Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Algeria: Surprising Africa

My one week's stay in Algeria completely changed my misconceptions about Africa. I thought Africa is mostly black, but I found in Algeria, mostly Arabs. I thought Africa is dry and barren because of the Sahara desert, but I discovered that Algeria is a large producer of agriculture. The fruits here are huge and "marvelously" sweet.

My experience in Algeria didn’t begin well initially. I arrived in Algeria on 16 August after a tiring 16 hour’s flight. The airport in Algiers was a disappointing sight! It looked something like the train station in Tanjong Pagar, very shabby and rundown. The airport was so small that once I cleared immigration, I was out of the airport. My welcoming party was waiting for me outside the airport gates! Talk about first impressions.

Well, my first impression didn’t last because when I look elsewhere, Algeria is rapidly changing. Under the current president, revenue from oil (a chief resource) is being pumped into a development program. Construction projects are springing up everywhere. Many of these projects were given to Chinese construction companies. Little wonder there are many Chinese living in Algeria. Even the new international airport is now being built by the Chinese construction workers!!!

(French style architecture in downtown Algiers)

In terms of culture, Algerians love the French. Their official business language is French, they watch French TV, their cooking is French style, their laws follow the French legislature, they like to drive French Renaults and Peugeot and their buildings were built by the French. In a nutshell, Algeria is like France with Arabs.

The people of Algeria are warm and humble. Although they are Muslims, many of them do love their wine. Algerian wine tastes excellent – smooth, light and fruity. Algerians love their food too. Every night after work, we are taken by our hosts to a hearty late night dinner. Their food tastes excellent although the portions are too big. Imagine a food lover like me having to refuse more food!!!

(The post office)

The country is not without its flaws too. The service is incredibly inefficient (I waited 20mins for my beer during lunch!!! =P) They don’t have a sense of urgency in what they do. Their flights are normally delayed for more than an hour!!! But after sitting down and dining with them, you tend to see things from their point of view. When you are in Algeria, what’s the hurry?

(Wedding at the airport: the groom has to fly from another city to fetch his bride here)


Farid Zadi said...


I am a French born Algerian living in the states.

The French and European influences in Algeria are more evident in large urban areas, especially coastal cities.

Yes, Algerians do not have a sense of urgency. :-)

Sencha said...

Indeed the "never-on-time" attitude of Air Algerie never ceased to amaze me.