Algiers ( al-JEERZ; Arabic: الجزائر; Berber: Dzayer; French: Alger) is the capital and largest city of Algeria. The city’s population at the 2008 Census was 2,988,145 and in 2011 was estimated to be around 3,500,000. An estimate puts the population of the larger metropolitan city to be around 5,000,000. Algiers is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the north-central portion of Algeria.
Algiers is situated on the west side of a bay of the Mediterranean Sea. The modern part of the city is built on the level ground by the seashore; the old part, the ancient city of the deys, climbs the steep hill behind the modern town and is crowned by the Casbah or citadel, 122 metres (400 ft) above the sea. The casbah and the two quays form a triangle
The city’s name is derived via French and Catalan Alger from the Arabic name al-Jazāʾir (الجزائر), “The Islands”. This name refers to the four former islands which lay off the city’s coast before becoming part of the mainland in 1525. Al-Jazāʾir is itself a truncated form of the city’s older name Jazaʾir Banī Mazghanna (جزائر بني مزغانة), “The Islands of the Banu Mazghanna, Sons of Mazghana”, used by early medieval geographers such as al-Idrisi and Yaqut al-Hamawi.
In antiquity, the Greeks knew the town as Ikósion (Ancient Greek: Ἰκόσιον), which was Latinized as Icosium under Roman rule. The Greeks explained the name as coming from their word for “twenty” (εἴκοσι, eíkosi), supposedly because it had been founded by 20 companions of Hercules when he visited the Atlas Mountains during his labors.
Algiers is also known as el-Behdja (البهجة, “The Joyous”) or “Algiers the White” (French: Alger la Blanche) for its whitewashed buildings, seen rising from the sea.
Ottoman rule brought the construction of mosques, monuments, and the Casbah (“citadel”), an infamous military palace. In the 1600s, the population of Algiers was around 100,000, with 30,000 additional Christian captives, the result of a thriving privateering trade primarily targeting Spanish transport. Piracy was banned a century later by European enforcement and the city began to concentrate on grain exportation.
By 1830, Algiers had been ravaged by plague, famine, and dwindling trade profits.
The Turkish military elite fled, along with a portion of the Muslim population. Their property was appropriated by the French, who also took control of religious endowments. Despite mass protest, the Katwaja Mosque was converted into a cathedral and the city’s covered market and its mosque were demolished and replaced. The Kasbah (Muslim neighborhoods) was spared, as was the New Mosque. Algiers’ infrastructure was transformed. Streets were widened, new buildings erected, the port improved, and a base of colonial administration established.
By 1954, the city had 600,000 residents, half of them European. The same year saw the beginning of the War of Independence, spurred by rural disparity and hardship. Large numbers began migrating to the capital from rural areas, pushing the demographics further in favor of the native population.
From 1956-1957, the National Liberation Front (FLN) conducted an urban guerilla war campaign against the occupation, taking around 1.5 million lives. When the French withdrew in 1962, the city had been ravaged by terrorism from both parties and sections of downtown Algiers were burned by settlers before they left.
Since independence, Algiers has become a vital Mediterranean shipping center. Its population stood at 1.5 million in 2011. Meanwhile, the city has dealt with numerous crises, including housing, infrastructure, unemployment, and civil unrest.
Films about Algiers
- Algiers, 1938, starring Charles Boyer and Hedy Lamarr, and directed by John Cromwell;
- The Battle of Algiers, 1966, directed by Gillo Pontecorvo;
- Tahya ya Didou, Alger Insolite, 1970, Mohammed Zinet;
- Bab El-Oued City, 1994, directed by Merzak Allouache;
- Viva Laldjérie, 2003, directed by Nadir Moknèche, with Biyouna and Lubna Azabal;
- Bab el Web, 2004, directed by Merzak Allouache, with Samy Naceri, Julie Gayet, Faudel;
- Once upon a time in the Oued, 2005, directed by Djamel Bensalah;
- Beur, White, Red, 2005, directed by Mahmoud Zemmouri.
- Delice Paloma, 2007, directed by Nadir Moknèche, with Biyouna and Nadia Kaci.
- Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion, 1950, starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.
- ^ “Population of the city proper according to the 2008 census”. Citypopulation.de. Archived from the original on 15 June 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
- ^ Jump up to:a b “UN World Urbanization Prospects”. Esa.un.org. Archived from the original on 2009-12-23. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
- ^ Census 14 April 2008: Office National des Statistiques de l’Algérie (web).
- ^ Origins of Algiers by Louis Leschi, speech delivered June 16, 1941, published in El Djezair Sheets, July 1941 History of Algeria Archived 2013-01-16 at the Wayback Machine (in French).
- Hegazy, A. (2011, August 30). Algiers, Algeria (circa 9th century AD- ). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/places-global-african-history/algiers-algeria-circa-9th-century-ad/
SOURCE OF THE AUTHOR’S INFORMATION:
“Algiers,” in Philip Mattar, ed., Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle
East: vol. 1 (Detroit, Mich.: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004); “Algiers,”
in Kevin Shillington, ed., Encyclopedia of African History (New York:
Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005); “Algiers,” in John Middleton and Joseph C.
Miller, eds., New Encyclopedia of Africa (Detroit: Thomson/Gale, c2008).
Was this article helpful?