When the driver shouts: Timimoun, I wake up after an uncomfortable ride on the night bus from Ghardaïa, and when I get out of the bus with a sleepy head, a strong wind blows sand in my face. It is pitch dark, and I decide to wait for sunrise in the terminal building. On a TV screen mounted to the wall, a nature documentary about the Mississippi shows a fertile land with birds and crocodiles, while even inside, sand creeps in everywhere. When it starts to get a little less dark outside, I set out to walk to the town, and hope it is not too far. Soon enough, my hands are so cold that I consider taking out my gloves, but with this sandstorm blowing around me, opening my bag does not seem like a good idea, so I just continue walking. After some searching I find a good place to stay, and with the wind howling around the walls, I just stay put and hope things will improve soon. After hearing so many good things about Timimoun, I am stuck inside a fancy room.
Later that day, things calm down, and I venture outside. I stay right at the edge of the escarpment. Looking down, I can see palm trees, beyond which a plain: the old sebkha, or salt lake, and a little further away, sand dunes: Timimoun is located right at the edge of the Grand Erg Occidental, a vast area of sand dunes in the west of Algeria. But I am heading to the old town, which is only a few minutes walk away. The sun manages to shine, even though there is still a haze in the air - must be sand. For a couple of hours, I wander the sandy streets of Timimoun, lined by adobe houses, most of which have been painted deep, dark red. Some of them have wooden spikes to strengthen the walls. My footsteps cannot be heard: every step I take gets absorbed by the sand. People have built rooms over the street, resulting in tunnel-like sections so long that it gets quite dark inside. People greet me everywhere, and I feel welcome in this oasis town.
The old town of Timimoun is not very big, and is long more than wide. I walk up to the northern part, where I find a square with the Grand Mosque. A newer minaret is higher than the old one, but the latter is of course much more interesting. It is an adobe tower, and I walk all around the mosque to find a good place to actually see it. It brings me to more sandy streets, some with stairs, and more delightful houses. No one around here. I finally find a way in, next to the entrance, which is closed; the minaret now rises high above me. I retrace my steps, walk twisting streets and alleys, most of which too narrow for vehicles to pass. I walk through the tunnels, and let myself be surprised where they take me. Sometimes, a small courtyard, sometimes, a dead-end, sometimes, to another street. Sunset is not as glorious as I had hoped for, and I walk the busy main street of Timimoun in search for food. Later that evening, I walk the sandy streets again, in the dark, giving the old town a new appearance: the red of the walls is gone, and everything appears black. Timimoun will have to wait for the sun to become the Red City again.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Timimoun Old Town (Algeria). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Timimoun Old Town.
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