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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Algeria has been inhabited since antiquity by a series of empires, including the Numidians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans. The region adopted Islam in the seventh century after the arrival of the Umayyad Caliphate, and the area passed through the hands of the Ottoman, Spanish, and French empires until it achieved independence, after a decade-long war, in 1962. The National Liberation Front (FLN), which played a prominent role in defeating the French, has remained the country’s primary political party since then. In the early 1990s the right-wing Islamic Salvation Front achieved some success in elections; the result was a government crackdown that led to an eight-year civil war and some 100,000 casualties. By 2000 the Islamic Salvation Front had disbanded, and the threat of terrorism has largely receded.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. In the northern parts of Algeria, dress for mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers—sunscreen and moisturizer are essential if you’re visiting between April and September. The desert and mountainous regions experience extreme shifts in temperature, however: it can get as hot as 131 degrees Farenheit (55 degrees Celsius) but quite cold at night. If you plan on trekking or camping in the Sahara, explain the weather conditions to your local camping store and ask about appropriate equipment and clothing.
2. Although you can probably travel alone in Algiers, the Algerian government prohibits any unguided travel south of Ghardaïa. The best method is to hire a guide through an accredited travel agency. A list can be found here
3. Arabic, French, and some Berber dialects are spoken in Algeria. North African Arabic may be difficult to understand if you are trained in the dialect spoken on the Arabian Peninsula, but almost everyone is bilingual and you will generally not encounter problems, especially if you can converse in French.
4. Algeria is one of the most devout countries in Africa, and its population is almost uniformly Muslim, with small Christian and Jewish components. That situation will affect travelers the most in their choice of dress. We advise that women, especially, dress modestly.
5. Algeria uses the Algerian dinar as its currency. ATMs are scarce even in Algiers and Oran, and most do not accept foreign cards. Few vendors will accept credit cards, so carry cash.