Algiers is located, not suprisingly, in Algeria, where it is the capital and largest city. Its population, as of 1998, is 1,519,570 (one source says 3 million, this figure probably includes the surrounding suburbs). Algiers is one of the leading ports and commerce centers in North Africa. It is divided into the newer, French-built section and the original Muslim quarter, with many mosques and narrow streets. There are now also vast suburbs sprawling out onto the surrounding Metidja plain. Algiers has two harbors, both artificial, which are both sheltered from winds. They were built to accomodate the city's large pirate fleet.


The Phoenicians originally founded a city on what is now the marine quarter of Algiers. During Roman times it was called Icosium, but it disappeared in the chaos surrounding the fall of the empire. In 944, Buluggin b. Ziri founded the present city and the Zirid-Senhaja dynasty ruled it. In 1148 the dynasty was overthrown by Roger II of Sicily and in 1159 Algiers was occupied by the Almohades, and in the 13th century it came under the rule of the Abd-el-Wahid sultans of Tlemcen. Since Oran was their chief port, Algiers had a degree of independence. Under the Ottoman Empire, the population of Algiers reached 100,000.

An island in Algiers' harbor known as the Penon was occupied by Spain in 1302 and trade between Algiers and Spain grew. The city became home to many of the Moors expelled from Spain in 1492. In 1519 the amir of Algiers, Selim b. Teumi, asked Arouj and Khayr al-Din, also known as Barbarossa, to expel the Spaniards. Arouj came to Algiers, had ol' Selim killed, and seized the city. Khayr al-Din succeeded him and in 1550 drove the Spaniards out, establishing the pashalik, afterwards deylik, of Algeria. Algiers then became a main port for the Barbary pirates.

In 1541 Charles V attacked the city with an Army of 30,000 and was defeated. In 1816 the British and Dutch navies bombarded the city and destroyed the corsair fleet. Attacks on the pirates by European and American navies weakened the piracy-based economy. On July 4, 1830 the French, led by General de Bourmont, attacked the city and seized it. By this time, the city was in decline and had less than 40,000 inhabitants.

After Operation Torch, Algiers became the headquarters of Allied forces in North Africa, as well as Charles de Gaulle's Free French government. In 1954 a major anti-French uprising signalled the beginning of a dedicated Algerian independence movement. In May 1958, Algiers was the stage for the army revolt in which de Gaulle returned to power in the Fifth Republic. The French maintained control until 1962, when they finally pulled out of Algeria, ending a bloody guerilla war.


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