Algeria: El-Oued, the City of a thousand Domes
Affectionately named the “City of a Thousand Domes”, El-Oued is certainly the most picturesque town in a region more renowned as being an endless sea of sand. In this part of the world, any oasis or “souf” is worth its weight in gold. And the town of El-Oued was lucky to build itself around on of the most prosperous oases in the region. As a means of shielding itself from the unrelenting summer heat, most of the buildings have domes. One thousand years later, this unique form of desert architecture enables El-Oued to stand out from other towns in the region.
Long known as a great place to shop, El Oued boasts many one-of-a-kind products not available in shops in other cities of Algeria. Carpets are one of the best buys. Hand-made and complete with the famous Souf Cross – a brown cross on a light background, you simply won’t find these carpets anywhere else in the country (well, actually you will, but in El-Oued you know you’re buying them at the source). The distinct-looking affanes – the typical slipper-like shoe of the region is also a good bargain to be had. The daily market or “souq” in the old part of town is at its chaotic best on Friday. And whatever you do, don’t forget to barter! Not doing so is considered rude (and also stupid, as the first price offered is never the best price to be had).
In a city that lacks a specific tourist-related itinerary, El-Oued’s market and Sidi Salem Mosque are your best bets. El Oued also has a small, but interesting museum where you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Excursions in and around El Oued, in addition to other villages of the Souf region are easily coordinated. Consult the Accommodations and Tours links on Algeria.com for reliable points of contact for both.
Of the many interesting locations nearby, Rubbah is one of the best: located 12 kilometers from El Oued to the south. Nakhla lies equidistant to the south of El Oued, and 12 kilometers from Rubbah (you have to drive back to the village of Amiche, and then head off south again along the eastern road). Guemar, 20 kilometers north of El Oued, is a beautiful little village, and has an interesting market. Buses will bring you to all larger cities, and taxis to some towns, as well as to the Tunisian border and inside the Souf area.
All in all a great area to pass a few days. The doomed city. Certainly one of the most memorable sights during your stay in Algeria.