Annaba, Algeria

Photo: Faten Aggad (http://www.fotopedia.com/items/faten-3dsibwOmfKE) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Faten Aggad (http://www.fotopedia.com/items/faten-3dsibwOmfKE) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
So you think you have a pretty good understanding of North Africa. You’ve explored Egypt’s historical sites, Tunisia’s beaches, and Morocco’s souks. Libya is on hold for now—for obvious reasons—but you’ll get there eventually. Fingers crossed. But what about Algeria? The Mediterranean country is often overlooked, except by French and Italian travelers. It’s time to change that. It’s time to explore Africa’s largest nation.

Most of Algeria is hot, sandy, and empty. The Algerian Desert, which is part of the Sahara, covers more than four-fifths of the country. It’s quite an undertaking to explore. So let’s start somewhere easier.

Annaba sits along the northeastern coast, only 60 miles from the Tunisian border. The Seybouse River empties into the Mediterranean here. Wheat fields and fruit orchards sit along the fertile riverbanks. Lush mountains and green foothills are in the distance. It was called Hippo Regius by the Romans and Bône by the French. It’s now Algeria’s fourth-largest city.

Photo: Oris (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Oris (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Annaba is divided into two sections. The Kasbah, the oldest part of the city, surrounds Place du 19-Août. It’s filled with 12th-century Ottoman architecture, narrow alleyways, mosques. The Mosque of Salah Bey was built in 1787, and the Mosque of Sidi Bou Merouan was built with columns from the nearby Roman ruins.

The newer section of the city was built in the late 1800s after the French arrived. The wide, main street, Cours de la Révolution, has colonial buildings, pretty gardens, and lots of palm trees. The Basilica of St. Augustine looks like the Sacré-Cœur with stained glass windows, towering naves, and immense arches. Nearby, the ancient ruins of Hippo Regius are now surrounded by rosemary, olive trees, and grazing sheep. Remnants of the stone walls, the grand basilica, and the fountains can still be seen. Plus, the small, hillside museum has sculptures and mosaics.

After wandering around the city, your day will no doubt end at La Corniche. The waterfront promenade overlooks the soft, white sand and the small fishing boats on Chappui beach. Little restaurants sell Italian-style pizza and boureks (Algerian eggrolls). Ice cream shops are just as popular as tea rooms and hookah cafés. And the sea breeze is quickly cooling you off. It’s been a pleasure, Annaba. Sorry it took so long to get here.

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