Can a city remake its image? How about an entire country? Algeria certainly hopes so. The largest country in Africa wants to leave the past behind. It hopes you forget about its long civil war. It plans to shift its economy away from oil and gas. Plus it dreams of competing with Morocco and Tunisia for your tourism dollars.
Algiers is a striking capital. It sits on the west side of the Bay of Algiers in a port that’s well-sheltered from the wind. Whitewashed buildings look like they’ve been dragged out of the bright blue Mediterranean Sea. The modern part of the city lies on the level ground by the shore. It has wide boulevards and elegant villas built by the French. The ancient city, which has been settled for more than 1,000 years, climbs a steep hill. The Casbah is a labyrinth of lanes, houses, and mosques. When you feel disoriented—everyone does eventually—just head down toward the water to regain your bearings.
Once Algiers becomes more exciting than confusing, you’ll want to find Kouba. This used to be a separate village southeast of the city. As Algiers grew, first under French rule and even more so when it became the capital after the country won its independence, Kouba was absorbed into it. The suburb is now home to low villas (no more than five stories tall) and a popular church (Saint-Vincent de Paul de Kouba).
Kouba is also home to a new boutique hotel. Lamaraz Arts Hôtel is modern and luxurious. Its rooms are large and understated with blonde-wood furniture and comfortable beds. The small spa includes a hammam and a sauna. La Baie, a restaurant on the seventh floor, features an outdoor terrace with a panoramic view of the actual bay. While the helpful staff will go out of their way to ensure that your first visit won’t be your last. That confidence goes a long way.