What You Need To Know about Constantine
Constantine, Algeria’s third city, is one of the grand urban spectacles of Algeria, made by nature but embellished by man. Over time, the Oued Rhumel (Rhumel River) carved out a deep, and almost circular, gorge around an outcrop of rock, creating a natural fortress that was already occupied in Neolithic times. Since then, Constantine has always been a city of political, cultural and economic significance.
Despite this epic history and setting, actual tourist sites are remarkably thin on the ground – the real pleasure of a visit here is all in the atmosphere.
- The local currency is the Algerian dinar (DZD/AD), which is made up of 100 centimes. Coins are available in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 groupings while notes are available in 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50 dinar denominations. These are widely accepted around the country and it is best to get as much of your money converted as you can. This can be done at the local bank in the city you are visting, which is usually open from 9am to 3pm from Monday to Thursday.
Though efforts have been made to make foreign exchange easier in Algeria, opportunities to exchange your money into the local currency remain quite limited. Therefore it is usually best to exchange enough money at a time to carry you through until your next money changing opportunity. The banks you will come across in Algeria are Banque d’Algerie, (Bank of Algeria); and Banque Nationale d’Algerie (National Bank of Algeria). They will be able to perform this service for you quite effectively.
- Working with money in African country is somewhat difficult for most foreigners, and there are not many foreign exchange outlets. Great Britain Pounds are readily accepted and US Dollars are sometimes also appreciated, but credit cards are often rejected. Travelers checks are only accepted at four-star or more hotels so it is usually best to exchange a reasonable amount of cash into GBP and Algerian dinars in one sitting.
In Constantine, the climate is warm and temperate. The rain in Constantine falls mostly in the winter, with relatively little rain in the summer. This location is classified as Csa by Köppen and Geiger. The average annual temperature in Constantine is 15.5 °C. About 630 mm of precipitation falls annually.
Algeria’s official language is Arabic, which is spoken by an estimated 81 of the population. All official documents are printed in Arabic and those from non-Arab households usually learn the language in school. Arabic has been the official language of the country since 1963. More recently, Berber has become recognized as one of the country’s national languages. This occurred in 2002 and is an appropriate step since 99 of the population speaks Arabic, Berber or both. Although being introduced in French-colonial times, and still often taught in schools and used in government and higher education, French has no official status in Algeria. While a large majority of the country can understand the language, it is estimated that only about 20 can read and write it.
Algerian Arabic is somewhat different to the Arabic commonly spoken in other parts of the world. The language has been greatly influenced by Berber, Turkish and French from which it has many borrowed words. It also has a much more simplified vowel system. There are quite distinct local variations of Arabic in the various parts of Algeria. Though there are many different Berber dialects, they are all grouped under the same name. Only about 19 of the population speaks Berber but the language is so widespread that you are likely to encounter it virtually anywhere in the country. Algerian Sign Language is widely used by the deaf community in the country and is sometimes seen on national TV.
Health and security
- Algeria has a relatively developed health care system compared to many other African countries. So if you intend to move there, accessing to health care services should not be a major issue. You can choose from various hospitals and other health care institutions providing quite fair health care services. But you are also advised to subscribe to a health insurance with the assistance of your employer.
- Health care services in Algeria are quite unequal and this has long been criticized by locals. In fact, there is a doctor for some 1,200 inhabitants and a single pharmacist for an average of 8,000 inhabitants. Moreover, practitioners are encouraged to refer patients to private structures for biological and radiological care, as well as for hospitalization. In fact, private clinics are better equipped for patients requiring advance medical care.
Nevertheless, free health care services are provided 24/7 thanks to contributions made by the government along with the population. Moreover, the Ministry of Health is currently focusing on prevention programs regarding communicable diseases.
However, with contributions by employees and employers to social insurance, free health care is provided in continuity. In addition, health facilities are present in all departments, enabling geographically coherent health coverage.
- The police are known for having a good attitude towards tourists, but know that you are not allowed to photograph them or any government buildings. If you are uncertain about whether you are allowed to take pictures of a certain location or activity, ask a police officer before doing so. They may even help you position your camera so you don’t take a picture of something you’re not supposed to. If you’re driving along and you see a police stop or roadblock ahead, turn your interior lights on and slow down. If they need to check you out further, they will pull you aside.
When moving, you should avoid areas that you don’t know, especially after dark. Travelling in rural areas and at night is particularly risky and it’s always advisable to travel with a reputable guide or companion in these areas. Avoid travel by road at night outside the major cities and motorways.
- You should take precautions for your personal safety, avoid political gatherings and demonstrations and take local advice. Always observe instructions given by the local security authorities.
- While most visits to Algeria are trouble-free, in certain areas of larger cities incidents of robbery and thefts do occur. Avoid areas that you don’t know, especially after dark. Avoid carrying large amounts of money or valuables around with you.
- First make sure you gaze over the Rhumel Gorge and walk over one of the six bridges. The Sidi M’Cid bridge is about 175m above the gorge and 164m long and offers fantastic views of the steep gorge.
- Do not miss the Roman site of Tiddis. Approximately 30km from Constantine, Tiddis is located on a hillside and here you will enjoy Roman homes, a triumphal arch and evidences of the early Church in this region.