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Sahara

Day 69: I-n-Guezzam

I-n-Guezzam, Algeria 
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Back of beyond. The Niger-Algerian border posts.
Michael Palin - SaharaI approach Algeria with a certain amount of trepidation. The second largest country in Africa, and the tenth largest in the world, has, since 1992, been sidelined to the fringes of the international community, a nation synonymous with trouble. Information is hard to find. My Lonely Planet guide apologetically devotes only ten pages to it. 'Due to its continuing problems,' they explain, 'Algeria was the one African nation we were unable to visit.'

The BBC advised against operating there, and the Foreign Office insisted that if we go we should take armed bodyguards. Even the artesian well at the border, marked so hopefully in blue on my Michelin map, has the word 'sulfureuse' alongside it.

The country that fought a bloody civil war to win its independence from France in 1962 is currently involved in another, just as bloody, which began in 1992, when the military-dominated, socialist regime cancelled an election which they feared was going to be won by an Islamist opposition party. The opposition militarised itself as the GIA (Armed Islamic Group), and it is estimated that in less than ten years more than 100,000 people have died on both sides.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 69
  • Country/sea: Algeria
  • Place: I-n-Guezzam
  • Book page no: 192

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