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 which means I won’t be able to catch the early bus south. So that is another day I have to stay here. Next time I am washing my own damn clothes.

There are worse places to be stuck, though. This is a very pretty town with pastel coloured houses, Moorish architecture, and buildings decorated with plaster cherubs and flowers and other confections left over from the French. Men wear djlebas and woollen caps against the cold and crowd the cafes smoking cigarettes and drinking some of the best espresso I have ever had. Another French legacy. The countryside is verdant and green, almost otherwordly so, but this could be due to the fact that I spent so much time amid the desert’s beiges and greys. I am not used to such flora.

I lost a bunch of weight in the desert. Living off of camel meat and endless cups of tea will do that to someone. Now, in the north, it seems impossible to have a meal without fries. My loose jeans will soon be snug again.

Once I get my clothes back I hope to head south to Ain Sefra, then further south. I am going to challenge the popular notion that travelers can’t travel south on public transportation without a guide. I am just going to keep going until someone turns me back. There is a big religious festival in Timimoun on the birthday of the Prophet, March 20, so I will make that my aim.

I will be traveling to Morocco at the end of this month and I am nervous about it. The Algerians have been extremely kind and accomodating. Never once have I been hassled or even felt that I’ve been overcharged for anything. People are genuinely welcoming. They even seem to forgive my horrible French. (I actually think my French is getting worse instead of better).

Morocco is going to be the opposite. Full of hustle and hassle. I just hope that Algeria hasn’t made me soft.

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