350 km from Constantine, it takes about 4 hours on the highway, buses and taxis are of abundance, there is one every 20 to 30 mns, even more during seasons, but perhaps the best way to get to Algiers is by air, it takes no more than 40 mns, there are 6 flights per day, more on weekends and seasons and the beauty of it, is that a round trip costs less than 40 dollars.
Algiers ‘la blanche’, the white one, is what the French called the capital of Algeria. A big, bustling, whitewashed city, with the Mediterranean out front, hills and rich farmland behind, Algiers (El-Djazaïr in Arabic) is an exciting destination and the gateway to the country’s interior.
Algiers was the most successful of all the Barbary pirate bases, especially in the 16th century under the most remarkable pirate of all, Kheireddin Barbarossa. It was also the most cherished of all French colonial centres. And since independence in 1962, it has been the political, economic and cultural hub of an extremely large and culturally and geographically diverse country. The largest port in northwest Africa and the largest city too, it now spreads far to accommodate a population that has doubled in 20 years.
Algiers suffered along with the rest of the country during the ‘black years’ of the 1990s. Since then, it has seen a strange split in its fortunes. You don’t have to walk far in the centre to see people hanging around with nothing to do. All capitals have their jobless and homeless, but they look out of place in a country that has just paid off its foreign debt. Thanks mainly to oil and gas revenue, there has never been so much cash in the city the state is spending large sums and there is a sense among some individuals that money is there to be made. The number of new cars choking the main roads is a sign of growing personal prosperity.
Yet, in its rush to modernise Algiers has still preserved some of its old mystique; it has a strong sense of identity and is still dazzlingly white.