History, Culture and Tradition in the Museums of Algiers

When traveling through Algeria, be sure to include some of the country’s many museums on your itinerary. Museums are a great way to learn more about the history and culture of the town or city you are visiting. In Algiers there are a number of museums worth visiting, including the Bardo National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography, the Museum of Antiquities, the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and the National Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers.

The National Museum of Fine Arts of Algiers is home to more than eight thousand artworks and is considered to be the biggest museum dedicated to art in the Maghreb, Middle East and Africa. The museum was originally established by Hyppolyte Lazerges, a French painter and music composer who studied the arts in Paris before moving to Algeria where he remained until his death in Algiers in 1887. In 1908, the steadily growing collection was moved to larger premises and was managed by Charles de Galland. European art displayed by the museum dates back to the 14th century and includes works by German artist Bruyn Le Jeune, Swiss artist Conrad de Witz, Dutch artists Hendrick ter Brugghen, Jan Van Goyen and Elias Vonck, as well as Italian artists Barnaba da Modena, Panini Giovanni Paolo, and Sebastiano Ricci. The museum’s collection by French artists is extensive and includes artists who were resident in Algeria. Categorized separately, Algerian art includes the works of Mohamed Racim, Mohamed Hamimoumna, Mahieddine Boutaleb, Bachir Yelles, Mohamed Bouzid, Mohammed Khadda and Mohamed Zmirli.

The Museum of Antiquities offers a wide variety of topics and includes items from throughout Algeria and beyond its borders. Visitors will see displays of ancient mosaics, sculptures, artworks, spectacular Roman glasswork, and intricate Islamic art, as well as an impressive coin collection, bronze sculptures, ivory carvings, documents, paintings, pictures and even some Libyan totemic warriors.

Located not too far from the Museum of Antiquities, and housed in an old Turkish-style mansion, is the Bardo Museum. Some of its most rare exhibits include fossils, while its collection of rock carvings and paintings from the Tassili n’Ajjer region in the Sahara Desert – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other items on display include wooden furniture, leatherwork, stone collections, copper kitchen utensils, a range of weaponry and traditional costumes.

As the name suggests, the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions has an interesting collection of local arts and crafts, along with traditional carpets, jewelry, ceramics and more. The museum also features contemporary arts and is located in a 16th century Ottoman palace which is worth seeing when visiting Algeria’s capital city.