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New Year in Algeria

How do you plan to start the new year? You have no desire to endure the monotony of the usual dinners, dances and collateral events?

What do you think instead to plunge yourself into a completely different reality to be discovered?

Algeria can offer so many new emotions. It is the largest nation in North Africa. To the west there is Morocco, Tunisia to the east, south Mali and Niger, to the north, of course, the Mediterranean Sea. Click here to book a ferry to Algeria.

The Algerian landscape changes completely if you travel from the sea to the south of the country: it goes from the beaches of the coastal cities to the Atlas mountains to get to the Sahara desert and Hoggar area.

If you fear too big a change you can spend New Year in the capital Algiers, for example, which has many features almost similar to those of other European capitals, but it is also able to give you the new flavor of the Algerian culture.

Other coastal cities, such as Oran, Annaba and Skikda, are slightly less “international” than the capital but, given the large number of tourists that come to you every day, they are still equipped to interest and entertain their visitors.

Walking through the narrow streets around the stalls of the colorful souks, you have to admire fabrics, jewelery and carpets and pervaded by the smells and scents of spices, to enjoy a small part of Arab culture.

This culture is also found on the premises offering traditional cuisine (obviously couscous, the various tajines, the kefta, etc …)

Instead, for what concerns the discotheques, it must say that the choice is not very wide. In fact, are the most popular nights or dancing type piano bar also organized by most hotels.

Moving from the coast, is the town of Constantine is one of the cities most fantastic landscape from the point of view: Imagine a city between the sky and the rock, with fantastic bridges that seem suspended in the air. Each of these bridges offers an incredible sight to travelers to Constantine: the Sidi Rached Bridge, the Bridge Sidi M’Cid, the Pont des Chutes, one is the best.

Completely changing scenario, you can also think, if you are very adventurous, to go down to the south, and thus spend New Year’s in the desert. But it must point out that, for the Berbers, the New Year is not celebrated between December 31 and January, but almost two weeks after.

The possibilities for excursions in the Sahara are many – usually they are done in 4 × 4, mounting the fields for the night. Here there is no room for improvisation, one should rely to the right organizers for everything related to the path, if you do not want to risk that the adventure turns into disaster.

sahara_desert_algeria1

Photo CC-BY-SA in Mainam123456

You may for example be up to Tamanrasset (Tamenghest) and from there you will be willing to leave for one of the various paths, or start from the oasis of Djanet Touareg which is the perfect starting point for travel to the Acacus mountainous area. Here the show is absolutely fantastic: imagine immense sand dunes as high as 200 meters alternating with rocks of all shapes.

Another possibility, even more extreme, however, could be interesting only to those who already mountaineering expert: meaning to spend New Year in the volcanic area of ​​the plateau of Haggar, under Mount Tahat, the highest peak throughout Algeria, and later dedicated their passion.

One thing is certain, the new beginning of the year will be anything but boring!

Algeria’s typical dishes

We can not speak of traditional Algerian culture and lifestyle without first making a premise: Algerian cuisine boasts many differences between the coastal areas, therefore you can find the same diversity among the big cities such as the capital Algiers, and all the inland area; in the latter we can taste the real cuisine of Maghreb, without contamination. In coastal cities, however, the French cuisine has influenced a little all the traditional Algerian dishes. Not to mention the fact that, to satisfy all the tourists who arrive daily in Algiers and in other tourist cities, some restaurants even offer international cuisine.

However, even in these big cities, there are many restaurants that prepare traditional dishes exclusively belonging to Algerian tradition.

Of course, the couscous is somewhat “inevitable”, as in Morocco and Tunisia. In Algeria, the couscous is called KSEKSOU; then, according to the various ingredients, it can be a MASFOUF, a BARKOUKESS, etc…

We find flour as main ingredient of couscous in many other typical dishes, such as soups or desserts. One of these is the RFISS which is made from semolina, walnuts, dates, butter and orange blossom; then there is the KHFAF which is a semolina cake which, with the addition of honey, magically becomes the TAMMINA.

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Photo CC-BY-SA Wicanto

Again with the flour in ALGERIA they do MAHDJOUBA, coming with a filling of tomatoes and peppers; the semolina pancakes are called BAGHRIR.

The vegetables, especially in the period of Ramadan, are the main ingredients of many soups, but also of many salads as for example that of grilled peppers, the FELFA, or the mixed pickled vegetables called TBIKHA .

As for the meat, it can be cooked in various ways, but the most traditional preparation is stewing it with vegetables, in suitable pans  called Tajines from which also comes the name of these dishes.

The meat is the main ingredient of meatballs, always very spicy, which can be chicken, the MHAVET, or lamb, the METEWAN. The KEFTA look very much like hamburgers.

The chicken meat is prepared in many ways, and each dish has its own name: the YAHNI is the fried chicken; the stew chicken with chickpeas is called CHETITHA DJEDJ, the stew with egg and lemon is called SFERIA; instead RECTHA  indicates a dish of chicken and semolina.

All of these savory dishes are accompanied by the Algerian bread, which is prepared without yeast, and usually cooked on the plate; normally during lunch they not used the cutlery, as the bread is precisely used to take food from large serving dishes.

Algeria is the motherland of a typical drink made of fermented milk and is called LBEN; this drink usually accompanies the sweets. One of these sweets is the TCHARAK, a croissant stuffed with almond paste.

Other traditional drinks are coffee, prepared in the Turkish way, or tea  -usually mint tea. Algerian wines are excellent, both the whites and the reds and rosés ones; some of the best wines are produced in wineries located in the western region of Algeria, in the provinces of Oran and Algiers.

Bon voyage then and have a good tasting in Algeria (click here to book a ferry)!

Skikda: what to see and what to do

SKIKDA is a city located in Algeria, in the eastern part of the coast, not far from Annaba, in the homonymous bay, between the Cap de Fer and Cap Bougaroun. It is far 338 kilometers from the capital, Algiers. It is a very important port from a commercial and industrial point of view, with good rail and road connection to inland cities such as Constantine, which is only 60 km away.

skikdaPhoto CC-BY-SA 2.0 by Reda Kerbouche

In recent years the city is focusing a lot on international tourism as so far it was more concentrated on the capital Algiers or the other coastal cities such as Oran and Annaba. But the Algerians have always appreciated Skikda as a fantastic choice for their own local holidays. Not surprisingly since the beaches of Skikda have nothing to envy to other Algerian beaches and deserve to be  known more also by foreign tourists, especially if you are tired of spending your holidays always in the same places, with  crowded beaches where you have to be careful not to step on other bodies.

The ones lucky enough to arrive in Skikda, perhaps by boat, will not be disappointed: in fact if you are one of those, you will be able to stay in modern hotels, even luxurious, many of which have their own private beach; you will be eating tasty dishes in restaurants all scattered around in town, offering typical, local food but also international dishes and of course, the French cuisine that is always present in Northern Africa.

The culinary references to France are actually a lot, but it is perfectly normal given the history of the city, starting from the very name: it was known as Philippeville. In fact, until the independence of Algeria, the French left many traces of their heritage, such as some works of the famous architect Le Corbusier (one of them is the Town Hall). The monumental port took long years to become what today can be considered one of the most important Algerian ports, both for trade and industry and for fishing. The marina is increasingly used by ships and ferries from various nations.

The city is modern and can offer all you need to tourists who want to spend a relaxing beach holiday, with nice town walking dedicated to shopping, not to mention a good dinner of Algerian couscous in many typical restaurants. Of course it is not the same kind of tourism you can taste in other Algerian cities with many ancient monuments to visit, because unfortunately the Roman ancient city which gave its origin to Skikda is almost completely gone. There are only some preserved Roman ruins to be found in various buildings such as the town hall.

However, what you can do is to stay for one or more days here, and explore the nature which will change completely just visiting the surrounding area. After visiting the city you can go and admire the entire region that offers  completely different landscapes ranging from the coast, with forests and large areas dedicated to the cultivation of cereals, citrus fruits and vines and breeding of sheep and goats. Or you can go for example to Constantine which is located on a rocky plateau, surrounded by the Uadi Rhumel gorges, and presented to the traveller who arrives with an unforgettable view.

Returning to Skikda and to its sea, there are many beaches, such as Paradis Plage, Le Château Vert, la Plage Casino, the Lido or La Plage Marquette. You can easily visit the island Srigina as it is only 3 kilometers away. Taking a boat ride, you will love the atmosphere here, including a 1906 lighthouse and the Phare Rouge – enjoy gazing at all the islands that are located in the bay. Even if they have a name, some of the isles are so small that in fact they look like simple rocks that rise from the water. Moving away a little from the town is the village of Stora, with its beautiful beach and the lighthouse.

Walking in the city, the most striking area is that of Arcades; nearby there are numerous bars and restaurants; instead in the “bakers” area (pastry shops), which are mostly also tearooms, you can find sweet and fabulous cakes. It is very pleasant to sip tea savoring one of the many desserts offered by the menu and coming both from the Algerian tradition and the French one. The meeting point of the inhabitants is The Place, a large square which lies opposite the town hall; here young and old folks meet to chat and walk.

On the coast there are some very interesting parks and nature reserves, although a little distant from Skikda. In the direction of Tunisia, shortly after Annaba, almost 103 km far from Skikda, there is the El Kala Reserve. Instead, in the direction of Algiers, near the town of Jijel, there are Submarines Paths of El Aouana, which represents a quite unique experiment in its kind. A little further, at 180 km from Skikda, it is the town of Taza with its Coastal National Park.

skikda_algeriaPhoto CC-BY-SA Oussama.bouakba

The city of Skikda, whether you are visiting the coast or the inland areas, offer a wonderful discovery to make and provides an experience throughout the region that you will certainly want to repeat!

Algeria: weather and temperatures

What a wonderful feeling to leave behind the cold winter in the European continent for the heat of the African one in a hot country such as Algeria!

But be careful, because the weather situation can be very different according to the chosen destination. It is not always true that if we go to Algeria in winter the sun and the warm will welcome us anywhere.

In fact, all part of the coast with its capital Algiers does not bear many differences from other Mediterranean coasts such as those of Spain, France or Italy in the same period. If you want to get warm even in winter we have to go a lot further down, meaning in the Saharan desert.

If we start our trip in the summer, the entire coast is perfect as regard both the temperatures and the almost total absence of rain.

Apart from the capital Algiers, where you can arrive by ferry from various ports in the Mediterranean, there are many cities with its beaches to spend the holidays: starting from Oran, in the west, up to Annaba, in the easternmost, from Mest Ghanem and Skikda, the climate is the same. The only difference may be found in the water temperature, which is warmer in the east and slightly colder in Oran due to the currents from the Atlantic.

algeriPhoto CC-BY by Damouns

If you look at the map, you will notice that Algeria, meanwhile, it is the largest African nation, then divided into many very  regions, very different on both the geographical features and consequently the climate characteristics.

Starting from the north and getting down to the border with Mali and Niger, first of all we will find  the coastal region, then the mountainous area of ​​the Tell Atlas, the region des Hauts Plateaux (Highlands), the Saharan Atlas, the Western and Eastern Grand Erg, to get finally to the Hoggar area.

You will find mountainous regions with their  peaks, such as the Tell Atlas which reaches 2328 meters, and Hoggar which gets to even 2918 meters. These altitudes obviously affect the temperature and then, in winter, in these areas can also be snowing. The rain in winter is rare in Hoggar; instead it is more abundant in the area of ​​the Tell Atlas, especially in December and January, and almost not existent in the fall or spring. In summer, the only area that has major rains is Hoggar where it rains especially in August and September.

As for the temperatures, if we look at the city of Setif we notice that they are on average between 2 and 10 degrees in the month of January, between 7 and 18 degrees in April, 20 to 32 in August and between 11 and 21 in the month of October.

In Tamanrasset (or Tamenghest in Berber) instead, as it is located at an altitude of 1362 meters, in January the temperature will be ranging from a minimum of 5 degrees up to 20 degrees, in Spring temperatures remain between 20 and 23 degrees, as well as in the month of October; in Summer usually it will exceed 30 degrees.

tamanrassetPhoto Public domain

If we look at the coastal area, we see that in Algiers it rains abundantly especially in Winter, mainly in December and January. The average minimum temperatures are 5 degrees, the average maximum of 16 degrees. In April, they will be ranging from a minimum average of 8 degrees at a maximum of 20 degrees average. In Summer, in August, the minimum average is 19 degrees and the maximum average will be 31 degrees. In Autumn temperatures are still pleasant and, in October, easily reach 25 degrees. The sea temperature is quite low in Winter and Spring, about 15 degrees; in August it reaches 26 degrees and October is still pleasant to swim with a water temperature of about 22 degrees.

In Ghardaïa it rains more during the months of June and August and the average temperatures are of 8 degrees in January and 20 degrees in April, ranging from 33 degrees to 22 degrees from August to October.

The city of Laghouat is located 767 m above sea level; its climate can be described as desert with little rainfall. The month that sees the most rainfall is August which it is not the hottest month, though, with an average of only 28 degrees. In fact it is hotter in July when temperatures can soar up to 37 degrees. In January, it ranges from a minimum temperature of 3 degrees to a maximum of 12 degrees. In April, the minimum temperature is 9 degrees and the maximum of 23 degrees as in October.

Keep in mind that in many areas the temperature swings between day and night are quite notable and, therefore, it is important not to be surprised by these sudden changes of temperature. The best thing to do when travelling in these regions is to put more sweaters in your suitcase, even if you start in the summer, remembering to bring warmer clothing, even a duvet.

It would be a shame to ruin your vacation just because you are not properly clothed!