Before each port we visit we have a port talk summarizing the history of the port, briefly describing each excursion, and giving us warnings or advice about things we need to know. The port talk on Algeria was over the top with warnings. First, the port itself is going to make us yearn for the dirty, decrepit ports of Goa and Cochin, India. While it isn’t needed, we will have police escorts wherever we go. Don’t take a picture of the police or military or your camera will be confiscated. Binoculars are considered an instrument of war and will be confiscated if you take them ashore. If you take a camera or jewelry ashore valued at more than $1000 you need to complete a customs form and it is better to leave it on the ship. Algiers is not accustomed or prepared for tourists. There is no tourist shopping. Despite all this, the Viking Sea became the largest ship to visit Algiers last year and most of the passengers were very happy with the experience.
Algeria was part of France for 130 years. According to our onboard lecturer, it was unthinkable to the French people that Algeria would be anything other than French. That ended in 1962 after a ten year revolutionary war where they won their freedom from France. This freedom was then followed by ten years of civil war. The economy is totally dependent on their oil and gas reserves. The military is the biggest employer in the country and Algeria ranks close to the bottom in friendliness for starting a new business.
The Martyrs’ Memorial, built to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their freedom from France, honors all those who died in the revolution. Russia gave them the three statues of a martyr that stand at the base of the concrete pillars.Most of the apartment buildings in town were quite dilapidated, but everyone seemed to have a satellite disk.The buildings in the French section of town were typically white with blue, wrought iron balconies. About a third of the buildings in this area of town were being renovated. Most of the others also needed renovation.The botanical garden was primarily trees, ponds, and statues.This tree is known as the Tarzan tree since one of the Tarzan movies was filmed in the gardens.Friday is the first day of the weekend in Algiers, so the park was packed with people. Since tourists and English speakers are both rare, we were quite a novelty to the locals. When our ship pulled into port, all the workers had their cell phones out taking our picture. These girls are taking a selfie with the guitarist on our ship. Most of the women wore head scarves, but they are free to wear traditional or modern dress.Algeria is 99% Muslim, but that still leaves enough Christians for this beautiful church.
There were policeman and military everywhere directing traffic, patrolling the streets, and walking around all the sites we visited. The only place we have been that had more police around was downtown Mexico City. Despite the plea from all the guides to visit them again, we did not add Algeria to our planned trip to Malta next year. Our next two ports of call are in Spain. It is hard to believe, but we arrive home a week from today!