DJANET, ALGERIA — It’s always bizarre to arrive in a new place in the middle of the night. But the flights into Djanet all arrive around midnight. Not that there are so many flights arriving here these days — depending on the time of year there may only be a few flights a week to and from Algiers. Anyway, I was lucky enough to be on one, and smiled as I deplaned into the warm Saharan night. I walked across the tarmac to the small terminal at Tiska, where Algerian police were politely checking the papers of anyone who looked like they might be a foreign tourist. There were only a few of us. And one or two Algerians who looked “foreign” enough to be asked for their papers too — a humorous exchange took place between the Algerian men and the police (though it was in Arabic, and I couldn’t understand exactly what was said).
The other tourists all had their guides waiting right in the police area of the terminal, and when I went to get my luggage, one of the officers stopped me, asking where my guide was. I tried to reassure him that I had someone coming to meet me, but he seemed genuinely concerned. I wasn’t sure at that point if they thought maybe I was an unauthorized journalist, since the police at the airport in Algiers kept asking me if I was one. So, as a confidence building measure to “prove” my “tourist” status, I went searching for my copy of my invitation letter that had been prepared by an authorized tour company based in Djanet. That seemed to placate them, and I gathered up my bags and headed out to meet Mohammed and the rest of my team.
It was late and I was tired. But I was excited to finally be here. We drove into the darkness of the desert night for about 30km to Efri, a suburb of Djanet, where I can sleep for a few hours before setting off towards the Libyan border in the morning…
ABOUT THE EXPEDITION
JoMarie Fecci, of USnomads, sets off on an independent scouting trip in south-eastern Algeria in preparation for an up-coming Sahara expedition. Driving a Toyota Landcruiser and working with a small team of local Tuaregs, she will traverse roughly 650 miles of desert primarily off-road. From a base in the town of Djanet the plan is to loop southeast to the Libyan border, before turning back and circling north west as far as the Ihrir oasis. During the journey the team will visit a series of UNESCO world heritage sites around Tassili N’ajjer. The primary goal of this mission is to assess terrain, security, driving conditions, logistical concerns and approximate timeframes for future travel.
WHERE WE ARE
The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, in North Africa is the largest country in Africa and the tenth-largest country in the world. With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi) it is one-quarter of the size of the entire United States and four times the size of France. Its capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the country’s far north on the Mediterranean coast. It is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the west by Morocco, to the southwest by the Western Saharan territory, Mauritania, and Mali, to the southeast by Niger, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. With a population of roughly 38,813,722, Algeria ranks 33rd in population worldwide. The majority of that population, which is a well-integrated mixture of Arab and indigenous Berbers, live in the northern, coastal region. The official language is Arabic though many people also speak French and/or one of the nation’s Berber dialects.