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Sahara

Day 95: Algiers

Algiers, Algeria 
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In the casbah, Algiers. This is the oldest part of town and dates from long before the French arrived. It's also the heart of anti-government feeling. The houses are squeezed tight along narrow alleyways, making it easy to defend and very difficult to attack.
Michael Palin - SaharaJudging by the headline in Liberté, this might not be the best day for our visit to the casbah. 'Algérie en Colère!' it screams - 'Algeria in Anger!' - but for once it isn't a massacre or another killing that's responsible. The anger this time is directed at the inadequacy of public services, and especially the water supply, which has remained unchanged since the French left. After another long dry summer, water in some areas is now rationed to one day in five, and there are reports of a typhoid outbreak in the poorer parts of the city. We're told on no account to drink tap water.

Before entering the casbah we rendezvous with the local police outside the white walls of the Barberousse prison, named after the Barbarossa brothers, two Turkish corsairs brought in by the ruler of Algiers to fight off Spanish invaders in the sixteenth century. It stands at the top of the hill looking balefully out over the narrow, crowded roofs of the casbah. Because of the heightened security and the momentousness of our visit (the first foreign film crew to be allowed in for several years), we're all a touch jumpy, and when, with a sudden blaring of horns, a convoy of cars bursts round the corner, we instinctively rush for cover. Much mirth on the part of the security men, as it turns out to be nothing more than a wedding procession, in the middle of which is a portable band - six musicians in fezzes, white cotton tunics and red waistcoats, sitting in the back of a pick-up truck. With a salvo of car horns they move past down the road.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 95
  • Country/sea: Algeria
  • Place: Algiers
  • Book page no: 245

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