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Algeria [Country Flag of Algeria]


Algeria is the second largest country in Africa, covering an area of nearly 2.5 million square miles. It is located in northern Africa, along the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia, and is bounded on the southwest by Mauritania and Mali, on the southeast by Niger, and the west by Libya. Measuring 2,381,741 square kilometers (919,595 square miles), Algeria covers an area comparable to slightly less than 3.5 times the size of the state of Texas.

Since earliest times, this part of Africa was inhabited by Berber people. Then, for over 500 years, the coast came under Roman rule until the Arabs penetrated North Africa in the seventh century and converted the Berbers to Islam.

ln 1830, the French invaded Algeria. The Algerian population was condemned to economic, social and political inferiority and an armed resistance to the occupation followed, lasting for decades. Unlike Morocco and Tunisia, also occupied by the French, Algeria was considered an integral part of France. Thus, education, for example, when available to Algerians, was in French.

The years before World War II saw a revival of the Nationalist movement and the formation of the Party of the Algerian People (PPA). In 1942, Algerian nationalists established an Algerian constituent assembly, and, a year later, demanded reforms including the introduction of Arabic as an official language, and the eventual creation of an Algerian state. The French rejected these demands.

In March 1944, after a visit to Algiers by General Charles de Gaulle, some compromises were made. Still, French settlers continued to reject any real concessions to the Algerians. During a peaceful demonstration on the 8th of May, 1945, during which Algerians called for recognition of their right to independence after having contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany, 45,000 Algerians were killed in a brutal repression.

By 1954, Algerian opposition had turned into full-scale revolt led by the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN). Severe French repression of the Muslim population, including the use of torture and internment, and the hijacking and arrest of the FLN leader, Ahmed Ben Bella in 1957, was condemned both at home and abroad. By 1959, General de Gaulle was forced to recognize the strength of Algerian nationalism and the first secret talks between the FLN and the French took place in 1960.

In November, de Gaulle announced that a referendum on the future of Algeria would be held. The final step towards Algerian independence was taken at a referendum in July 1962; 91 % of the population voting in its favor. Independence was declared on July 3rd, 1962.

The United States Department of State warns U.S. citizens to evaluate carefully the implications for their security and safety before deciding to travel to Algeria. Although the level of terrorist incidents in Algeria is lower than in recent years, unpredictable attacks continue to occur in crowded urban areas, in rural villages and roadsides, and on public transport.

For those Americans who decide to travel to Algeria despite this warning, the Department urges maximum caution, including the following measures: minimize use of regularly scheduled commercial flights, be met and accompanied by pre-arranged local contacts upon arrival and departure at airports, and have armed protection while traveling overland. Nighttime travel outside the central urban areas should be strictly avoided. Visitors to the capital of Algiers should reside only in one of the several large, internationally recognized hotels where security is provided. U.S. citizens should not travel or walk anywhere in Algeria unless accompanied by a known Algerian companion. This measure applies to walking the streets of Algiers and other cities. U.S. Embassy personnel take all of these precautions.

Most recent terrorist activity has occurred in northern Algeria. U.S. oil companies operating in the desert region south of the Saharan Atlas Mountains have experienced no attacks in the past year. The Algerian Government and the companies themselves take maximum security precautions, including the measures described above, to ensure safety in the oil-producing region.

A giant of a country, plagued by terrorism and violence, Algeria has enormous resources, a tremendous potential and seems, at last, to be on the path of peace. It is well into the process of stripping itself of its state run industries and has flung wide the gates to desperately needed private and foreign investment required to solve its pressing problems of housing, unemployment and poverty.

It has chosen a new President whose announced aims seem to be to widen and further liberalization, to bring peace and prosperity to the people.

For Daring Adventurers
The principal towns in Algieria include Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Annaba, Blida, Setif, and Sidi be Abbes, and main tourist attractions include the Mediterranean coast, the Atlas mountains and the desert.

[Map of Algeria]

Algeria’s multiple faces boast some beautiful architecture. Its geography, its sites, its climates, and its traditions have created various masterpieces. You can find terrace-leveled architectures in the Aures, prodigious vernacular representations in the antique towns of Timgad or M'zab, and the Casbah or the Mansourah remains.

In Algeria, the traditional clothing is a keen illustration of the life of women and men during the 17th and 18th centuries.


Virtually all Algerians, according to statistics, are Sunni Muslims, and Islam is recognized as the state religion. Christianity, since the departure of the French in 1962, is a peripheral religion. Jews, according to the most recent statistics gathered by the Sephardic Jewish Federation, number 5,000.

Algerian Arabic is the primary language of around 86 percent of the Algerian population. The official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Most of the remainder speak various Amazigh dialects. French is also spoken among the educated, a result of French colonialism. In 1995, about 57 percent of the population, over 15 years, were literate.


Location: Northern Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Morocco and Tunisia

[Map of Algeria]

Area-comparative: slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Texas

Coastline: 998 km

Climate: arid to semiarid; mild, wet winters with hot, dry summers along coast; drier with cold winters and hot summers on high plateau; sirocco is a hot, dust/sand-laden wind especially common in summer

Terrain: mostly high plateau and desert; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain

Natural resources: petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, zinc

Geography—note: second-largest country in Africa (after Sudan)


Population: 31,133,486 (July 1999 est.)


Ethnic groups: Arab-Berber 99%, European less than 1%

Religions: Sunni Muslim (state religion) 99%, Christian and Jewish 1%

Languages: Arabic (official), French, Berber dialects


Country name:
conventional long form: Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria
conventional short form: Algeria
local long form: Al Jumhuriyah al Jaza'iriyah ad Dimuqratiyah ash Shabiyah
local short form: Al Jaza'ir

Government type: republic

Capital: Algiers

National Holiday: Anniversary of the Revolution, 1 November (1954)

Constitution: 19 November 1976, effective 22 November 1976; revised 3 November 1988, 23 February 1989, and 28 November 1996; note—referendum approving the revisions of 28 November 1996 was signed into law 7 December 1996

Legal system: socialist, based on French and Islamic law; judicial review of legislative acts in ad hoc Constitutional Council composed of various public officials, including several Supreme Court justices; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Ramtane LAMAMRA
chancery: 2118 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 265-2800
FAX: [1] (202) 667-2174

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Cameron R. HUME
embassy: 4 Chemin Cheikh Bachir El-Ibrahimi, Algiers
mailing address: B. P. Box 549, Alger-Gare, 16000 Algiers
telephone: [213] (2) 69-11-86, 69-12-55, 69-18-54, 69-38-75
FAX: [213] (2) 69-39-79

Flag description: two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and white with a red, five-pointed star within a red crescent; the crescent, star, and color green are traditional symbols of Islam (the state religion)


Economy—overview: The hydrocarbons sector is the backbone of the economy, accounting for roughly 52% of budget revenues, 25% of GDP, and over 95% of export earnings. Algeria has the fifth-largest reserves of natural gas in the world and is the second largest gas exporter; it ranks fourteenth for oil reserves. Algiers' efforts to reform one of the most centrally planned economies in the Arab world began after the 1986 collapse of world oil prices plunged the country into a severe recession. In 1989, the government launched a comprehensive, IMF-supported program to achieve economic stabilization and to introduce market mechanisms into the economy. Despite substantial progress toward economic adjustment, in 1992 the reform drive stalled as Algiers became embroiled in political turmoil. In September 1993, a new government was formed, and one priority was the resumption and acceleration of the structural adjustment process. Burdened with a heavy foreign debt, Algiers concluded a one-year standby arrangement with the IMF in April 1994 and the following year signed onto a three-year extended fund facility which ended 30 April 1998. Progress on economic reform, a Paris Club debt rescheduling in 1995, and oil and gas sector expansion have contributed to a recovery since 1995. Investments in developing hydrocarbon resources have spurred growth, but the economy remains heavily dependent on volatile oil and gas revenues. The government has continued efforts to diversify the economy by attracting foreign and domestic investment outside the energy sector in order to reduce high unemployment and improve living standards.

Labor force—by occupation: government 29.5%, agriculture 22%, construction and public works 16.2%, industry 13.6%, commerce and services 13.5%, transportation and communication 5.2% (1989)

Unemployment rate: 30% (1998 est.)

Industries: petroleum, natural gas, light industries, mining, electrical, petrochemical, food processing

Agriculture—products: wheat, barley, oats, grapes, olives, citrus, fruits; sheep, cattle

Exports—commodities: petroleum and natural gas 97%

Imports—commodities: capital goods, food and beverages, consumer goods

Currency: 1 Algerian dinar (DA) = 100 centimes


Telephone system:
domestic: good service in north but sparse in south; domestic satellite system with 12 earth stations (20 additional domestic earth stations are planned)
international: 5 submarine cables; microwave radio relay to Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and Tunisia; coaxial cable to Morocco and Tunisia; participant in Medarabtel; satellite earth stations—2 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean), 1 Intersputnik, and 1 Arabsat


total: 4,772 km
standard gauge: 3,616 km 1.435-m gauge (301 km electrified; 215 km double track)
narrow gauge: 1,156 km 1.055-m gauge

total: 102,424 km
paved: 70,570 km (including 608 km of expressways)
unpaved: 31,854 km (1995 est.)

Ports and harbors: Algiers, Annaba, Arzew, Bejaia, Beni Saf, Dellys, Djendjene, Ghazaouet, Jijel, Mostaganem, Oran, Skikda, Tenes

Airports: 137 (1998 est.)


Military branches: National Popular Army, Navy, Air Force, Territorial Air Defense, National Gendarmerie

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