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Algeria: Ghardaïa

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Ghardaïa | Algeria | Africa

[Visited: February 2015]

After my adventure of the day before, which ended in the police demanding the owner of my hotel to open up for me and let me sleep in my room in the middle of the night, I am up early again. Fortunately, Moabites, or Ibadis, are early risers, and I can push the door open. I walk along the banks of Wadi Mzab, until I reach the foot of the hill on which the town of Melika lies. I quickly climb the stairs, salute the guys walking down, and am up on the hill well ahead of sunrise. This little town is very quiet, and offers great views of the other two Moabite towns in its vicinity. After the first rays of the sun make it over the ridge of the hill, it is first the formidable minaret on top of the old town of Ghardaïa, and then the rest of the town, that gets set on fire.

Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Sunrise over the old town of Ghardaïa

After walking down again, I seek other viewpoints of the old town of Ghardaïa, which looks like several handfuls of boxes have been scattered haphazardly all over the hill, with the tall minaret towering over it all. Photogenic stuff. It is time to explore the old town again. A large sign stipulates that I need a guide, but again, none can be found. Since I do not want to lose this opportunity to see the old town with the fresh morning light, I walk up the streets anyway. As soon as I do so, the noise of the roads and streets below dies out, and I only hear something when a man pushes his donkey through the alley, or a woman passes by in her white dress. It is impossible to know where you are in this maze of alleys and adobe houses, and suddenly, the minaret appears right ahead of me. Just then, someone takes me down, in search of a guide. However, when we arrive at the office which should provide guides, it appears not only closed, but also blocked by big bags of wares of neighbouring shops. I am told to come back a little later. I use this opportunity to climb the hill on the western side for views over the old town, and decide to come back for sunset.

Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Adobe minaret of the Great Mosque of Ghardaïa

When even after an hour the office is still locked and blocked, and there is no other way to get a guide, I decide to try my luck again. I definitely want to respect the local culture, but I now feel I am not really treated with respect as a visitor. The alleys are still empty, there are parts where rooms have been built over the alleys, effectively turning them into tunnels. The few people around salute me, until I meet someone who becomes quite upset. I try to explain that I have done my effort to find a guide, but that these are just impossible to locate. Eventually, he lets me go, and I continue to explore the higher parts of the old town. When I descend to the lower streets, the guide office turns out to be still closed. The market on the small square is getting a little busier, and even here, there is plenty of police around. At the end of the day, I climb the hill again, looking forward to a great view of the old town, but clouds spoil the party and the lights die out unceremoniously.

Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Still life in the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Woman dressed in white walking up the stairs in the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Arched gallery in the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Tunnel-like street in the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Minaret towering over the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Street with shops in the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Entrance to the big mosque of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Empty street in the old town of Ghardaïa
Picture of Ghardaïa (Algeria): Alley in the old town of Ghardaïa with thoroughfare

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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