Cook’s Practical Guide to Algeria and Tunisia provides the names of countless cities throughout Algeria and Tunisia along with a short description that includes each city’s physical features and historical background. From the beginning of the guidebook, it is evident that Cook wants his European travelers to know that the attractions and tourist sites listed in the guidebook, including cities, are only worth visiting as a result of French colonization. On page 29, the author writes, “It is satisfactory to know, in spite of the hundreds of millions of francs which Algeria has cost France, that this nest of pirates and smugglers has been transformed into a really fine colony, with… all kinds of cities,” implying to the reader that he or she would not enjoy visiting Algerian and Tunisian cities if France had not helped with improving the infrastructure.
In the pages dedicated to describing various cities in Algeria and Tunisia, Cook demonstrates the ways in which they have benefited from colonialism. When describing Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, Cook writes, “There are charming villas, handsome hotels, new, clean, and scrupulously clean, waiting for English patronage,” showing how a city in Algeria is no longer unfit for Europeans and has been developed to be able to accomodate the “superior” lifestyle that Europeans are used to. In addition, Cook writes, “the city is well drained and well lighted with gas,” assuring European travelers that, as a result of French colonization, this “Oriental” city is just as clean and safe as a Western city. Along with reassuring European travellers that they will feel comfortable in the developed cities, the guide portrays Algerian and Tunisian cities as mysterious and exotic enough to make Europeans want to visit them. In the section about Tunis, Cook writes, “the native quarter conveys a vivid impression of the every-day out-of-door Arab life… it is well worth while to watch the motley crowd of itinerant pedlars, vendors of clothes, fruit, vegetables, cooked meat...and to peep into the Cafes Maures, where groups of listless Arabs are playing draughts,” which emphasizes the Otherness and the “Oriental” character of the city and its people, knowing that the curious European travelers will be seeking (what they believe is) an authentic experience.
However, Cook is careful to also include descriptions of the “inferior” parts of cities that have not yet been developed to meet European standards. When describing the Old Town, which has not changed since the “days of the Turkish domination,” Cook writes, “the dirty lanes are pretty much as they were” showing his criticism for the poor infrastructure which has not been modernized by European colonization. Even though Cook implies that many of the cities of Algeria and Tunisia are now considered a part of the modern world as a result of French colonization, he makes sure that the readers are aware of the inferiority of the Eastern cities in comparison to the superior West. For instance, when describing another major city in Algeria, Oran, the guidebook mentions that the city is “far from being handsome, architecturally speaking”.
Although the guidebook advises its readers to visit Algeria and Tunisia, promising they will find cities with hotels and streets that meet European standards while providing a glimpse into the lifestyle of the “Oriental,” the guidebook contrasts the old parts of cities with the developed areas, highlighting the differences between the West and the East, to suggest that French colonization has been purely beneficial to these colonies.