The Heart of Algeria

I arrived in Algeria about 2 days ago….pretty much on my death bed :).  That “wonderful” meal I had my last day in Bamako sent my entire body into a tail spin.  It was with much help from Bamako airport officials, doctors and translators that I made it off the floor (usually in pools of my own vomit) and onto my connecting flight through Casablanca to Algers, Algeria.  I feel lucky that they even let me fly…although everyone was very convinced that it was the “poisson” I had eaten for lunch and nothing more.  Thankfully we were all right.  I now sit here in Hassi Messaoud, Algeria very healthy.  My current residence is a beautiful hotel on the base of a private company that provides logistical support for businesses that operate in oil and gas.  I am staring out into the great Sahara desert.  The landscape is dotted with oil wells and torches (flaming oil…it is lit to burn off excess in wells).  The security here is beyond compare.

A glimpse of this incredibly oil rich part of the country.

The town I am in is considered the richest in Algeria, but corruption runs rampant. No mayor has ever made it a full term without ending in jail (tax dollars from oil always end up in their private bank accounts and not used to further infrastructure and other needs of the town…which is quite evident). Companies like Haliburton, BP, Exxon, and Chevron call all be found here.It is called the “Heart of Algeria” because this is where the bulk of Algeria’s oil is extracted….and with all the pumping that occurs here it truly is its heart.

Before my trip, when I told people that I was going to Algeria, I was usually met with a straight face and then raised eyebrows…and then the conversation diverted elsewhere.  I guess it isn’t everyday that an American heads to Algeria as a tourist, but I had received an invite from a friend which seemed hard to turn down.  We have started this 10 journey about 1000 km south of Algers in Hassi Messaoud (we took a private charter plane provided by the base I am staying at to get here) before heading more north to Batna, Biskra and then to the Mediterranean coast. Hammams, lesson on how to make couscous and basking in the sun by the Med are all part of the trip itinerary.  What I am particularly enjoying is conversation and listening to more than my own humor :)…I do enjoy traveling alone, but there is something special in sharing experiences with someone.

Our 3 hour road trip today took us out of the oil town and into midevil town of Ghardaia. This town is well preserved and works diligently to keep hold of the traditions of the M’zab people.

The town of Ghardiai is behind me.

Technically this picture should not have been taken :).

This is how the women in Ghardiai dress.  Their hayek is made from white linen.  They only allow one eye to peep through the veil so they can navigate quickly through the winding cobblestone roads of the hillside city.  They are literally like ghosts …as soon as you see them they are gone.  They wear this attire as much for religious as traditional purposes.  The city is self sufficient in the sense that they have tried to create an insular society.  They solve thier own problems, have their own schools and marry only within the M’zab people.

One of the minarets in Ghardia. 

This one was build in the 11th century.  The “new” one was built in the 13th century.  Sharia law is what is followed in this town.

Oh, how the Camel Crossing signs amused me….especially since they all seemed a little different.  Some camels had tails, some were tall, some were fat…it was like they were all hand painted……but the best part was……

When we saw a real, live, wild camel!!!

This is how he posed after we called after him. 🙂  Show off!

Life here on the base has been quite luxurious with food everywhere, laundry service, pool and a beautiful gym.  I have been comparing it to life on a cruise ship…but instead of in water, I am in the middle of the Sahara….and I don’t have to pay for Diet Cokes or espresso :).  Frankly it has been a nice spot to recover from my 18 days in Mali :).

Tomorrow we are going to see some of the great dunes this desert has to offer….I got a small glimpse today…more pics to follow! MA’a salama (“good bye” in Arabic)

  13 comments for “The Heart of Algeria

  1. Wavatar
    DJ Design Ltd.
    October 18, 2010 at 6:32 am

    Glad to hear you are okay and healthy again. wow

    And your enjoying the amenities nicely.

    Beautiful pics!

  2. Wavatar
    October 18, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    So sorry you were sick. That sounds awful to have to fly that way.
    Sounds like this is a part of Africa I would rather visit than Mali.
    Good you have someone to travel with now.(really good)
    A part of the world I will never understand is how some societies make their women invisible or like ghosts. That picture attacks the core of my soul. But I'm glad you took it. It says so much.
    Miss you tons.

  3. Wavatar
    The Martin's
    December 7, 2010 at 12:47 am

    that camel looked thirsty… well, at least thats what I think it means when their humps are very big 😉

  4. Wavatar
    August 5, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Its an Honor for us that we had u 😀 Im Glad that u liked it as well .We usually dont have Americans,mostly europeans or Asians
    I'm Islem nice to meet u XD
    u were right that picture should not have been taken,lucky for u 🙂
    I dont believe in Ghosts but I prefer Angels coz they are white and bright as well,dont u think ?

  5. Wavatar
    August 15, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Islem! I am so happy you found and read my blog! I loved your country and had wonderful experiences there. I also love your description as angels as well…I agree that is much more appropriate. I hope to return to your wonderful country soon! Jen

  6. Wavatar
    August 22, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Lookin forward 😀 u r welcom anytime jen ^^

  7. Wavatar
    December 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    i m amin thanke for visit ghardaia……

    • Wavatar
      December 14, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      Hi Amin! Thanks for your comment…it was a beautiful and mysterious part of the world for me. I hope to return someday. I am so happy you found my story about it :).

  8. Wavatar
    July 14, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Ah that paradise on earth! But the mzab valley is crying now!

    • Wavatar
      July 16, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      It was a wonderful place! But why is it crying now?

      • Wavatar
        April 6, 2015 at 10:21 am

        Because of the “civil war” between mozabite and “arabe”. The event starts on November 2013. You can find many videos in youtube. The problem is that the police doesn’t do its job and it taks part of the conflict!!!! Now it’s more calm, but we are afraid about an other event!

  9. Wavatar
    October 17, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    hi Jen Jedda i’m sofiane from ghardaia i like your posts thenks

    • Wavatar
      October 17, 2016 at 10:42 pm

      So happy you do and that you found my blog, Sofiane! Thanks for writing! Jen

Comments are closed.