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Algeria: Algiers Casbah

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Algiers Casbah | Algeria | Africa

[Visited: February 2015]

Just before leaving the country, I find time to visit the Casbah of Algiers. The warnings are severe: it is supposed to be an unsafe place to go, and I decide to stick to the lower parts. When I stop at one of the mosques, guys are making remarks, and the feel is totally different from the relaxed one I had during my travels around Algeria. I need to return to my hotel for a fresh battery anyway, and decide to leave almost all my stuff in my room. I walk back to the Casbah, and am in full alert for what happens around me. At the same time, I am curious to delve e into this famous old part of Algiers, which was considered so dangerous even the police did not dare to go inside. When I stop at a small bar which is decorated in traditional style, the owner invites me in, proudly shows me his shop, and gives me a drink when I leave. From below, the casbah looks like a giant white layer on top of a hill, and now I am about to get a closer look of what is behind that white layer. Upon closer inspection, the white of the houses is not always white anymore; the Casbah could do with some maintenance, especially since it is a Unesco World Heritage site.

Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Part of the side of Djemaa Ketchoua, mosque in the lower Casbah of Algiers

After checking out the exterior of the Djemaa Ali Bitchine mosque, with a fountain covered in colourful tiles but unfortunately also a closed door, I walk up the hill on which the Casbah is built. The higher I go, the narrower the streets and alleys become. Some of the houses are tilting towards each other, so much so that they touch each other on the second floor. Walking slowly, I discover many interesting details. A door frame with tiles, and marble, and a wooden door, columns, strips of tiles on the walls, wooden poles used to carry the weight of upper floors which are sticking out of the front of the house. I venture in the courtyard of an old, dilapidated building, and realize that people live here: laundry is hanging over the balconies. I walk past a school and a museum, and descend to the lower part of the Casbah.

Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Narrow alley with steps in the Casbah of Algiers

Here, I find some big buildings, like the Dar Zaid Aissa and the Dar Mustafa Pasha, most from the 18th century. Some are classified as monuments, one has a rich entrance with a carved cedar wood canopy above it. There are hammams, and when the door is open, I take a peek inside: walls covered in tiles. At the end of my walk, I come to a square, where I first find the majestic Dar Hassan Pacha, which unfortunately is off limits: under reconstruction. Still, over the iron fence, I can see the elegant windows, and when I walk the street right next to it, I see windows with coloured glass on the upper floor. This house stands right next to the early 17th century Djemaa Ketchoua mosque, which is also under reconstruction. Walking around it shows a unique mosque, with stairs, and partly tiled walls. During the years of French rule, this used to be the Cathedral; a cross once stood on the minarets, and Emperor Napoleon III took mass here. Right after independence was gained, the cathedral was turned into a mosque again. I would love to have a look inside, but that will have to wait for the day I return to Algiers. Right next to the mosque, a plaque on a wall commemorates the fact that a soldier was decapitated and mutilated on the spot during the Black Decade (the 1990s when Algeria saw religious violence), and when I take a picture, an older man approaches me, pulls out a photo, and tells me he is the father of the slain soldier. It is a sobering end of my walk through the Casbah, as my time is up.

Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Dar Hassan Pasha, right next to the Djemaa Ketchoua, under reconstruction
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Side alley of the Dar Hassan Pasha in the lower Casbah
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Alley in the Casbah with vaulted ceiling
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): The upper part of one of the minarets of the Djemaa Ketchoua in the Casbah
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): One of the richly decorated doorframes of the Casbah of Algiers
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): White washed building in the Casbah of Algiers with typical architecture
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): The Ali Bitchine mosque in the lower Casbah
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): The entrance of Dar Mustapha Pasha has a cedar wood canopy above its door
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Stairs on both sides of this house in the Casbah
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Typical entrance of a house in the Casbah of Algiers
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Tiles decorate this entrance to a hammam
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Dar el-Hamra seen from below
Picture of Algiers Casbah (Algeria): Typical Moorish interior of Dar Aziza

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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