ALGIERS: Algerian celebrations to mark 50 years of independence from France kicked off Wednesday with a giant open-air performance inspired by the liberation struggle.
Staged at a seaside theater in the resort of Sidi Fredj, the site of the French landing in 1830, the historical musical “The Hero” began the festivities ahead of Thursday’s anniversary.
Dedicated to Algerians’ struggle against the French occupation, the show, according to War Veterans Minister Mohamed Cherif Abbes, “summarizes the evolution of Algeria through its history.”
The giant fireworks display at midnight in Sidi Fredj and at the shrine of the martyrs, a huge monument in the capital which overlooks the bay of Algiers, scheduled to follow the musical was delayed until Thursday night.
Choreographed by Lebanon’s Abdel Halim Caracalla, “The Hero” assembled 800 actors, singers and ballet dancers and was transmitted live on public television.
The skies over the country’s 47 other provinces were then lit up by fireworks displays, orchestrated by a Chinese company, which cost, according to a source at the Mujahideen Ministry, $9 million.
A total of 10,000 youths will stage a show at the Olympic stadium Thursday that will retrace the struggle for independence. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika will place a wreath at the foot of the martyrs’ shrine.
The festivities will be followed by seminars and book launches.
The grand celebrations come in troubled times for the North African country. A half-century after the country won independence in a bloody conflict with France, the outlook for many Algerians is dark, particularly for the 70 percent of the population aged under 35.
Unemployment topped 20 percent last November, according to the International Monetary Fund, and annual inflation officially reached 6.4 percent in April.
Bouteflika this year launched political reforms in the wake of bloody riots one and a half years ago and a series of strikes at the time when Arab Spring swept through neighboring Tunisia and Libya.
“After 50 years of political independence,” said academic Abderrahmane Mebtoul, “the outlook is bitter.”