Top 10 Favorite Cities Visited
With 33 countries under my belt, I’ve experienced some of the most amazing cities that the world has to offer. From great beaches, climate, friendly people, personal interests, world-famous attractions, architecture, history, and culture, there are many different factors that make a city great, let alone top ten!
#4 Djanet, Algeria – A Whole New World in a Grain of Sand
In the southeastern part of Algeria lies Djanet, which is hardly a city; rather it’s more like a cluster of buildings around the same oasis and a palm grove. Nevertheless, Westerners zip by in crowded jeeps, and covered faces trudge through the powdery sand led by a single Touareg. They follow a typical route that takes in the prehistoric cave art and visit the local market. At night, they find themselves nestled sweetly in comfortable rooms with toilets, showers, running water, and even mattresses. A smaller group of adventure-fueled travellers set out on a more demanding excursion by camel. They travel the silent dunes atop the creature of the desert. 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 30-year-old independent guide of the Touareg tribe. My desperate 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. It was this new world of experiences and freedom that put Djanet on my top ten list.
The reception by the local team of touaregs at the airport was beyond anything I’ve experienced in my life. I felt instantly at ease with my new friends even though I was the only woman among them. My journey began with a transfer from the airport to the community by 4×4. The day proceeded at the calm, quiet rhythm of the desert. It wouldn’t be long before Hassani Mohmmed would put my hiking skills to the test.
The Touareg, also known as Twareg, are a nomadic, pastoralist people. They are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa. They 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; to travel as the Touareg always had and to learn whatever desert skills they had to offer was a great honour.
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. The warm fabric against my face cast a sudden awakening of my other senses. The greens and blues of my clothing contrasted so dramatically with the earth-tone world around me that I extended my hand in front of my face to discover an almost cartoon-like image before me.
Hassani asks me, “Is everything ok with your clothes? Are you covered properly?”
“Yes, everything’s fine. It’s just overwhelming. It’s almost like everything is heightened in contrast to my regular view of the world.”
“This is just the beginning,” was Hassani’s sole response.
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 rocks were veined with streaks and they were wrapped in soft pinks, corals, reds, and oranges. 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. We removed our shoes and sat cross-legged on the woven plastic mat.
“Have tea,” Hassani insisted with a smile. He poured a tiny glass of tea for both of us. It was as if I was seated at the kitchen table of my house. 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; at least in this day and age. “Are such large families common?”
“Yes, most Touareg families are much larger.”
I contemplated what life must be like on a daily basis and I quickly became lost in thought. 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 Touareg 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 off pita bread that had been laid directly onto the smoldering ashes of the fire to warm.
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 as though I was exploring 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 and it will stay with me for as long as I live. After completing my life-altering journey, I felt compelled to include Djanet, Algeria in my top ten.
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