A Whole New World in a Grain of Sand

In the southeastern part of Algeria lies Djanet, a vast land I never thought I’d find myself. Nevertheless, Westerners zip by in crowded jeeps, and covered faces trudge through the powdery sand led by a single Touareg. A smaller group of adventure-fueled travellers set out on a more demanding excursion by camel. Almost no tourists will venture the limitless sandy land without four wheels or feet under them; I was about to embark on a journey beyond my wildest imagination.

In an effort to connect with the most mysterious oasis in the Sahara, I set out with Hassani Mohmmed, a guide of the Touareg tribe. My desire to discover the desert and its traditions led me to exhaustion and tunnel vision,  but in my quest to be closer to nature, I found the nature in being free.

The Tuareg are an ancient Saharan peoples and I wanted to experience in some small way what these men and women saw on a daily bases for centuries.

Our travels took us well beyond the astonishing plateou of Tamrit, where we ventured in solitude to Tin Mansonsin, Safra, Allar Endman, and Jabbaren. We also completed the decent of Agba before returning to Djanet for the discovery of the city.

As we began our trek in silence, I was awe struck by the absence of smells in the desert.

I’d been so taken by the oddity of my existence in the surroundings that I had forgotten to look at the natural beauty of the desert. The beautiful oasis was lined with a peace and tranquility that only such a desolate area could provide. The everyday worries of work, traffic, crowds, and business were blown away with the sand. I felt a sense of relief and comfort even though there was nothing in sight but sand and sun.

Midway through the first day’s journey, we stopped for a tea at a standstill. Hassani set up a tent while I admired the view and attempted to take pictures of myself.

“Have tea,” Hassani insisted with a smile. He poured a tiny glass of tea for both of us. He made the whole process so natural that I was completely at ease.

After the exchange of typical, generic conversation, we discussed family, friends, travel, and even future plans.

I sipped my tea slowly and said, “Hassani, how many brothers and sister do you have?”

“There are six in my family. Three boys and three girls.”

“Your parents have been busy,” I said with a smile. I too come from a family of three boys and three girls, but it is very uncommon in Canadian standards. “Are such large families common here?”

“Yes, most Tuareg families are much larger.”

Even in such dramatic surroundings, it’s easy to find similarities between cultures and people. Hassani saw his family with the same respect and appreciation as I saw my own.

We reached our first camp several hours later. A friend and fellow Tuareg drove out in his Land Rover to prearrange a place where he built a fire, spread a woven plastic groundsheet, and prepared an end-of-day feast. Carrying all of those supplies while on foot would have been impossible.

While darkness fell, we ate hummus with our hands and ripped off pita bread that had been laid directly onto the smoldering ashes of the fire to warm.

I spread my sleeping bag on the barren ground and wrapped the headdress or keffiyeh around my mouth and nose for protection against sand and insects.

The tranquility of the desert night was surreal. As I stared at the vast, silent, star-lit sky, I drifted off to sleep.

Being in such a place was the nearest I’ve ever come to feeling the exploration of another planet. My adventure had only just begun, but I already had a new perspective on the culture and environment of Algeria. I discovered an exceptional universe in a strange, charming landscape.

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27 thoughts on “A Whole New World in a Grain of Sand

  1. sounds like you had an amazing experience in that corner of the world.. reminds me of a book/movie by 2 german film-makers which is in multiple parts (its called Exploring the Deserts of Earth)and you have captured some great colors in your desert photos !

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  2. Thanks for liking my post. You are a great adventurer. I especially love this blog. I’ve never been to Africa but I would love to someday. These pictures are the Africa that I envisioned!

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    • It was a unique experience that will stay with my forever. I see that you’ve also traveled to Africa. I’d love to journey more throughout the continent. Where have you visited?

      Thanks for reading,

      Lesley

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      • Oh, so many places! I would say too many, but not entirely sure I believe that since I keep searching for more amazing adventures! But Africa is a unique and vivid continent to travel, you are right. Hope you get to see some more.

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    • I can only hope that my child will enjoy traveling and adventure as much. I can’t wait to show her new countries, cultures, and adventures.

      I hope you make it to the north someday. It was a beautiful experience.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment; it’s appreciated.

      Lesley

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  3. I am from Malawi, central region of Africa. These pictures give me a perspective of a whole new world, almost like its a whole different continent, and the pictures come alive with your narrative. Thank you.

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  4. hi lesley
    your journey was wonderful,even though i’m from algeria,but i haven’t seen these wonderful spots before.
    thank you lesley to share!
    all the best!

    Like

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