Wednesday, March 3, 2020
Our day started with a walking tour in the Casbah (fortress) of Algiers, a UNESCO World Heritage site situated on a hill. We had to wait about 20 minutes for our police escorts (plain clothed) to join our group before we could start. They helped keep our group together as there was so much to see and take photos of that it was easy for one of us to get distracted and fall behind. We started at the top of the hill and worked our way down. Our guide, Abdelkader, explained the history and architecture of the area - from Roman ruins, to mosques, to schools, to houses, and palaces. We saw the changes brought on by the different occupations of the Ottomans, the French, and the Algerian insurgency. Here are the highlights:
- An old roman wall is near the Palace of the Dey, a large complex built in the 16th century originally containing two mosques, gardens, a palace, harem, and other buildings. We couldn’t go in as it is being restored, but we could see the newer gate that the French carved into the wall when they divided the palace in two separating residential and military quarters during their occupation.
- We visited the exterior of an old citadel home not far from the palace. Abdelkader pointed out the unique structure – exterior and interior wooden beams - that provided support and allow movement during earthquakes.
- A house damaged beyond repair was only partially demolished and left to be a community-gathering place.
- Sidi Ramadan Mosque: one of the oldest mosques, it was founded in 1097 and named after a soldier from the early Muslim conquest. It is also an UNESCO World Heritage site. Abdelkader explained that the limestone walls help keep it cool in summer and warm in winter. It is long and narrow, which is unusual for a mosque.
- A school and kids playing
- Bakeries complete with samples:
- Artisan shops
- We toured an old house slowly being restored into a roof top restaurant for future tourists. It has a great view of the city and inspired Karim to do an interview with Amel about her memories of Algiers - it became a very emotional moment.
- Dar Hassan Pasha, an 18th century palace for Hassan III Pasha with its mix of Turkish, Dutch, and Italian tiles...
- National Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions - A museum in a former Turkish residence with pottery, photos, furniture, and other exhibits...
- We walked the streets and allies seeing neighborhood fountains, doors, wall art, and people going about their daily lives.
All this, and we haven't stopped for lunch yet!!