While you certainly need more than 24 hours to adequately explore a country or even a city, you can accomplish a lot in 24 hours. In this post, I will recount what I saw over a 24-hour period in Algiers, the capital of Algeria.
24 Hours In Algiers: What To Do, What To See
I arrived into Algeria late on a Saturday and left early on a Tuesday, but really only had two full days on the ground. Since I work while I travel, one of those days (actually a portion of both days) was spent working. It is what it is…without work, I cannot travel. This report will capture what I did over a 24-hour period from Sunday afternoon to Monday afternoon.
Yesterday, I shared two coffee recommendations. My venture from the Hyatt Regency at the airport into Algiers began in pursuit of coffee. But after a lovely coffee refuel at Narcoffee Roasters, I hopped in a taxi for my first tourist stop, the Maqam Echahid or Martyr’s Memorial. This was opened in 1982, on the 20th anniversary of Algeria’s independence from France.
While much of it was blocked off, it seemed to be a popular congregating point and was quite crowded during golden hour.
From the memorial, I walked around what appeared to be a largely deserted mall before taking a gondola down from Bab El Oued to Z’ghara, near the entrance to the Le Jardin d’Essai du Hamma (botanical garden). As it was dusk, the gardens were closed and I returned to the hotel.
The following morning, I got started after breakfast. There is no Uber in Algeria. Instead, a ride-sharing app called YASSIR is used. Due to heavy traffic around the airport, I had a lot of trouble finding a driver. I would summon one, wait several minutes, but then cancel because they had not moved closer toward me.
Ultimately, I was about to use a taxi when a car rolled up to the Hyatt, a young man rolled down the window, and called out, “Matthew?”
It was a driver I had canceled about 10 minutes prior…he had come anyway. And I’m so glad he did.
We were off, with our first stop being the Notre Dame d’Afrique. Perched high on a hilltop overlooking the city and the Bay of Algiers, the basilica opened in 1872.
An inscription on the church reads:
Notre Dame d’Afrique priez pour nous et pour les Musulmans
(“Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims”)
Rather than just drop me off, my driver Hecham wisely decided to stick around and we ended up spending the entire day together. During that time, we had several remarkable conversations and I was beyond grateful to get to know a local and gain a better understanding of Algeria.
Algiers is a bustling city with a lot of French influence in its architecture.
Our next stop was coffee at El Hyl Coffee in Hydra.
After, we headed back to the Hamma botanical garden for a walk. This garden is really a masterpiece in the heart of the city, a lovely public space where we spent the next hour walking around.
From there, Hecham wanted to take me to his neighborhood of Rouiba on the other side of the airport.
On the way, we passed the impressive Djamaa el Djazaïr (great mosque of Algiers). The mosque houses the world’s tallest minaret and is the third-largest mosque in the world after the Great Mosque of Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi of Medina in Saudi Arabia. I wanted to stop in, but was told that as an infidel I would not be allowed inside (Hecham and I had such a great conversation over matters of faith throughout the day).
Interestingly, the mosque was built by the China State Construction Engineering Corporation.
We parked on a busy street in Rouiba and found a shawarma shop for lunch. It was delicious…hitting the spot after several hours of walking around and only drinking coffee.
After lunch, we went to a coffee shop Hecham liked called Diagonal and enjoyed our last coffee of the day (by this time, it was approaching 5:00 pm).
Hecham dropped me off at my hotel and bid me adieu. It was a great day and if you are in need of an English-speaking, safe, reliable, and intelligent driver, I wholeheartedly recommend Hecham. He can be reached on WhatsApp at +213 656 37 40 08.
Of course, I barely just scratched the surface of Algiers, let alone the other great cities of Algeria. But I was very happy with what I managed to see in a 24-hour period and so thankful for the chance to visit such a lovely capital city.
Did any kids cry during the trip? Inquiring minds want to know.
This is a great post and much of the site content is very good. Bring people along on the beauty of Algeria or name-call random passengers. Your choice but in practice your brand cannot be expect to credibly do both. If not for 135+ comments I’d have avoid your notorious name-calling defense of parental privilege post. The humans acting badly post are the least differentiated part of the content on here.
This is digital blackface and it’s quite problematic.
Reportedly, one of the ride-sharing cars was double-booked between Matty and a family. When one of the kids started crying, Matty decided not to look like a jerk in case the family posted about it on social media so he let them have the car.
You have remarked for years about wanting to visit Algeria. I’m glad you made it…
At points, your pictures reminded me of Maputo. The church looked Armenian. The modern parts of the city and the gardens looked Parisian. I hope to visit.
It’s spectacular to me that a city that appears to have so much going on flies entirely under the radar to most people in the West. I understand Algeria’s reasoning behind their visa policy, but they might gain a lot by following the lead of their North African neighbors. Brazil (and India and Saudi) managed to get over their ego, and I’m sure it has served their tourism sector well.
We Algerians would be happy for you to visit us Jerry! Come on by, but to be clear, we also really really don’t want to be like our neighbours (with all due respect to our lovely neighbours) with mass tourism. That’s what makes Algeria so authentic and unique, and real. It’s uncorrupted by mass tourism. Nobody has an agenda or trying to sell you stuff. Our archaeological sites are spectacular and uncrowded. The desert and mountains and landscape – you would not believe. We are in the most touristed zone in the world, just look at some of our neighbours (Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, France) , but we fly under the radar on purpose. We draw highly cultured travellers and explorers (really not denigrating all inclusive tourists etc., – that’s cool as well). That’s our niche. So, please come visit, and you’ll leave grateful that the barriers for entry (visas etc.) are actually good for you and us. Really. And thank you Mathew for your post!
P.S. Matthew. Anyone can enter the great Mosque in Algiers or anywhere in Algeria — even infidels 😉 lol.
Great post and pics! You did all that in 24hours, Amazing! Bravo!
Great post – Algeria is on the todo list.
Looks beautiful. Hope to have some time there in my wanderings. Thanks for the report.
Nice review. Were the Chinese mosque builders Muslim? Or is entry only prohibited after consecration? Odd questions but having infidels build your feature religious structure doesn’t strike me as exactly normal either.
It depends on whether they want to open up the mosque to tourists or not. There are many mosques non-Muslims can enter and visit throughout the Muslim world, from the UAE to Egypt to Turkey to Morocco. Seems like the people in Algeria decided not to allow it there for some reason.
Very valid point but it doesn’t really address my question since this mosque is prohibited for nonbelievers.
At the end of the day, does it really matter who built the mosque?
If it hadn’t specifically been mentioned, no. Since it was, it’s a potential learning experience.
You dont need to be musilm to enter a mosque, you need to be muslim only to go to mecca,
For that specific mosque ” the great mosque of Algeria” its closed even for us Algerians… So… It has nothing to do with muslim or not.
I was told it was because I am not Muslim. Why is it closed?
I’ve also been denied entrance into the Dome of the Rock on the same grounds. I wish it was just Mecca.
It’s not closed and the cab driver is obviously clueless. I can assure you that anyone can enter any mosque in Algeria, regardless of their faith. As long as they follow some simple rules, such as removing their shoes, being clean and covering their heads (if they are women), they’ll be more than welcome to visit.
Thank you Chris. Good to know.
Access to the mosques in Algeria is open to all people regardless of religion or gender.
We do not have police or guards checking people’s religious affiliation.
Islam is a universal religion with adherents from all races.
He could visited this mosque or any mosque in algeria with not problems
We welcome anyone to visit
The Algerian people are open, no matter which religion you embrace