Monthly Archives: March 2008

Graham Greene, again

I’ve been thinking a lot about Graham Greene lately, and not just because of my afternoon drinking with priests. I read Monsignor Quixote on this trip, and am currently re-reading The Lawless Roads. In Roads, Greene describes the Mexican desert and says that he cannot see beauty in landscapes that are “unemployed or unemployable.” For […]

In Constantine

I decided to travel north instead of back south for S’bou. I have only a few days left in Algeria so I wanted to travel to places I haven’t yet been rather than return to Timimoun. So I am in the north where the orange trees are not yet in bloom but the hills are […]

Easter with the White Fathers

It was a scene out of a Graham Greene novel: Africans, Catholics, priests and whisky. I’d been looking forward to meeting the White Fathers in Ghardaia for some time. The Peres Blancs have been ministering to African communities for a long time now, and maintain a library of books about the cultural, religious and natural […]

Wedding Night Jitters

Just when I thought my French was getting better… Last night I was listening to a shopkeeper across from my hotel tell me about the traditions of the Muslims in the area. He was talking in French and I was pretty proud of myself that I was understanding most of what he was saying. Then […]

The Mozabites

There are only a few communities ofIbadi Muslims in the world. There are Ibadis in Oman, a few in Libya and Tunisia, and a large community here in the M’zab Valley around the town of Ghardaia where I have been staying for the past few days. Ibadis are very conservative and do their best to […]

The Occidental Tourist

Since my last post I finished a circuit of the Grand Erg Occidental which took me from Taghit to the oasis towns of Beni Abbés, Timimoun and, now, Ghardaia. It occurred to me I’ve written mostly about the landscape here and not about the people. That has been an omission. My favourite moment with the […]

March 15

Taghit Oasis and the Search for New Superlatives

There are places in the world that can defy a travel writer’s art. There are scenes that are so breathtaking that they completely defeat him. I feel that dunes of Taghit have defeated me.Taghit is an oasis village on the edge of the Grand Erg Occidental, Algeria’s western sea of sand. It is a small […]

At the beginning and the end of things

I am in Ain Sefra now. Here is where the Atlas Mountains end and the Grand Erg Occidental, the Sahara’s great western sea of sand, begins. Or it is where the mountains begin and the sand sea ends. A traveler decides his parameters based on the place he most wants to be. That is his […]

In Tlemcen

I am still in Tlemcen, in northwestern Algeria, paying for my laziness. I didn’t feel like doing my desert-dirty laundry so I brought it to a cleaners. It will take two days to wash, which is actually three because I straddled the Friday holiday. And they won’t be done until tomorrow in the late morning […]

Last Days Among the Saharawi

On my last day in the camps I had lunch on the edge of a minefield. I was only about 300 metres from the wall that separates the Saharawi from their homeland. As we sat there eating tuna sandwiches and barbecuing strips of camel meat on the tiny fire our driver prepared, Moroccan soldiers watched […]