Dining in the Sahara
If they look particularly happy, it is because it is dinner time in Ghardaia. We are all gaining weight on this trip--maybe the best food we have ever eaten. In this photo we were at the Caravanserail. We had the place to ourselves--no other guests in the entire place.
The name Ghardaia may sound familiar to those of you who have been hassled to look interested while I show you pictures of my newest baby calf. Her grandma is named Sahara, her mom is Sub-Sahara and my new little princess is Gharadaia. As you may have guessed, she was given this name because of our excitement over traveling to this new locale approximately 500 miles south of Algiers in the heart of Algeria. What we did not know is that we would also be traveling into the heart of another world.
We travelled several hours south of Algiers, but we did not even make it into the southern part of the country. Not commonly known, Algeria is a huge country--about twice the size of Texas. This lends room for a vast variety of geography and cultural differences.
We hopped on a tiny prop plane in Algiers and due to airport delays we arrived in the night, but even in the darkness we could tell we were about to embark on an exotic adventure.
On the plane, dad sat next to a friend of the French Ambassador to Algeria. Kyle and I sat behind his security guard. Two rows ahead of
Ladies in White
I strugged to get a photo of the women of Ghardaia--it is illegal in the city. I was in the second floor window of a rug shop overlooking the market. It took a bit of patience because there not many women passing through the market.
us were the Ambassador and his wife. His travel partner eyed dad's itinerary with envy and noted they wanted to participate in some of the adventures we had planned, but they were deemed too dangerous. Sucks to be them!
The airport at Ghardaia is a tiny one room shell with only red sand and guides/tourist police waiting for their passengers. The two flights per week that arrive bring the only excitement to town.
Our guide and driver loaded us up in the Land Cruiser and we headed down the tiny winding roads that were coupled by tall walls toward our hotel--Caravanserail Ghardaia. It was a dark Friday which meant the locals were heading home to spend their holy day with family. This was when we had one of those moments where you must use your hand to lift your chin back to your mouth so that you are not sitting there with your mouth gaping open...we saw the women of Ghardaia.
First we saw one. Then another. Then some walking with family and then some walking in groups. The eery setting of the night partnered with us being Westerners made this moment unforgettable.
The women wear all white gowns (like
any Muslim women), but they also wear all white head coverings and cover everything but one eye. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Even with this very modest (to say the least) attire, they often turn their backs if a stranger is passing or refuse to walk past a stranger. Unbelievable.
Kyle noted this could be the most conservative community we have ever experienced and we agree he may be correct. But despite these vast differences in attire, practices and modesty levels, we never felt unwelcomed or unaccepted.
The unique local culture is only one part of the recipe that makes Gharadaia such an appealing and exotic locale. The landscape of the oasis coupled with the distinct and unique architecture made us feel like we were truly experiencing something we had never seen before.
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