Overview
Costs
Food
Hotels
Money
Mobile phones
Weather
Health
VISA
Security
Recommended
Avoid
Getting around
Photos

Algiers, Djemila, Ghardaia, Timimoun, Tlemcen, Oran, Tipasa



22.12: Munich -> Rome -> Algiers
23.12: Algiers
24.12: Algiers -> Cherchell -> Tipasa -> Algiers
25.12: Algiers -> Djemila -> Bordj Bou Arreridj
26.12: Bordj Bou Arreridj -> Ghardaia
27.12: Ghardaia
28.12: Ghardaia -> Timimoun
29.12: Timimoun
30.12: Timimoun -> Bechar
31.12: Bechar -> Ain Sefra -> Tlemcen
1.1: Tlemcen
2.1: Tlemcen -> Oran
3.1: Oran
4.1: Oran -> Tipasa -> Algiers
5.1: Algiers
6.1: Algiers -> Rome -> Munich


Planning and overall impression

Algeria is suitable as a winter destination for a two weeks trip from Europe because it is not so far away and in the winter the temperatures are mild and it possible to visit the Sahara desert. In the past Algeria was not safe enough to visit due to the civil war and terrorism risk, but in recent years the situation has stabilised and it is now safe enough to visit the country.

Not so much travel information is available about Algeria, but there is quite a deal of misinformation on the web. For instance in the past I was under the impression that Algeria had very few hotels and that it was not really possible to travel there due to the missing tourist infrastructure. But in reality there are many hotels in Algeria; it's just that only few are in the international web booking portals.
Given the size of the country probably several trips are needed to visit the whole of the country. Initially I was planning to do a trip along the coast and then fly to the south of Algeria to visit the desert. Then I changed the plans because it is quite expensive to travel to the south of Algeria (local tour operator needed) and in any case you are quite limited in the south as many areas are off-limits for tourists. So I decided to visit the desert in the Grand Erg Occidental instead (Timimoun) and do a loop by car instead of taking flights. This way the cost was much lower and we could see the entire region (not possible if you only fly).
I was thinking of skipping the Roman sites (e.g. Djemila, Timgad) on this first trip, and do them instead on a second trip. Later in the planning a second trip to Algeria became unlikely: my mother who was supposed to travel with us had her visa denied. So I modified the itinerary to include at least also Djemila (Timgad being too far to the east if you want to travel to Ghardaia as the next stop).

An issue with Algeria is the size of the country, i.e. the individual sites are quite far away from each other. That means a lot of time spent in the car to get from one place to the next - in total we travelled over 3600 km on Algerian roads.
From a scenery perspective the interesting sites in Algeria are breathtaking. Several of the sites we visited would alone have been worth the trip to Algeria.

Algeria has still a very underdeveloped tourist sector. Very few hotels are in the booking portals, making advance booking almost impossible and trip planning difficult. There is the concrete risk of arriving to a far away place after a full day of driving the car and not being able to find accommodation. Restaurants are mostly of the fast food/take away type (no Algerian food). Money is an issue, as it is difficult to find an ATM accepting international cards (and in the south the country is mostly cash only).
On the other hand safety is good and Algerians overall are honest, friendly and helpful. It's much more likely to be ripped off in Italy or Morocco than in Algeria.




Costs

Food is very cheap (we used to spend 1600 - 2600 DZD in restaurants for one meal for four people; one baguette bread costs 10 DZD), but hotels are not that cheap. The best value was the hotel in Ghardaia (2500 DZD for a double with attached bathroom), but otherwise doubles were in the 6000-8000 DZD/ night range (basic rooms, no luxury). Fuel for the car was very cheap (23 DZD for a litre of diesel). Entrance fees to museums and historical sites were in the 80-200 DZD range. The car cost 480 Euro for 15 days (unlimited km). Good value, since the car was big (a Peugeot Partner) and we did over 3600 km.




Food

Most restaurants we ran into were fast food/ take away/ grilled meat kind of places, often making pizza as well. Surprisingly lots of pizza restaurants. But the pizzas they served were a bit oily (the cheese they put on it is oily: later we heard that the pizza cheese in Algeria wasn't real cheese...).
Along the coast and in Algiers we ate in some fish restaurants (not bad).
Very difficult to avoid meat in Algeria. We were not vegetarian, but would have preferred to eat more vegetables.
Tajines and harira soup do exist in Algeria, but very few restaurants offer them.
Food hygiene seems to be ok. We ate in all kinds of places, often salads (even the kids) and had no problems with the digestion. However food often is greasy.




Accommodation

This is the biggest problem, because very few hotels in Algeria are bookable via the international booking portals. In fact few hotels are bookable at all and you can't examine the hotels on a booking portal, see the rooms, check the ratings etc. This makes it more difficult to plan and you run the risk of arriving in a place after a long day spent on the road and not being able to find a room.
Hotels are not cheap. Depending on the location, a basic double room with attached bathroom can go for 5000-8000 DZD. For these prices you usually get rooms in old hotels.




Money  / Exchange rate (December 2018 / January 2019)

1 Euro = 135 DZD (official rate); the black market rate was 210 DZD for one Euro.
For current exchange rates check for instance the Universal Currency Converter.
Exchanging money on the black market is illegal, but the rates are over 50% better than the official rates. And it seems that businesses in Algiers officially use the black market rates, rather than the official one. This can be a problem if you book a hotel in a booking portal which uses the official rate, but the hotel expects payment in Euro so that they can change the Euro on the black market and get more money. See what happened to us in the apartment in Algiers on January 4th: we had Algerian cash, but the apartment owner only accepted Euro cash or credit card payments.
Most hotels however only accept Algerian dinars in cash as payment. And because in the south there are practically no ATMs accepting international cards, towards the end of the trip we almost ran out of cash and had to shorten our stay in the south.




Mobile phones and prepaid cards

Based on information I got, it's only feasible to get SIM cards at the airport upon arrival. Elsewhere apparently you would need to go to a government office to make an official translation of your passport, which can take hours. Not sure if this is still the case (we didn't try), but to be on the safe side we got all our SIM cards at the airport in Algiers.
We bought SIM cards from Mobilis. 700 DZD with 5GB of data, some airtime (not sure how much), free calls to other Mobilis numbers (i.e. within the Mobilis network). Then I paid another 1000 DZD for a total of 15GB of data and 4000 DZD of airtime (one phone call within Algeria is 10 DZD/min). It seems this 1000 DZD package downgraded my SIM card to 3G only (the other SIM cards could be used with 4G), which made my Internet access very slow.
The Mobilis network is a hit and miss for what concerns data/Internet access. On a day while out in Ghardaia I wasn't able to download my emails, but in the evening we could watch Youtube in high quality (1GB of data consumed in one hour).




Weather

We had daytime temperatures topping at 16°C - 17°C (much colder in the mornings), practically no rain, mostly sunny and blue skies. Cold wind in the morning in the Sahara desert.




Health / Vaccinations

No vaccinations needed for Algeria.



VISA / Entry requirements

Getting into Algeria is not easy. First of all, nationals of most countries need a visa (it was a coincidence that my wife with her Malaysian passport didn't need a visa). But then, my mother, who was supposed to come with us had her visa denied at the Algerian consulate in Milan (Italy). No reason given, but she had to show up in person in Milan (travel operators not allowed) so on one day she had to get up at 4am to catch the train to Milan and pay all fees. Then, because initially the Algerian consulate even refused to issue a written denial statement, we could not get a refund from the airline for her plane ticket.
Things were much better here in Germany. The Algerian consulate in Frankfurt allowed the submission of the document by travel agencies, so we could simply send all papers to a travel agency in Frankfurt. By the way, lots of documentation needed. But then the Algerian consulate in Frankfurt made us wait until the last minute. We only got the visa a few days before the flight to Algiers.
I'm guessing that Algeria treats different nationalities in a different way: very difficult for people in Italy to get an Algerian visa, more easy for central and northern European nationals.


Security

Pretty good, no issues at all during the trip. No crime, no pickpockets, everything very quiet. Nobody tried to cheat us - very honest people. The only problem is that if you drive south on some roads the police insists that you must travel with a police escort, which slows down travel considerably.



Recommended things




Things to avoid




Getting around

We used a car to get around Algeria. Distances in Algeria are huge and in fact we covered 3600km in 15 days. Roads were mostly in a good shape and outside urban areas in the desert it was possible to drive fast from one place to the next. There was just a small section of the road between Ghardaia and Timimoun whose tarmac was broken.
Navigation with Google Maps worked well most of the time, although in some places the maps of Google maps are outdated (in Timimoun initially we couldn't find the hotel).









22.12: Munich -> Rome -> Algiers

Carnot Id Appartments, Algiers. 10400 DZD for a giant apartment with many rooms, somewhere in Algiers, about 5-6km from the centre of the town. Heating, hot water for the shower, free WLAN (sometimes fast, sometimes slow). Very friendly staff.
Weather: mild in the morning in Munich (10°C), unusual for this time of the year. A bit overcast. Around 12pm it rains a bit. Overcast and rainy in Rome. Sunny and around 17°C when we land in Algiers.

We leave home at 9am and drive to the S-Bahn station of Trudering. There we take the train to the airport, arriving at 10:10am. The train today is full of travellers. Once at the airport we walk to the gate, arriving there at 10:25am (section A, a bit far from the S-Bahn train station). Very long queue at the Alitalia check-in counter. The reason is that the plane is full, but Alitalia have only set up two counters.

We'll end up losing over 45 minutes in the queue. After 40 minutes Alitalia finally open up a third counter, because it is really getting late. Then we proceed to the security check. Also there there is a decent queue, moving not terribly fast.

In the end we finish the security check at 11:50am. We rush to the gate A18, where the Alitalia staff are already calling the missing people name by name. Then we board the plane. It's an A319 and it's completely full of people.

It takes for ever until we finally take off. Around 12:30pm we sort of start rolling, but the plane only takes off at 12:55pm, a 55 minutes delay.

We land in Rome at 2pm. Bus transfer to the terminal. We rush a bit through the airport in order to reach the gate area. Speedy passport control as we enter the E zone where the international gates are. Quick snack at 2:40pm (I have a turkey sandwich for 5.50€ - delicious, very well made), while Natasha eats a donut.

A 2:50pm we rush to the gate and a bit after 3pm take the bus to the plane, arriving there at 3:10pm. The plane is an old E175, a bit small, with rows of four seats (2+2). It's only about 60% full.

At 3:30pm we start rolling, and at 3:40pm the plane takes off.

We land in Algiers airport at 5:13pm. Then we get into a bus, which brings us to the terminal. By the way, quite modern terminal.

Then we lose quite some time at the passport control. You have to fill in an arrival card. The guy wants to know exactly where we are staying and calls the Carnot apartment. After that we have to pass our bags through a scanner and can proceed to the baggage retrieval.

Contrary to what is reported in the Internet, there is no need to fill in a currency declaration form. At the customs there are no controls either.

Once outside, we first get some cash from an ATM. Then we ask about SIM cards and are directed to counters on the right side. Several guys approach us and offer to change money, but the rates are not so good (150-160 to the Euro).

We lose a lot of time (1 hour?) at the SIM card counter. There we run into the agent from the car rental who is apparently waiting for us. We buy four SIM cards from Mobilis, each costing 700 DZD and with 5GB of mobile data. Calls within the Mobilis network are apparently free. There is some airtime. It takes such a long time because initially the phones have no Internet connection.

Once done with the SIM cards, we proceed with the car rental guy to the car. In the car we settle all car things. It seems that there is no office at the airport. I hand over 745 Euro in cash to the guy (495 for the car, 250 as a deposit) and this guy keeps my ID card. The weird thing with this booking is that when I booked the car the cost was 470 Euro, but in the invoice I'm supposed to pay 500 Euro.

We then call the apartment to tell them that we are still at the airport (it's about 7:30-7:40pm). Then we start driving to the apartment. The drive is reasonably smooth. Algerian drivers are quite well-mannered and don't do crazy things in the street.

We reach the apartment after getting lost a little bit, because the street is marked incorrectly in Google Maps. Once there again by coincidence we run into the people of the apartment, who have been waiting for us. Long discussion, then we move in and after 9pm we drive to a nearby restaurant where we have some dinner (a pizzeria where they make giant pizzas, shared by several people).




23.12: Algiers
Carnot Id Apartments, Algiers. Good shower with plenty of water, but no shower curtain, so that a lot of water ends on the bathroom ground. The bed is a bit hard.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day, warm enough to walk around in a T-shirt (later in the afternoon you need a light jacket because it's a bit windy.)

The kids sleep until after 11am, so we end up leaving the apartment after 12:20pm. We drive to the Notre Dame d'Afrique cathedral, arriving there at 12:50pm. The road which Google Maps chooses is not very good (very narrow, lots of curves and steep in some sections).

The cathedral is on a hill overlooking Algiers. Probably the late afternoon is a good time to take photos of Algiers from here. Today is a Sunday, but the cathedral is not open and there is no service. Several Algerian people are around the cathedral, most of them Muslim. The church is a picturesque building in Neo-Byzantine  style, completed in 1872.

While we are at the cathedral an Algerian woman with a headscarf asks to pose with Alissia for a picture.

At 1:13pm we leave the cathedral and drive down to the Kasbah area. This is sort of the old town of Algiers, the city centre with all historic buildings, lots of shops and restaurants. 

We park the car at 1:36pm along the coastal road in a place which smells like fish. It smells like fish because there are lots of fish restaurants here and in fact we'll end up having lunch in one of these fish restaurants. The first place we try out is a bit pricey (1kg of fish for 4800 DZD), but the second one is ok. There we have some fish lunch.

At 2:30pm we are done with the lunch and explore a bit the area. It's nice and interesting, an open clean space (the Martyrs' square), two elegant mosques nearby, lots of people, shops selling food (for instance dates) and other stuff.

At 3:42pm we walk into the Martyrs' square metro station and take the metro to the Grand Poste. Metro tickets cost 50 DZD per person, very cheap. The Metro is quite modern and clean. I'm guessing that the Metro here is heavily subsidised, because the metro in Munich is 15 times more expensive.

We reach the Grande Poste building at 3:55pm. It's a very nice building (probably) of marble in some kind of Islamic style. The area around the Grande Poste at first sight seems interesting, but in reality there is not too much to see and I decide to get to the Martyrs Memorial, which should be more interesting.

So we take again the metro, then a short cable car (20 DZD per person)     and by 4:40pm reach the Martyrs Monument. This is also very picturesque, and around it there is a very large compound with a small fun fair and some stalls. Lots of people on this Sunday afternoon. The monument is 92m high and has the roughly shape of a tetrahedron. 

The people here in Algiers are friendly and practically all speak French or some French. Since I'm fluent in French, I don't even try to speak English.

It's 5:30pm when we leave the place and take the cable car to go down. The idea would be to go to a nice shopping mall with a supermarket and restaurants and have dinner there and buy food and drinks. This turns out to be complicated. We lose some time until we realise that you can't reach the Ardis mall by metro. The Bab Ezzouar mall is too far away (it's very close to the airport).

In the end we go back to the car by metro and then by car drive to the Ardis mall. On the way we refuel the car at one of the rare petrol stations (very cheap - 50 litres of diesel for 1200 DZD).

In Algiers there is a dearth of petrol stations and of small shops selling food.

The Ardis mall is big, ok, but not terribly impressive. There is a big food court and a large supermarket. But the supermarket does not accept international credit cards (only Algerian ones). And the two ATMs I try out do not work with my German bank card. I'm running out of local cash and tomorrow I'll have to get Algerian dinars.

After a dinner in the food court, we buy some food and drinks in the supermarket and then drive back to the apartment.




24.12: Algiers -> Cherchell -> Tipasa -> Algiers
Carnot Id Appartments, Algiers.
Weather: same as yesterday (sunny & blue sky).

We are busy with stuff in the morning and around 1pm are wondering what to do today. One option would be to get back to the Kasbah area and explore it a bit more. Then we could drive by car to Tipasa, a town with Roman ruins along the coast. Could be nicer than spending another day in this moloch city of Algiers. We think a bit about it and decide to drive to Tipasa.

Turns out that I make a small mistake and confuse the Cherchell Roman ruins with the Tipasa ones. So we drive there (arriving at 2:40pm) and are a bit surprised that the site is so small. Kind of interesting and cute, but a bit small. Very low entrance fee (60 DZD adults, kids 30 DZD). These actually are the ruins of an ancient Roman bath.

By the way, the road from Algiers to Cherchell is mostly a coastal motorway, toll free, but the max. allowed speed is 100 km/h (in many sections only 80km/h). It would be possible to drive faster than that, because the road surface is quite smooth.

At 3pm we are done with the ruins. The girls have been playing all the time with a baby cat who apparently is abandoned and has no mother who will take care of it. We then walk down the street and get into a restaurant, where we have a late fish lunch between 3 and 4pm. The food is quite decent and not too expensive.

Cherchell itself is a small coastal town, probably a fishermen place. There is a big bus station right opposite the Roman site.

Shortly after 4pm we start driving to the Roman ruins in Tipasa. It takes half an hour by car to get there.

The Tipasa Roman ruins are in a park along the coast. The entrance costs 100 DZD for adults and 50 DZD for kids. It's a bigger compound than I had imagined, and the 45 minutes we have are not enough to visit the whole place. However the setting is quite picturesque, with Roman ruins along the coast. The archaeological site spans for about 1km from east to west. Probably 2-3 hours would be necessary to explore it completely. When we visit the place, it is full of local Algerian people.

Around 5:30pm we leave the archaeological site. Then we spend some more time shopping around a bit for souvenirs. We walk to a pastry shop where we buy some pastries and cakes. Finally Shirley and the kids wait for me in the car, while I go to an ATM and fetch some cash.

On the way I spot a Mobilis outlet. There I recharge the phone with 1000 DZD obtaining 4000 DZD of airtime and 15GB of data in total. We are back in the hotel at 7:30pm.





25.12: Algiers -> Djemila -> Bordj Bou Arreridj
Hotel Des Bibans, Bordj Bou Arreridj. 4200 DZD for a double room with two beds, LCD TV, attached bathroom with shower and actually nothing else (no furniture). When we go in the lamp doesn't work, only later it gets on. The bedside lamps are broken. Attached bathroom with hot shower. The beds are a bit simple (only blankets, no sheets; Shirley complains about the smell of the blankets). No WLAN in the room. The room is on the third floor and there is no elevator. The room is basically ok for one night, but a bit spartan. Good location in the centre of Bordj Bou Arreridj. The room has heating and the shower has enough hot water.
When we get in, the receptionist asks for all passports and the marriage certificate of Shirley and me (this has never happened to us before). Breakfast included.

Weather: sunny, mostly blue sky with a thin clouds layer. A bit more fresh in Djemila due to the altitude.

We manage to leave Algiers shortly after 9:30am. Initially it takes some time to get on the motorway. Once on the motorway there is heavy traffic in the Algiers urban area and for a while after that. Lots of trucks on the motorway, and the traffic is heavy because it seems that we are crossing a heavily industrialised area of Algeria. The motorway is free and very good (three lanes, smooth surface).

We lose half an hour in a traffic jam, then at 11:50am we stop at a service station on the motorway 190km from Djemila to refuel the car. Then, since it is already noon and this service station has a restaurant, we have lunch here. It's a large chicken drumstick with rice, vegetables and meshed potatoes. The chicken of course has been cooked some time (hours?) ago, but the food is not bad. 2200 DZD for the four of us, including drinks and bread.

Around 12:30pm we continue driving to Djemila. Every now and then on the motorway there are police roadblocks. The last 24km of the road to Djemila are a field road with several speed bumps. We reach Djemila at 2:45pm and park the car in the parking opposite the entrance to the archaeological site (parking costs 100 DZD). Then we get into the site (ticket is 100 DZD for adults, 50 DZD for kids).

There is a museum in a building, but we skip it. Then there are some sculptures set up in a park, but once we reach the old city of Djemila, I'm impressed. Perhaps the most beautiful ancient Roman city I have ever seen. This place alone is worth a trip to Algeria. There is not too much in terms of structures which are left here (for instance Volubilis in Morocco has temples, mosaics, overall more intact structures), but the overall setup in the mountains is impressive. Beautiful ruins of a Roman city in the Algerian mountains.

The altitude of Djemila is 933m according to the GPS of my smartphone.

We'll spend almost two hours in this place, walking around the ruins, taking pictures. Then we walk back to the car and I suggest to look for a bakery. And we do find one, with freshly baked baguettes. The price is only 10 DZD per baguette, even cheaper than the 15 DZD I paid in Algiers. I wonder how they are able to make the bread so cheap.

Then, around 5:15pm we start driving towards Bordj Bou Arreridj. We lose 10 minutes in a traffic jam, but manage to arrive in Bordj Bou Arreridj before 7pm.

Once in Bordj Bou Arreridj we can't find the apartment we booked with booking.com. We spend some time looking for it, and try calling the owner several times, but his/her phone doesn't work. We even ask some local people. In the end we use Google Maps to locate a hotel in the neighbourhood and find the Bibans hotel.

Later in the evening I book a hotel in Ghardaia using Google Maps (the second hotel I call, hotel Atlantid, has rooms).




26.12: Bordj Bou Arreridj -> Ghardaia
Hotel Atlantid, Ghardaia. 2500 DZD for a small double room with three beds and attached bathroom. Central location, several restaurants nearby, but quite basic rooms. After 8pm they switch on the heating. Refrigerator, one small cupboard, LCD TV, water basin in the room. At 8pm they switch on the heating. There is free WLAN, but the signal is too weak in the room.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. A bit cold in Bordj Bou Arreridj due to the altitude (930m), 16°C in Ghardaia when we arrive.

We manage to start around 9am, then drive to a petrol station where we refill the tank. Then we start driving to Ghardaia. The road is mostly sort of a motorway with at least two lanes per direction, but there are also long sections with just one lane per direction. There are roadworks in several parts, every now and then a police control post. Apparently no radar speed traps, but many speed bumps in and near towns and villages.

It's 540km for which Google Maps estimates a driving time of 7 1/2 hours. In practice we'll reach the hotel in Ghardaia at 5:30pm, after doing a number of stops. That's 8:30 hours, of which the net driving time perhaps was a bit over 7 hours.

I was planning to stop in Djelfa, but when we reach Djelfa around 2pm, the route which Google Maps chooses bypasses Djelfa. It would be possible to drive into Djelfa, but we'd lose about 10-15 minutes driving into the city centre, perhaps another 45-60 minutes having lunch and then some time to get back to the highway. Probably we'd arrive one and a half hours later, and I would prefer to arrive in Ghardaia before dark. So we end up skipping the lunch break and continue driving to Ghardaia.

When we reach the hotel, initially there is no parking available, but we quickly find one in front of the hotel. Then, after 6pm, we have a dinner in one of the restaurants near the hotel.





27.12: Ghardaia
Hotel Atlantid, Ghardaia. In the morning I can't get hot water from the shower. After talking to the staff, it turns out that you have to put the lever of the single lever tap into the middle position between hot and cold. The heating lasts until about 7am. Apparently credit cards are not accepted ("the card reader is broken").
Weather: again sunny, spotless blue sky. Top temperatures of about 16°C - at night quite cold.

Day spent in Ghardaia, visiting the city. In the morning I wonder if it would make sense to take the car, to get more quickly from one place to the next, but then I decide to have a look walking into the city and perhaps take the car later. Turns out that this is the best idea because the streets in Ghardaia are narrow, there are no parkings and the historic centre of Ghardaia is anyway in walking distance. It's good having a hotel in the city centre.

Shortly after 10am we walk to the cafe near the hotel and have some breakfast there. Then we walk into town.

Initially we walk through a maze of narrow streets in a bazaar, where many cheap or counterfeited goods are being sold. The quality of these items is not very good. Quickly we reach a smaller market square (not the big market square), where there is a lot of activity and all kinds of goods are being sold (several fruit stalls).

Continuing we reach finally the big market square, the one facing the historic core of Ghardaia. Again a place with a lot of activities, although the stalls are now all on one side of the square. Very picturesque place, with shops on all four sides of the square.

We walk to the tourist office, where I ask the people to help me call one hotel in Timimoun (hotel staff is not fluent in French). Then we continue walking through the bazaar towards the historic core, all the time stopping here and there at the shops. We are clearly visible foreign tourists, but the locals leave us alone. If we were in Morocco, every five metres somebody would try to pull us into a shop.

Finally we enter the historic core. There is a big warning sign that it is forbidden to photograph people. OK. And then it says that we must be accompanied by a guide when entering the historic core. That we don't have, so we just enter.

We slowly walk up the maze of streets, trying to get to the top. Every now and then we run into women completely covered from head to toe with a white cloth. Suddenly we are close to the top tower at the centre of the historic core. Turns out that this is the minaret of a mosque (and as I later hear, this mosque was built in 1053 AD).

We get adopted by local guide with whom we walk into the mosque. Inside the guide tells the history of the mosque, Ghardaia and the Mozabite community who lives here. Everything in French, everybody speaks French. Then we walk on top of the mosque and enjoy the view of Ghardaia.

Once done it's already 12pm noon and we walk down from the historic core to the big market square. Seems that the historic core is actually not that big, i.e. you can visit it in 2-3 hours.
We run into a group of tourists, probably non-Algerian ones because the women are not covering their heads.

After some more time in the main square, at 12:30pm we walk back to the street in which our hotel is and have lunch in one of the restaurants.

When we finish lunch, Shirley and the kids walk back to the hotel, while I walk to the hills south of Ghardaia to take some panoramic shots of the old town. Basically I walk to two different hills, from which I take a number of shots of the old town. While there I finally manage to book two rooms in Timimoun from 28.12 until 30.12.

At 3pm I walk back to the hotel and take a rest there. Later, at 4:20pm, we get out again for some shopping and are back shortly before 6pm. In the evening we'll have a dinner in a restaurant and get back to the hotel.




28.12: Ghardaia -> Timimoun
Hotel Kasr Massine, Timimoun. 8000 DZD for a double room. Some furniture, electrical heating unit, attached bathroom. In theory there is WLAN in the room, in practice it doesn't work, so I use the mobile phone as a wifi hotspot. Attached bathroom with shower. Despite the heating unit, the room is quite cold. The hotel is in the Massine village 2km from the centre of Timimoun. The hotel has a pool and the room price includes a breakfast. Overall the hotel is quite old.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. A bit windy. Fresh in the morning.

We leave the hotel around 9am, then refuel the car in a petrol station and leave Ghardaia for Timimoun at 9:25am. At 9:35am I'm on a hill overlooking Ghardaia, from which I take some panoramic pictures of the Mzab valley and Ghardaia. Then I continue driving towards Timimoun.

In the Ghardaia wilaya (=region) the road is basically all desert highway, sometimes one lane per direction, sometimes two. There is very little traffic. I have no problem passing all police checkpoints, which means that they allow foreign tourists to travel south of Ghardaia.

The last 150 km of the road in the Ghardaia wilaya are bad to very bad in some sections (very poor road surface condition in some sections). The road conditions improve substantially as soon as we enter into the Adrar wilaya. Seems that the local government of the Adrar wilaya care more about the status of their roads.

South of Ghardaia, after some point the sand desert starts. Every now and then you see chains of sand dunes. There are street signs limiting the speed because of the sand (road might be covered by sand).

At 4:20pm we are in Timimoun. It turns out that the location in Google Maps of the Ksar Massine hotel is wrong. Instead of the hotel there are two restaurants. I call the hotel and they explain where they are.

Timimoun is kind of interesting. Desert village feeling, nice architecture, and many black people. I wonder who these black people are. Perhaps some refugees from further south in Africa, on their way to Europe?

We drive to the hotel, leave the passports there and get the keys. Then we drive back into town and check the two restaurants we saw before. Both don't look terribly good and offer mostly sandwiches and kebab style of food (fast food). So we drive around a bit and look for a restaurant. For a while we can't find restaurants in Timimoun and those marked in Google Maps do not exist. In the end, when we are on the way back to those two restaurants we spotted, Shirley sees a restaurant which makes sort of a decent impression. So we have dinner there.

After dinner we get back to the hotel. There we talk with the hotel receptionist and ask for a guide with a 4WD car who can show us around tomorrow. Initially the receptionist suggests that the cost is between 8000 and 10000 DZD, but later when the guy gets back to us with a concrete offer, the price is 12000 DZD. For this money the guide will drive us around for 6 hours tomorrow, 100km total, sand dunes, villages etc included.




29.12: Timimoun
Hotel Ksar Massine, Timimoun. The shower works reasonably well, even if it delivers little water, making it longer to take a shower. The breakfast is ok: you get bread, jam, tea, a fruit juice, a spreadable wedge cheese and a croissant. The wooden door of our room is horrible: it scratches the ground when you open or close it. Credit cards and Euro not accepted, only Algerian cash.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day, Very strong (and cold) wind in the desert (and Timimoun), which lasts until the evening.

After breakfast we meet Hossein, who will be our driver for the desert trip today. The car is a Toyota 4WD pickup truck. We leave at 9:25am and first head into town where we buy some bread because probably we won't have lunch today. Then we leave for the desert. We'll do a loop north of Timimoun, passing by the villages of Ighzer adn Aghlad, stopping in-between in some very scenic areas and in the end driving over the sand dunes and ending with a dromedary ride for the kids.

The desert north of Timimoun is wildly scenic. Initially we stop at a ridge overlooking the oasis and the village. From there we visit the Ighzer village and a cave. Then we proceed, always off-road, to the ruins of a castle/fortress (a "ksar", sort of a fortified place), then down to the oasis with a small pond, then to the Ouled Said village, then rollercoaster on the sand dunes and camel ride for the kids. 

The sand dunes actually are quite close to Timimoun. The driver brings us to several places where they sell souvenirs and handicrafts. At 1:30pm we stop in a place where we are offered a lunch of couscous and camel meat, which we politely decline.

We are back in the hotel at 2:30pm. The trip was 77km and 5 hours in total instead of 100km and 6 hours. One hour less probably because we skipped the lunch break.

We then take a rest in the hotel and go out again at 4pm. Some shopping in an open air souvenir market, while in the meantime I try to withdraw cash at an ATM. In the end I will try out three ATMs without success. All three tell me my bank cards can't be used. 

We then drive to the airport of Timimoun, thinking that there might be an international ATM. But when we arrive the guide tells us that the airport is closed today and in any case there are no ATMs there.

So I drive back into town, to the high end Gourara hotel and ask there if there are ATMs accepting international bank cards in Timimoun. The answer is no, ATMs in Timimoun only accept Algerian bank cards.

We get back into town, have two meals in two different restaurants, shop around a bit and in the end drive back to the hotel.

By the way, when around 4:30pm we try to refuel the car, there is a long queue of cars wanting to buy petrol/diesel. Later in the evening the petrol station is broken. When I get there again at 10pm, I have to wait more than half an hour in the queue before I can refuel the car.

In the evening I realise that my SIM card has no longer Internet access, even if I have only used 3 out of the 15 GB of data I have.





30.12: Timimoun -> Bechar
Hotel Grouz, Bechar. 9900 DMZ for a small double room with attached bathroom with shower. The room has some furniture (table, chair, cupboard for the clothes), a refrigerator, free WLAN which is finally fast enough. The hotel is a bit out of Bechar, north of the town. No credit cards accepted, only cash.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Strong cold wind, especially in Bechar.

We leave the hotel after 9am, then drive into town and buy some fresh bread (five baguettes), because I have a feeling that today we might skip lunch. Then we start driving towards Taghit.

Soon we reach the desert highway and speedily proceed across the desert. Occasionally you can see sand being blown across the street. The road conditions are mostly good, but there are also sections where the road surface is very bad.

At 11:30am we stop at a place where there is a beautiful view of sand dunes. Later along the way we'll see more places where there are big sand dunes. Would be fun to stop and spend a few hours on the sand dunes, but we are a bit in a hurry to reach Taghit, and there should be nice sand dunes there as well.

127 km from Taghit we are stopped at a police roadblock. The police (or army?) check all papers and tell us that we must have an escort if we want to drive to Taghit. A bit strange, because we have passed all police roadblocks until here and nobody has stopped us before. We end up losing 15 minutes before we are allowed to continue.

30km later, we are stopped again at a police roadblock and this times the escort is ready. The guy takes our passports and drives with us to the police station in Igli. There the police guy hands us over to the police staff of Igli. With the Igli police we continue driving all the way until almost Taghit.
It's only "almost" because 6km from the entrance to Taghit the road is blocked by the police. It seems that there are some protests going on in Taghit.

Some discussion. The Igli police staff tells us to wait some time. initially he estimates 30 minutes, later 2-3 hours. Then we see several police buses and police cars rushing by into Taghit. Doesn't look like the situation in Taghit (whatever is going on - the police staff only talks about "protesters"; who knows if there is an uprising or civil war going on) is going to deescalate.

More discussion with the police. I tell them that it's getting late, the sun is going to set in a couple of hours and I need to find a place for my kids where to spend the night. I tell them that I will just drive to Bechar and that I do not need an escort. Some more discussion and finally they return our passports and let us drive to Bechar.

We arrive in Bechar around 5pm (this police crap made us lose an hour of time). The first hotel where we ask, the Wakda, is full. Then we call the El jazira hotel - full again. Finally we try the Grouz and they have rooms. We check in there and have a rest. In the evening we have a dinner in the Ritadj restaurant (sort of a grilled meat place) near the hotel.

Later in the evening I make the plans for the next day. I book a hotel in Tlemcen for two nights and the idea is to drive to Ain Sefra, stop there for some sightseeing and lunch, then continue to Tlemcen.





31.12: Bechar -> Ain Sefra -> Tlemcen
Hotel Grand Bassin, Tlemcen. 6800 DZD for a double room, clean, with some basic furniture (small table with chair, place where to hang the clothes), LCD TV, A/C unit, heating (good heating). Attached bathroom with shower. This hotel seems to be below the Grouz in Bechar for what concerns the standard.
Weather: sunny, blue sky, not so windy today, but cold in the morning. Warmer in the afternoon.

After the breakfast we leave at 9:40am and start driving towards Ain Sefra. Along the way we stop a couple of times for some photos. The road is mostly a motorway with two lanes per direction.

We reach Ain Sefra at 12:30pm. Today there is an open air market where vegetables, clothes and other items are sold. Interestingly people wear an Algerian traditional dress.
The first restaurant from Google Maps we key in doesn't exist, but the second one exists and is ok. So we have a lunch there.

After lunch we drive by car to the sand dunes. This is an area of sand dunes, of which the tallest is perhaps 40-50m high, running parallel to the city. By the way, the altitude of Ain Sefra is 1075m.

We park the car at the hotel Mekther (which seems to be still actively operating) and walk on the sand dunes. Seems to be a place frequently visited by the locals. We stay there until 4pm.

Then we walk back to the car, and after buying some food in a Superette supermarket, at 4:20pm we start driving to Tlemcen.

The road is mostly motorway with two lanes per direction, with almost no traffic and very few curves. Except for a few times when we have to cross a city, we proceed very quickly.

The last 25km before Tlemcen are a narrow and winding mountain road. We lose about 10 minutes due to a slow driving truck which can't be overtaken. At 8pm we reach the hotel.




1.1: Tlemcen
Hotel Grand Bassin, Tlemcen. Little water coming out of the shower, making the shower take a long time (more time needed to rinse the soap and shampoo away). The breakfast is ok.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Cold in the morning, no wind, warmer in the afternoon.

We wake up late at 9am and have breakfast. After 10:30am we get out of the hotel and start walking towards the centre of Tlemcen. We walk instead of taking the car, since from the map it appears that we are 1km from the city centre.

There is a cablecar opposite the hotel. This seems to go to the Lala Setti plateau, some kind of mountaintop area with tourist facilities.

We walk past the Sahridj Embedda (Grand Bassin), which now is some kind of park. Tlemcen looks like a cozy and nice city, with lots of shops and life. Well kept streets, although at the moment there are roadworks ongoing and the streets are full of gravel and dust. The feedback I get from my kids and Shirley is that this is the first nice city in Algeria we visit.

We stop in a stationery shop where the girls spend some time buying pens and pencils. Then we continue towards the city centre.

Soon we reach that and I must say, it's very nice. The ruins of the El Mechouar palace, some kind of fortress are surrounded by large, tall trees and nearby there are cafes and shops. We get past the walls and visit the Mechouar palace. Beautiful Islamic architecture: an inner court with a rectangular pond with colonnades around it. The side rooms have exhibits.

We then walk to the square facing the Grand Mosque. Nice scenic square lined by trees on both sides, with shops and restaurants on both sides. Kind of a Parisian look and feel. Right now the main entrance to the mosque seems to be closed, so we walk once around it to check if there is another open entrance.

There is none, but I discover the Great Market of Tlemcen, a large building in which there is a lively fruit and vegetables market. While I'm inside there, Shirley buys some dates in a date shop opposite the market (1/2 kg costs 300 DZD).

Then we complete the loop around the Great Mosque compound. Since it's 12:45pm and the kids are hungry, we have lunch in a restaurant on the Great Mosque square. It's sort of a mix of fast food /kebab/pizzeria place. The food they serve is a bit oily and not very well made.

After lunch, at 1:30pm, the Great Mosque is open, so I have a quick look. There is basically a big praying hall with white walls (no decorations) and a red carpet.

I'm done with the mosque at 12:50pm and meet Shirley again, who didn't want to visit the mosque and spent these 20 minutes shopping around. We then walk back to the hotel, where we take a brief rest.

At 4pm we drive by car to the El Mansourah ruins, which are a few km out of town. When we arrive at 4:15pm, this place looks great in the late afternoon light. Lots of people visiting this place (most are locals), souvenir stands outside selling replicas of the minaret ruin. Very nice and scenic ruins.

Opposite the ruins there is a zoo which the kids will visit with Shirley while I'm taking some pictures of El Mansourah. Basically what is left are parts of the outer wall and the minaret of which only the front pat is still left standing.

At 5pm we drive to the last place for today, the ruins of the Agadir. This is basically a mix of a mosque or a fortress. We arrive there at 5:23pm, but this place is quite unimpressive. Not many structures are left.

Then I bring back Shirley and the kids to the hotel. We park the car in front of the hotel.

While Shirley is in the hotel with the kids, at 6pm I walk into town for some blue hour shots. At 7pm I'm back in the hotel with Shirley. We then go out for dinner (le petit paradis restaurant - some kind of fast food/pizza take away place; food is so-so, but it's cold in the evening and nobody is in the mood to spend a lot of time searching for a better restaurant).

Later in the evening I book an apartment in Oran for two nights for tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll visit the waterfalls and the caves near Tlemcen and then drive to Oran in the evening.




2.1: Tlemcen -> Oran
Apartment Mer et Soleil in Oran. 8900 DZD for an apartment with several rooms along the coastline of Oran. Fully furnished place. The only issue is the staircase which is not illuminated.
Weather: again sunny/blue sky. No wind, but quite fresh at this altitude. Also in Oran the weather is good (spotless blue sky).

In the morning we check out and then take the cablecar to the Lalla Setti plateau (50 DZD per person). It takes about 5 minutes to reach the plateau. From here at about 1000m of altitude there is a nice view of Tlemcen.

At 11:30am we take the cablecar down to the Grand Bassin where the car is parked and drive to the Sidi Boumediene mosque. This is an old mosque in the mountains overlooking Tlemcen. To get there we have to drive on narrow and steep roads. The mosque itself (no entrance ticket) is not terribly interesting and in fact we spend less than 15 minutes there.

Then we drive to the El-Ourit waterfalls. They are along a road in the mountains near Tlemcen. Getting there takes about 15 minutes. We arrive there at 1pm.

The El-Ourit waterfalls are perhaps the most unimpressive waterfalls I have ever seen. Today there is no water, so there are no waterfalls. But looking at photos in the Internet, even if there is water, these waterfalls are very small. Probably the pond is the reason to visit the waterfalls (in the summer), because you can swim in it.

At 1:15pm we are done with the waterfalls. We check if there is a way to have lunch here, but find no decent restaurant (there is just one where you have to sit outside, but it's too cold to eat outside in the shadow). So around 1:25pm we leave for the next place, the Beni Add caves.

These are along the same road, a few km higher up the mountain. We are there at 1:50pm. Big parking for cars available.

This place is full of visitors, i.e. lots of activity ongoing. The caves are impressive: beautiful stalagmites and stalagtites, rock formations etc. The caves are illuminated and the interior chambers are quite big and extend deep into the mountain. In fact I'll spend almost 50 minutes inside the caves.

When I'm out again it's almost 3pm. Would be good to have lunch, but there is no restaurant here. So we skip lunch and drive to Oran, arriving there around 5pm.

The initial impression is that Oran is a modern and clean city (at least the part we see when we drive into it from the mountains). We then drive to an Ardis mall where we have some kind of dinner in a fast food place (just for a change...). Then we shop some food and groceries in the supermarket and drive to the apartment.

There we meet our host with his family. This guy is Algerian, PhD in telecommunications, married to a French lady from Alsace, three kids. Long discussion about Algeria. Apparently Algerians do not like to travel across Algeria and he himself for instance has never been in the Sahara. Then he explains what the highlights of Oran are. And he confirms that there are few few tourists travelling to Algeria. Finally he provides a list of places to visit in Oran.




3.1: Oran
Apartment Mer et Soleil in Oran. The shower has enough hot water. However at 6:25pm in the evening suddenly there is no more water in the flat. We tell the landlord and it appears that the whole block (or neighbourhood) has no water. The landlord arrives after 8pm with canisters of water and luckily 15 minutes later there is again water in the flat.
Weather: cloudy in the morning. When we leave at 11am it's sunny again and the sky is blue.

In the morning we drive to the 1st November 1954 square after 11am. We arrive there at 11:25am (some light traffic jam along the way) and quickly find a parking for the car (a free one).

The 1st November 1954 square is interesting and very photogenic. Especially the opera house is very cute. Then there is this combination of Neoclassical architecture, palm trees, the modern tramway, the people. We buy some groceries in the supermarket, then walk to the Sacre Coeur cathedral, which now is a library. On the way, we stop in a pastry shop for some food. The cathedral is again very cute and richly decorated. 

This area of the city is picturesque, but the buildings are in a bad state and should be renovated or restored, and the streets are dirty. The city centre of Oran is a gem, but the local government needs to invest a lot to make it shine again.

We have lunch in a restaurant (again a kebab/fast food kind of place - practically impossible to find a traditional Algerian restaurant in Oran). Then we walk back to the 1st November 1954 square.

When there we try to visit the Bey palace, which is adjacent to the square. From outside you can see the walls of this palace, but getting in proves to be quite challenging. We ask an Algerian lady. She doesn't know how to get in, but walks us for a while in the wrong direction. It takes some effort to get rid of this lady, because she is too friendly and offers to continue to escort us to the real entrance.

In the end we find the entrance to this palace, but are quickly stopped by a security guard who states that no pictures are allowed. The other thing is that this palace is in a very, very poor state. It's half-demolished and seems to have suffered from decades of neglect. It is being used (partially) by the Algerian army. Also this place needs to be restored.

We get back to the car and key in the Santa Cruz fortress. The directions which Google Maps gives are a bit confusing, so we end up driving to the mosque (the Moula Abdelkader mosque) which is on top of the hill overlooking Oran, at 424m of altitude. From there there is a nice view of the coast and Oran.

Then we drive down to the Santa Cruz fortress. We arrive there, but the problem is the parking. There is a big parking a few hundred metres from the actual fortress, but many people simply leave the car on the narrow mountain road, thereby blocking one of the lanes and ultimately causing traffic jams. It takes some effort to U-turn and drive back to the parking. Once rhere a guy charges us 100 DZD for the parking.

We walk to the fortress along the road (there is no separate path, so you have to walk along the road) and arrive at it at 3:10pm. The ticket costs 80 DZD for adults, and 40 DZD for kids,a fraction of what tickets cost in Europe.

The fortress was built between 1577 and 1604 by the Spaniards and is in a good preservation status. The interior is devoid of decorations (only some empty halls and rooms), but there are good view of the coast and Oran. Many people today visit the fortress. Once done with the fortress, we walk to the Sant Cruz church below it. 

By 4pm we are done also with the church and walk back to the car. There I key in the Ibn Badis mosque and start driving towards it. It's not such a big distance, but we get stuck in traffic jams in Oran (the weekend is starting, since today is Thursday), so we only reach the mosque at 5:08pm.

The Ibn Badis mosque was completed in 2015 and is stunningly beautiful. The main prayer hall has place for 15000 people according to the guard. The building is completely white and there is a big parking for cars.

At 5:25pm I get back to the car and we drive back to the apartment.




4.1: Oran -> Tipasa -> Algiers
Appart chic dar el-baïda, a few km from the airport in Algiers. 8000 DZD for a nice apartment, elegantly furnished, free WLAN, living room, kitchen, bathrom with shower, separate small toilet for peeing, two bedrooms. Parking below in front of the building. The only problem of this place is that it is on the 5th floor and there is no elevator. But see below the problem with the payment we experience. Some confusion or misunderstanding and overall not a very nice way to treat tourists.
Weather: some clouds in the morning, later the sky turns blue. Elsewhere in Algeria along the way the sky is almost free of clouds. Top temperatures of around 15-16°C.

In the morning we manage to leave around 9:40am. We meet again the friendly host and hand over the keys to him. Then we drive into town and have a look at the seafront (Boulevard de l'ALN) and to the former synagogue. This Friday morning this part of Oran has very little traffic and almost all shops and cafes are closed.

The problem starts when I try to drive out of Oran. The directions which Google Maps gives do not take into account that in some places it is not allowed to turn left. So basically we get stuck in the part of Oran where there are lots of people, life, traffic - very hard to drive there. Probably it takes 20-30 minutes just to get out of the urban Oran area.

Once on the motorway to Algiers things proceed very smoothly. Three-lane motorway, smooth surface, few curves, speed limit of 120 km/h.

Around 1pm we stop on a motorway rest station for some lunch. Then we continue driving to Tipasa.

The last 40km of the road are initially a mountain road with lots of narrow curves. The last 20 km are a more straight road.
We reach the Roman site of Tipasa at 4:07pm. Actually quite late, I had hoped to have more time to visit the ruins (on our first visit to Tipasa we had less than one hour, so I thought to visit the site again because it is very big).

After finishing the visit of the ruins, I get some cash from an ATM to pay for the apartment in Algiers. Then, around 5:40pm we start driving to Algiers. I key in the Bab Ezzouar shopping mall. We'll have a look and do some shopping there.

Turns out that the trip will take more than one and a half hours, according to Google Maps. Apparently there is some traffic jam.

This time we take again the other coastal highway, the one linking Algiers with Tipasa. This is less good than the Oran-Algiers highway (top speed 100 km/h in some sections). Again, every 30km or so, there is a roadblock of the Algerian police, which causes a traffic jam before it.

By the time we are in the Algiers metropolitan area it is dark and the traffic is hectic. Some drivers are quite pushy and the variable road conditions make things more complicated. I have to be very focused when driving here.

Finally we reach the Bab Ezzouar mall around 7:40pm. This is the first mall we see in Algeria which is more or less of a good standard. Lots of people, several floors (three), a supermarket in the ground floor, large parking area, lots of shops selling international goods. It's not one of the best malls we have seen until now, but reasonably good. And there is a BNP Paribas ATM which should accept international bank cards.

We get to the food court on the second floor. Many choices, but it's very difficult to find an empty table. We have to wait a lot of time to get a table. Then we have some dinner there.

At 9pm we go to the supermarket for some groceries and food. I call the apartment guy and tell him that we meet him at the apartment at 9:30pm.

In fact we manage to reach the apartment address (the one shown in booking.com) at 9:27pm. Then the mess starts.

I call the guy and he tells me he will arrive in 15 minutes. At 9:45pm I call him again and ask him where he is. He says he will arrive soon. In practice it seems that he drove to the Bab Ezzouar mall to pick us up. And his French is not so good. After lots of discussion I ask some local Algerian people who happen to be there to explain to this guy where we are.

Finally, it must be 10:15pm or later, the guy arrives. He guides us to the flat. Fifth floor and no elevator. Then the mess with the payment starts.

We have booked the apartment on booking.com for two nights for 8000 DZD/night (total 16000 DZD). And today I had spoken on the phone with the apartment and they confirmed that I can pay cash. So I have withdrawn cash from an ATM. Turns out that they do not want cash. Actually to be more precise they either want a credit card payment or 2 x 60 Euro cash. But they do not want Algerian dinars.

We must have spent about 30 minutes arguing with the guy who opened the door and some manager on the phone.

This is related to the black market rate. If they get the payment in Euro, they can change that on the black market to 120 X 210 = 25200 Euro, i.e. they get 9200 DZD more than if we pay them the amount shown on booking.com (16000 DZD).

At the official rate 8000 DZD is approximately 60 Euro.

And I bet, had I offered to pay 25200 DZD they would have been happy to receive Algerian dinars. But actually I booked this stupid place because it cost 16000 DZD for two nights on booking.com.

The problem is that I have already withdrawn the cash and need to get rid of it because I'm leaving Algeria in two days.

In the end we say that that if they refuse Algerian cash, we will stay somewhere else. They threaten to charge us the total sum on the credit card.

Finally, the guy accepts the cash payment, but it was a tough half an hour of discussion which cost a lot of nerves. And the guy leaves with the cash in a bad mode, without explaining the apartment, how to switch on the heating etc.




5.1: Algiers
Appart chic dar el-baïda, Algiers.
Weather: a mix of sunny and cloudy, with clouds covering the sun every now and then. No rain. Max. temperature of 15°C.

We leave the flat very late, after 12pm. The idea would be to drive by car to the El Harrach metro station, then take the train to the Martyrs' square and walk a bit around the Kasbah. In the end we don't make it to the El Harrach metro station because I get on the wrong road (Google Maps instructions are a bit confusing) and instead drive to the Amirouche metro station.

On the way we stop in a couple of places. First next to the Ardis mall they are building a new, huge mosque. Lots of Chinese construction workers in this place. Probably a Chinese company is building the mosque and they are using Chinese workers, probably because local Algerians are too expensive or not available.

Then we stop at a place where there is an interesting arch. Finally we drive to the Amirouche metro station and park the car next to it. After a stop in a patisserie for some food, we take the metro to the Martyrs' square, arriving there shortly after 2pm. We walk to the fish restaurant where we had lunch almost two weeks ago. It's closed, so we walk to another place.

There we have a simple meal, similar to the one we had two weeks ago in the other restarant. This time the bill is significantly higher and the food is not as good. Perhaps the restaurant staff made a tourist price.

After lunch we walk into the Kasbah, into the maze of narrow streets behind the Ketchaoua mosque. The buildings in this area of the city are old and broken, the metal on the facades is rusty and the streets are dirty and messy. Perhaps these are buildings from the French colonial period into which local people moved in when the pied noirs (the French colonists) left Algeria over 50 years ago. And perhaps these buildings haven't been repaired since then.

At some point we turn right to get back to the Martyrs's square and we run into the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires (national museum of popular arts and traditions) and have a look inside (200 DZD entry per adult, kids below 16 don't pay). It's not a very big place. Seems to be some kind of old palace of some rich person. There are some exhibits of Algerian life of the past 100-200 years.

We don't spend too much time in this museum, and by 3:30pm we are out of it. Then we slowly walk down to the Martyrs's square and take the metro back to the Amirouche station.

Once in Amirouche, we fetch the car and drive to the Bab Ezzouar shopping mall. We arrive there around 5:10pm. Around this time of the day the mall is not so full and there are no traffic jams on the roads leading to the mall. We spend the next 1:30 hours in the mall, shop around a bit and have dinner there.

While in the mall, I go to a Mobilis outlet and ask why there is no 4G on my phone. They tell me that I have a 3G only SIM card and if I want to switch it to 4G, I lose all airtime and mobile data volume. I'm guessing that when I "upgraded" the SIM card in the Tipasa Mobilis shop with the 1000 DZD package, they perhaps downgraded the SIM card to 3G only. And then the guy tells me that I should keep it as 3G, because the 4G network is disturbed. Seems this Mobilis mobile phone network is crap. Right now and over the past days I have had very poor Internet connectivity on this SIM card. It is often even impossible to download emails.

After dinner we drive back to the apartment. In the evening I call the apartment owner and tell him that we move out tomorrow at 9am.




6.1: Algiers -> Rome -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny, spotless blue sky in Algiers in the morning. Quite fresh at perhaps 10°C. Sunny, blue sky in Rome, 13°C.

In the morning everything proceeds smoothly according to the plan. The guy of the flat shows up at 9:15am (15 minutes delay) to pick up the key of the apartmenr. After that we drive to the airport, no traffic jam, arriving before 9:30am. 

There we meet the guys of Safar el Amir (the car rental) to whom we return the car. They themselves return my ID card they had kept and the 250 Euro deposit + 20 of the 30 Euro I had paid too much (they keep 5 Euro as sort of a processing fee and charge 5 Euro to clean the car). So the car has cost in total 480 Euro for 15 days, which is ok because it's quite a big car with lots of space (Peugeot Partner Tepee) and we drove it for 3600 km across Algeria.

The Algiers airport terminal is relatively modern and reasonably clean. There are countless security checks: initially they screen all your bags when you go in, then they screen your cabin luggage twice. And before boarding the plane, they check multiple times your passport and boarding card.

The Alitalia flight to Rome is shown as departing at 11:40am which is strange because my booking shows it as a 12pm flight.

We have something in a cafe at the airport (some sandwiches) using the last remaining Algerian dinars (about 1800 dinars cash), then proceeed to the gate. At the passport control you have to fill in a departure card, which the passport control staff keeps. Some short queue at passport control and at the security screening, then we reach the gate area shortly after 11am. The flight is already boarding.

We buy some more drinks to carry along, then walk to the gate. Below there is a bus which brings us to the plane. Only the planes of Air Algerie and some other Tunisian airline are directly at the gate.

Overall there are few people at the Algiers airport on this Sunday morning.

The plane, an E175, is almost full. It starts rolling shortly after 11:50am and takes off at 11:55am. On board they serve a drink and some cookies (or a salty snack).

We land in Rome Fiumicino airport. Also there we need to take a bus to get to the terminal. Then we go again through secutity screenings (and I'm not allowed to bring along the water bottle I bought in Algiers) and get into the terminal. Between 2pm and 2:40pm we have a lunch in an Italian restaurant, then we walk to the gate. Quite long walking time (16 minutes) and there are no trolleys where we can put our bags. Then we go through a passport control and another security screening and around 3pm we are at the gate.

The Alitalia 3:40pm flight to Munich flight is already boarding. Another bus transfer to the plane, then around 3:25pm we are on the plane (an Airbus A330, quite full). The plane starts rolling at 3:48pm and takes off at 3:53pm with a short delay of 13 minutes.

We land at 5:10pm, retrieve our stuff and reach home around 7:30pm.


Copyright 2019 Alfred Molon