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Algeria: Sebkha Circuit

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Sebkha Circuit | Algeria | Africa

[Visited: February 2015]

After exploring the old town of Timimoun, I want to get out into the desert. The dunes loom in the distance, across the sebkha, or old salt lake, and it is only a matter of arranging things. After the sandstorm of the previous day, I am a little cautious, but when I wake up to a bright, sunny, and quiet morning, I cannot wait to get out. But I have to wait. First, things seem to be arranged, but then, it suddenly turns out we need permission from the gendarmes, and since it is a Friday, they cannot be found. No one ever mentioned this the evening before when I tried to arrange a ride around the Sebkha Circuit, so I am surprised and disappointed; even more so when the guys who are supposed to arrange this, disappear. Meanwhile, I get in touch with two Algerian ladies, who are interested in joining me. Ten minutes later, the guys are back, there is a car and a driver, and apparently, the permission is OK now, so we are on our way.

Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Adobe house with palm tree trunk in Ighzer

We drive towards the north, take a turn towards the west, and soon a mountain appears ahead of us. It is topped by an old ksar (castle), and after taking in the views, we stop by this old village. Close by, we see caves in the rocks: they are storage places for dates and other food items that need protection against the heat. At the entrance of this old village, there is a big cave, which is surprisingly deep. In the old times, the villagers came here during the day to be protected from the merciless desert sun. We walk the sandy streets of the ksar of Ighzer, which appears almost completely abandoned. Higher up, we get good views over the old ksar, and also see the new village that is built in the plains below. A white tower-like structure contains the tomb of a marabout, a muslim teacher.

Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Marabout tomb in Ighzer

We continue towards a big oasis settlement, where we find plenty of water. There are thousands of palm trees here, and agriculture. After lunch in the shade of one of the trees, we drive past abandoned ksars, and some lone white marabout tombs, until we literally reach the end of the road at a small artisanat, or handicraft shop. From here, we drive into the desert: this is the part of the circuit I have been really looking forward to. The ladies in the back are getting a little worried, though, and when the driver gets a little stuck in the deep sand, we turn around. At first, I think that he tries to find another place to cross the desert, but it turns out we drive back to the road. The ladies are too scared to cross the desert, and the compromise is that after dropping them in Timimoun, the driver takes me into the dunes after driving across the salt lake. He loves driving his 4WD up the high sand dunes, and laughs about the ladies. After we find some desert roses, he stops the car on a dune, and I continue walking from here. The wind is back, not as strong as before, but it still blows the sand around me. I watch the ever changing shapes of the dunes: they continue until my eyes can see. There is so much sand in the air now, the sun just dissolves in a grey cloud, marking the end of a great day. What follows is a shower to try to get rid of all the sand, and a yummy couscous meal.

Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Shapes of sand in the Sahara
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Adobe house with wooden door in Ighzer
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Patterns of wind on a sand dune in the Sahara
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Cave in Ighzer where people used to stay to seek protection against the relentless desert sun
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): The old ksar of Ighzer
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Sahara sand dunes just before dusk
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): White painted grave of a marabout in the desert
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): One of the ruined ksars on our way around the circuit
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Ighzer seen from a distance
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): A sea of sand: sand dunes until the horizon
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Close-up of desert rose lying on the plain at the fringe of the Grand Erg Occidental
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Sahara sand dunes with palm trees
Picture of Sebkha Circuit (Algeria): Wheat grown under palm trees

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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