Algeria’s other big draw is its extraordinary Saharan region. Whether it’s a glimpse of the sand seas that surround Timimoun, or the burnt red mountains of the far south, these are the desert landscapes of legend.
But, for all its peach-coloured dunes and grand ruins, it’s perhaps the Algerians themselves, who welcome visitors with warmth and curiosity, that are the real highlight of this nation. For accessible adventure and a complex, enthralling cultural odyssey, head for Algeria.
The M’Zab is home to a conservative Muslim sect known as the Ibadites, who broke from mainstream Islam some 900 years ago. This is, some say, a country unto itself, with ancient, unchanging social codes. The traditional white haik (a head-to-toe wool wrap) is worn by most women, who cover their entire face, exposing only one eye. Men sport extravagantly pleated baggy trousers called saroual loubia. While locals here can be reserved, i’s a friendly and surprisingly laid-back place. The area is justifiably famous for its carpets head for Ghardaia’s market square for a good selection.