Top 10 Favorite Cities Visited – #4 Djanet, Algeria

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.

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 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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144 thoughts on “Top 10 Favorite Cities Visited – #4 Djanet, Algeria

  1. loving this series. reckon i’d find it hard to breathe with something over my face and mouth overnight, but i’dd rather that than waking up with crawlies up my nostrils. do you ever get the chance to stay in touch with these people you meet? I imagine when you experience that sort of thing you build some kind of bond with the people/person your with. Just curious to know if it’s even possible to stay in touch with someone like Hassani over there once your back home. Looking forward to the top 3.

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  2. Thank you for allowing me to travel with you to this fascinating place! Your photos are tremendous! I do not travel much anymore and your piece made me feel as though I were there with you looking over you shoulder. Maybe I was the spider…

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  3. The desert is special. The color, the sound, the loneliness… It was nice to read about this place. Keep showing us nice spots!

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  4. Wow what amazing pictures! and 33 countries under your belt wow, I aspire to do that much travelling at some point in my life. I congratulate you for that free and adventurous spirit that drives you to explore and be marvelled at the beauty of this earth. Thanks for sharing your journey. :-))

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  5. I just came here because I saw you liked a post on my (young) blog. I’m delighted to find that someone visited my country and liked it! I was born in Constantine, Algeria and raised in France. You’ve seen more of my country than I ever did. Keep up the good work!

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  6. I love the desert, its a totally different life. I’ve been into the desert numerous times, will go many more times for sure, i’ll always love it and will always learn something new from there

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  7. You really had a good relationship with your guide and with the place. Captivating pictures I must say. Really makes your readers long to go there. Sceneries that make you reflect and contemplate, I, myself, envy you. Thanks for the share.

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  8. Thanks for the “like” on my fledgling little blog! I don’t see anything here on the Czech Republic, so stay tuned in to me (RP in the CR)! I’m nowhere near as crazy as you, so I will definitely not be skydiving or jumping off of or out of anything. I am not ashamed to admit to my phobia of heights, tho they say it helps to talk about these things. ~ RP

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  9. I never considered going to a place like that, but the pictures are beautiful and there is much beauty out there. I am honestly thankful you pointed this out to the world. Must have been amazing to fully experience such a thing. It is something to consider for myself as well. The experience might be refreshing.

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  10. Algeria still scares a lot of people. I think it’s a combination of the negative stories from France where many have struggled to assimilate and are sadly wrapped up in crime stats, yet the reality of the country is something completely different – positive and life affirming. That’s why you sometimes get people congratulating you for ‘being brave’ in going to such places. It hides their own pre-conceived notions and fears. That’s understandable as most of it is garnered from lazy media stereotypes. Well done on a great piece.

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  11. First-time visitor here (well, I think). Thanks for sharing your travel experiences – not only through the scenery, but through the people. Given your vast travels, I assume you confirm my belief that the vast majority of people across our globe are wonderful.

    Also, thanks for visiting my blog. Typically, I reciprocate much faster, so my apologies.

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  12. Amazing article…I feel like Ive just travelled there. You have such a way with words and pictures- Love it- thanks for sharing!!! Amazing….(now back to my dishes in the sink! hahaha)

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  13. Gorgeous! how lucky you are to be able to travel to such fascinating places; beautifully written & captured in your fotos. I’m so envious! But happy to have the opportunity to view them thru your lens. Keep up the good work.

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  14. I had never considered visiting the desert before reading this post. I think you’ve changed my mind. It sounds quite amazing, and you’re pictures are absolutely breathtaking!

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