Travel

Strolling around Algiers: Mythical houses and the Kasbah.

Dear readers , i am back to the blog after some time with the idea to stay.

This time, i would like to talk to you about my beloved home country : Algeria.

I had the occasion to go back this christmas to Algiers capital city and rediscover it from a tourist point of view.

I have to say that despite of traveling the world and exploring different cities , i had never explored my own city before and it was about time. The reason of that  is that after the independence Algeria was mainly focusing on developing itself as independent country and particularly its oil and gas industry . It is only recently that it started to work on tourism despite a very reach history.

I knew my country had a long history of different civilizations coming to its land and mixing together creating the Algerian culture , but i never would have imagined all the forgotten architectural treasures that could still be found to this day. Rests from the Berbers, Romans , Arabs , Ottomans and French Civilizations remain in the country and can still be visited.

Villa Abdeltif, one of the most emblematic houses of algiers

We started by visiting one of the most emblematic houses : The Villa Abd-el-tif. Built during the Ottoman empire, this Villa has been during years the property of the french colons and taken different functions.

Villa_Abdeltif_Algiers.jpegThe villa was used as a resting residence for the artists during the french colonization. Only a few lucky ones , winners of the Abd-el-tif price were able to receive a bursary to live in the villa and study arts for two years in Algiers.

They were hosted and fed in an idyllic setting between the mountain and the direct views to the sea and the nature around. That place really felt peaceful and between all the different colours present in the nature , i could see how an artist could be inspired.

Villa_Abdeltif_Algiers_2.jpeg

Nowadays it became the headquarters of the Agence algérienne pour le rayonnement culturel and presents several exhibitions. In the main room , there was a painting exhibition of the national war heroes , some of them are well famous in algiers and others are from other cities as after the independence the tradition of bringing artists to the Villa was still perpetuated and artists were brought from all around the country.

The Kasbah, Algier’s heart

After that , we moved to the Kasbah, the historical heart of Algiers, a small citadel near the mediterranean sea where traditions seem to have remained strong.The Kasbah was built over a vertical drop and is characterized by its narrow streets that do not allow cars to get in, indeed the garbage collection is still made with the help of Donkeys.

When strolling around the citadel, i had a feeling of back to the roots and traditions and felt that the atmosphere was very warm and welcoming as the landscape was great and the people i talked to were lovely and helpful.

All was so authentic, i felt proud that we were able to maintain the heart of my home city intact for so long and protect it as a historical monument where people were still living their life around treasures and palaces.

Dar Aziza, Residence of the Constantine Beys

Our first stop inside the citadel was Dar Aziza, Built as second residence for the princess Aziza , daughter of the Dey married to the Bey of Constantine. The truth is that we did not find much information on this palace on site. However it is well known to have later became the second residence of every Bey of Constantine when they had to come to Algiers and pay the taxes.

Dar_aziza_Algiers.jpeg
This palace has taken many functions over the years until becoming to this day the National Office of Management and Exploitation of Cultural Properties and World Heritage by Unesco since 1992.

Dar Mustafa Pacha

Just a few steps away , Dar Mustafa Pacha Built by Mustafa pacha  between 1798 and 1799.  Legends say that the Dey was going there every Thursday and stayed until Friday’s prayer. 

Dar_Mustafa_Pacha_Algiers

After his death , the palace became property of the french army starting from 1830 and became a national library until 1962 where it became the location of the administrative services of the FLN ( Front Libérateur National) . Nowadays it is the museum of the illumination , calligraphy and miniatures.

Dar Khdaouj el amia, a beauty she could never admire

Finally our last stop : Dar khdaouj el amia. Dar Khdaouj el amia is an old ottoman palace that was built for the princess Khadija daughter of Hassan Khaznadji, treasurer of the Dey Mohamed Ben Othman. The legend says it was built by her father after Khadija got blind from admiring too much her beauty on the mirror with the purpose to grant her with a decent life.

This became one of the most beautiful and emblematic palaces of Algiers and khadija was never able to see the beauty that was surrounding here.

Mustafa

At the entrance of the palace , there was an exhibition with the theme of the Algerian woman, presenting the traditional clothing that they wore.

This palace was probably the most impressive by far , due to all the surrounding colors and objects from the old times.

Overall it was wonderful to visit , however i did miss some complementary explanations or brochures to give more details of the history of this palaces.  I believe this is something that will come with time as Algeria continues developing its tourism. Many people are working hard to maintain this sites and to make them known by the world and i believe that they are the ones that will make it evolve.

Until then, i hope that you enjoyed my post and that you are now thinking of the possibility to visit Algeria !

I will try to share with you other treasures of my beloved country in the next posts !

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Travel

Asian Adventures part 1 : Discovering Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; The Battu caves

Few months ago i had the opportunity to travel to Kuala Lumpur, capital city of Malaysia and discover the local culture.I had never been in Asia before and had no real expectations about what i was about to discover.

I had been told that 3 days was plenty of time to discover the city  and visit all the monuments and touristic sites nearby. I have to admit that was true, i  highly recommend not spending more than 2 or 3 days in kuala Lumpur, as there is a lot more to discover out of the capital. However do not miss it if you have the chance to travel to this beautiful country.

I Would like to start by presenting one of my favorite sites :The Battu Caves.

Battu caves is a limestone hill composed by several caves and Hindu temple caves dedicated to Lord Murugan.This caves are used as religious sites and welcome thousands of devotees and tourists every day.

During this visit, i was impressed by the multiple colors around me , the size of every stone , the immensity of the place and the perfect harmony between nature and man’s creation.

Battu.jpg MuBattu 2

Around the site, lots of small shops were selling local food and drinks, and given the hot weather i decided to try fresh coconut water before starting the exploration.

Battu caves are famous for their 272 stairs leading to the holy temple cave, i decided to follow this journey.

Steps

While Climbing the 272 stairs up to the temple cave i had to take several little breaks in order to reach the top. While i stopped i was admiring what was happening around me. It was wonderful to see how tourists and devotees seem to mix up perfectly.

Hindu families were climbing , dressed up in their traditional clothes and seemed to pray every step of the way. I was much captivated by a young couple holding a Bamboo stick supporting a baby wrapped in some type of green leaves. The baby seemed to be asleep , his head and forehead were covered with a type of flour and he had a Bindi, traditional indian red dot,  at the center of his forehead.

On my way up , i also noticed the  little monkeys living  in their element between tourists and devotees. It was surprising to see how they moved around freely and were able to approach people without fear. Why would they fear ? They must have been used to them ,some were giving them food , others were taking pictures with them and others yet  did not even seem to notice their existence.  
This monkeys are peaceful unless you get too close, for instance , my brother got bitten for touching one of the monkeys while he was eating.

Monkey

The journey up was full of information, experiences and spirituality and it was really my favorite part of this exploration.

Almost at the end of the climb,  it was time to experience complete darkness in the dark cave , learning about the different animals living and surviving in there and about the cave formation.

Once i reached the top , i finally saw the temple cave , the spot every devotee wanted to reach and pray in.  Nature was once again present , stronger than ever: Vegetation on the rocks , monkeys and even some wild chickens running freely around prayers.

Temple cave.jpg

In the middle, a beautiful temple where devotees were practicing their faith.

After taking some pictures , it was time to head back down and visit the museums on the lower part.

That day was intense in terms of cultural and spiritual learning , physical efforts and adventure.

I definitely recommend to everyone eager to explore the Malay culture to visit the Battu caves.

If you enjoyed reading this article , follow me and continue reading my Asian adventures.