source This large North African country has gone through a number of significant transformations since gaining independence from France in 1962. A bright jewel in the French colonial crown for more than 130 years, the Algeria of today is the young product of a nation of people who escaped the shackles of colonialism only to search the past, present and future for an identity to call their own. Of course Algerians have learned that one single identity in a country with a long and varied history such as theirs is not possible at all. Rather, their identity lies in having many: the North African Arabs, with brethren in mosques throughout the Maghreb; the Berbers of the Kabylie region, who currently have one of highest rates of conversion to Christianity in the Muslim world; the singers of Rai from the areas in and around Oran, where Spanish is as likely to be mixed with Arabic as French is elsewhere in the country; and, of course, the Tuareg, the nomads who have been shifting as the sand for, literally, thousands of years. All of this is set against a backdrop made up largely of French colonial architecture and, even more largely still, by the endless sands of the great Sahara desert. Its popularity with travellers was evident when Algeria experienced a great wave of tourists after independence, but the doors effectively slammed shut when the country erupted in civil war in late 1991. A brutal and bloody decade later, things calmed down and though the war has certainly waned and tourism is slowly-but-surely coming back to life, visitors to Algeria are warned to keep their eyes and ears open, and to stray away from major city centres with the greatest of caution. ~ Samantha McDonald-Amara


 Full name: People's Democratic Republic of  Algeria

 Population: 35.4 million (CIA, 2012)

 Capital: Algiers 

 Largest city: Algiers

enter  Area: 2.38 million (919,595 sq.mi.)

 Major languages: Arabic, French and Berber  dialects

 Major religions: Muslim (Sunni)

 Monetary unit: Algerian Dinar

here  GDP per capita: US $7,200 (2011)

 Internet domain: .dz

 International dialling code: +213

 Source: CIA World Factbook