Published: May 14th 2011May 14th 2011
Just a common scene in the region. We could not get used to these unusual structures--love it. This is a masouleum to an Imam.
We jumped in the Land Cruiser and headed south through the desert and sand dunes to Timimoun. We travelled over 350 miles, but the change in scenery and culture would make you think we travelled to another country.
The architecture looked nothing like Ghardaia or anywhere else we have been in Algeria. The dress was very different and did not seem to be nearly as conservative. The women do not fully cover and there certainly are not any "ghosts." The residents of Timimoun are Berbers and many have much darker skin (look more sub-Saharan).
Not surprisingly, we did not run into any tourists and being an American seems to make us celebrities. We passed through several checkpoints along our journey to Timimoun, but after we passed through one checkpoint we were informed we could only continue to Timimoun with a military escort. Despite having all our official forms, our passports and our whereabouts, they also needed us to write out our parents' names.
So, how does one get to Timimoun? Well, apparently it takes one driver, one guide and fourteen armed millitary officials. All of the military guys were armed and some with two extra clips. Luckily, none of the guns
or bullets were needed. We left the one checkpoint with two vehicles and then pulled over at a random, uncommunicated spot along the journey and waited for another convoy to show up and take us into town. Talk about service! The convoy took us to our inn and did not leave until we had taken ourselves and our luggage into the inn. As we closed the gates to the compound, they all smiled, waved and drove off into the sunset. The military and a special tourist brigade monitored our activity and told our guide to keep us with in his sights until we had flown out of Timimoun.
They say it is difficult to get to Timimoun, but it is worth the journey. We couldn't agree more. What was our favorite part of the community? The hospitality could not have been warmer or more welcoming. The temperatures were comfortable (even with the desert sun). Seeing how the residents manage water systems and keep their oasis lush was fascinating. There were camels living in the area and many in the desert along our route--that is always a highlight. But, maybe I would say the food was unmatched by any other trip
Sand dunes in the Sahara
The silky smooth, yet everchanging sand dunes were beautiful and brutal all at the same time. When the wind picked up (and boy did it!) we were pelted with sand. We had red grit in our teeth, ears, hair... It was like snow blowing across the road with reduced visibility. It was hard to believe how quickly our footprints disappeared in the sand as we walked along the dunes.
There are few restaurants in all of Algeria and almost none in these small communities, so our guides arranged for us to eat our meals in people's homes. At first blush, we thought "what is this going to be like?" We quickly found out it meant a casual, hospitable environment and mouth watering, "eat like a pig at a trough" food! Every meal left us stuffed, but looking forward to the next meal.
We ate at a local woman's home (Fatma). She was an excellent cook and welcoming host. Hours before our first meal with her we were in Ghardaia where the women were so modest they could not show more than a single eye. How refreshing to be in a home where the women joined us for our meal and wore traditional, but not conservative clothing. We discussed politics, pop culture, life in the US and Algeria...it made for several very enjoyable days.
Ghardaia and Timmimoun have a few similarities, but even more differences. But one thing is true: both are difficult places to find, but even more difficult to leave.
There are more photos below