy from overreliance on oil and gas.
Things to Do and Places to See in Algiers
Each of the following places gives a different perspective on Algiers, from its ancient history to its diverse culture and natural beauty. The city offers a rich and rewarding experience for those willing to explore it.
1. The Casbah of Algiers
*A Casbah, also spelled as Kasbah, is a term typically used to refer to a fortified or walled area found in many North African cities. It often serves as the older, historic part of the city.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see. The Casbah is the old part of the city, full of narrow, winding streets, ancient buildings, mosques, palaces, and markets. Its unique blend of Berber, Ottoman, and French architectural influences provides a fascinating glimpse into Algiers’ history.
2. Martyr’s Memorial
This iconic monument, one of the world’s tallest concrete structures, is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Algerian War of Independence. It provides an incredible panoramic view of the city and sea.
3. Church of Notre Dame of Africa
This beautiful 19th-century Roman Catholic basilica is located on the north side of Algiers, overlooking the sea. It’s a symbol of religious coexistence, with an inscription reading “Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims.”
4. Botanical Garden Hamma
Considered one of the most important botanical gardens in the world, it covers 58 hectares and is home to numerous plant species from around the globe. The garden is beautifully designed, with French and English-style sections, as well as areas dedicated to African and Asian plants.