Are we still in Algeria?

Algeria's flag
Africa » Algeria » South » Béchar
May 14th 2011
Published: May 14th 2011
Edit Blog Post

Timimoun Timimoun Timimoun

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 SaharaSand dunes in the SaharaSand 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.
thus far.
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 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.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


Lobby of GuesthouseLobby of Guesthouse
Lobby of Guesthouse

Time for some mint tea in the guesthouse Timimoun. Gorgeous, relaxing and comfortable. Again, we are the only ones staying at the inn. Our innkeeper speaks no English, but is learning "thank you" and repeats it over and over and over...
Timimoun: the red oasisTimimoun: the red oasis
Timimoun: the red oasis

No we are not in Oklahoma, but the dirt reflects a similar shade of red. The buildings all reflect Timimoun's nickname as the Red Oasis. This is a view from the veranda of our inn. The courtyard is below.
Tea at the camel herder's homeTea at the camel herder's home
Tea at the camel herder's home

Talk about Southern hospitality! Behind the scenes, the women made us fresh crepes sprinkled with sugar, hot tea and fruit. The crepes were so steaming hot and unbelieveably good. What a relaxing and wonderful moment for us.
Boys, we have gone international!Boys, we have gone international!
Boys, we have gone international!

As a young boy, dad spent many hours on the tractor. This gave him a lot of time to think. His goal was to create a saying or phrase to match the folksy vernacular of the local ranchers. He finally came up with "He's so unlucky his oil can rusted." Brillant? Numbers don't lie...we found this older Taureg man proudly wearing a t-shirt with his slogan. Guess he's gone international!
Desert Sun and Shifting SandsDesert Sun and Shifting Sands
Desert Sun and Shifting Sands

Yes, it is as hot as it looks. The desert is said to have the ability to just swallow you up. Seems that is what is happening to these date trees. The sand seems to whip around and shift with powerful force. It was not uncommon to see fences and homes almost completely covered by sand accumulation.

14th May 2011

Viewing Algeria from Oklahoma
The architecture, exterior and interior, is welcoming and fascinating. The photo of the shifting sand makes me want to watch The English Patient for for umpteenth time. Thanks for blogging. It takes a discipline that escapes me.
14th May 2011

Hi Nomads, You have surpassed the description of being INTREPID travelers. Keep the notes coming. JOY
14th May 2011

I guess being escorted by the military would be a bit intimidating but worth it to be safe. I don't recall ever seeing those odd white structures in any travel magazine or t.v. show. I love the photo of the dunes so to whoever took that, good work. Paul and I laughed a bit at ourselves over your good food raves as we seldom even think about the food on our trips unless we get really tired of it. People are always asking us what kind of food we ate and half the time we don't even remember much about it.Just goes to show that everyone has different takes on things when they travel. Do you see any wildlife at all? Birds, snakes, lizards or just empty space? I can't believe we have not seen a camel photo by now!
17th May 2011

You are a big deal.

Tot: 0.33s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 13; qc: 77; dbt: 0.0464s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.5mb