De Gaulle may be long gone but the legacy of France's presence in Algeria doesn't just influence social and political life in Algeria - it dominates it. In Algiers alone, just miles separate conceptions of "French" modernity and shadowy dive bars from brutalist visions of Sharia law. The most impressive architecture of the city may be classically French but the ancient casbah - and its Islamic history - still just about clings to life.
Rather than being abandoned hastily, Tskaltubo's decline has been like a slow-moving cancer; demeaning, debilitating and endlessly painful. Its economic collapse has been compounded by the living compendium of tragic life stories and loss its residents embody; as if the collapsing stairwells and stench of damp weren't enough of a metaphor.