If you’re like me only a few months ago, the first image that came to your mind on hearing “Algeria” was a wind-swept desert punctured only by oil refineries, of crowded marketplaces where older men in loosely draped clothing and fezs who speak at you through their two teeth in an odd jumble French, Arabic, and something you can only identify as Berber because somebody else told you so.
Oh yes, and the images you see on TV of kidnappings, extortion, the sad faces of foreigners gone missing…
Not a prime tourist destination, and I was not going there for tourism. But after the CEO final gave her approval to my travel (but only under police escort!), I wrenched my passport (with the visa in it!) from the embassy 2 minutes before it closed for the weekend, and landed at Tlemcen airport (from France – thanks to colonialism, it’s easier to get to Algeria from France than from Jordan), all my misconceptions about Algeria fell to the ground like dominoes, one by one.
Desert? Palm trees? Merciless sun?
Looks more like a place for men in kilts rather than Bedouins:
And with more flowering cherry trees than Washington.
Well, the desert image was just one of many I was going to have to correct – and not the least of them was related to the Algerian people.