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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Algeria


With more than four-fifths of its territory covered by the Sahara desert, the Sahara is Algeria's most striking feature and is drawing increasing numbers of tourists. Several flights operate from Algiers, the capital, to Ghardia, Djanet and Tamanrasset, as well as to smaller towns, oases and oil settlements.Algerian oases generally defy the European cliché of a small patch of palms forever threatened by encroaching dunes as they are often fairly large towns with highly organised, walled-in gardens with date palms, and mosques, shops and monuments. Les hommes bleus, blue-robed Touaregs, who are the ancient nomadic inhabitants of the Hoggar Mountains, can be seen making their way in camel caravans around the inscrutable desert.A large country, Algeria was originally inhabited by the Berbers until the Arabs conquered North Africa in the seventh century. Staying mainly in the mountainous regions, the Berbers resisted the spreading Arab influence, managing to preserve much of their language and culture until the present day. Today, they make up some 20% of the total population.Part of the Turkish Ottoman empire from the 16th century, Algeria was conquered by the French in 1830. The country was given the status of a département in its own right. The struggle for independence began in 1954 headed by the National Liberation Front, which came to power on independence in 1962.In the 1990s, Algerian politics was dominated by the struggle involving the military and Islamic militants. In 1992, a general election won by an Islamic party (FIS - Islamic Salvation Front) was annulled, marking the beginning of a bloody campaign which saw the slaughter of more than 150,000 people.An amnesty in 1999 led many rebels to lay down their arms. Violence has largely abated, although a state of emergency remains in place. In 2001, the government agreed to a series of demands by the minority Berber community, after months of unrest involving Berber youths pressing for greater cultural and political recognition.It should be noted that Algeria faces a serious internal security problem from terrorist insurgency and that travellers by road in northern Algeria are at risk of attack by terrorist groups. It is advised that all travellers be extra cautious with personal security arrangements throughout their stay. All travel to the southeastern provinces of Tamanrasset, Djanet and Illizi is currently advised against

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