Sunday, April 19, 2009

Moving to Algeria

by Dan on April 17, 2009

From luscious Mediterranean beaches to the vast Sahara Desert, Algeria presents visitors with constantly stunning and varied landscapes. The Sahara Atlas Mountains in the North, and the Ahaggar Mountains in the South, rise dramatically above the arid land. One of the most enchanting things about living in Algeria will be the opportunity to travel throughout the country to experience the diverse terrain and breathtaking scenery. The climate is as varied as the topography. The coastal region is generally pleasant, while in the desert there can be vast temperature differences between day and night, which should be kept firmly in mind when considering clothing.

Algeria boasts several fascinating cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with ruins from Phoenician, Roman, and other ancient Empires, as well as prehistoric rock paintings preserved from thousands of years ago. This rich cultural tradition has stayed strong in Algeria, and in particular there is an excellent literary tradition, with Albert Camus being the most well known to Western audiences. Some works by stand-out contemporary writers like Assia Djebar and Mohammed Dib can be found in English, and are highly recommended to anyone considering relocating to Algeria.

English is not commonly spoken in Algeria, so it will be essential to learn at least the basics of a foreign language. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn and connect. Arabic is the only official language, with variations throughout the country between Algerian and Standard Arabic. In fact, Berbers make up an ethnic majority of the population and many speak various Tamazight dialects. You are sure to impress locals if you attempt a little Arabic, so why not try?

French is not a national language, but it did survive de-colonization, and is the most widely spoken language among foreigners in Algeria, as well as still being common for commerce, diplomacy, and higher education.

Visitors from the United States or most European countries require a visa; information and applications can be found at the Embassy’s US website. The currency is the Algerian Dinar, and Westerners’ jaws will drop at the exchange rates. However, imported items are much more expensive (as well as quite limited). A willingness to go local is essential – it will enliven the experience and save you money!

One of the most extraordinary things about living in Algeria is the food. Think of shady olive groves and fragrant orchards, slow-cooked tajines and aromatic spices. The cuisine combines the best of Mediterranean and North African, new European and traditional Berber. See the mouthwatering blog of Chef Farid Zadi if you don’t believe us.

A land of natural extravagance and dramatic history, Algeria has a lot to offer to those bold enough to try life there. Learn some French or, better yet, Arabic, pack for the weather in the region you will be moving to, read a little Camus or Djebar, and prepare yourself for an Algerian adventure!