After years of violence, Algerians have some fun

Mon Jul 20, 2009 9:24pm EDT
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By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - It's Sunday night in downtown Algiers and thousands of young people swarm the streets, cheering and dancing to the beat coming from a makeshift stage.

This is a scene seldom witnessed in a city scarred by years of conflict between the government and Islamist insurgents. Most nights, the streets of Algiers are almost deserted except for armed police manning checkpoints.

After nearly two decades of bombings and ambushes, the violence has subsided enough for Algerians to embrace an unfamiliar concept: having fun.

For two weeks, this former colonial city has been hosting a festival of African dance, theater, music and art designed to let the world know normal life is slowly returning to Algeria, and to allow people to let their hair down.

"Algeria needs to have some fun after a decade of blood and tears," Zouaoui Benamadi, communication chief for the Pan-African Cultural Festival, told Reuters. "Conflicts and wars are behind us, let's focus on the future."

However, for some people in conservative and Muslim Algeria the hedonism has gone too far. One newspaper said a performance by scantily-clad female dancers from sub-Saharan African was "obscene" and asked why censors did not intervene.


Throughout the 1990s, Algeria was the battleground for a conflict between Islamist rebels and government forces in which 200,000 people were killed, according to estimates from non-governmental organizations.   Continued...

<p>Senegalese dancers perform during the 2nd Pan African Cultural Festival (Panaf) of Algiers at Riad el Feth Place in Algiers in this July 16, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi</p>