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Sahara

Day 95: Algiers

Michael Palin - SaharaSo thorough have the security forces been that when Said and I at last cross the road and enter the network of descending alleyways, the casbah is like a ghost town. Five hundred years of human traffic may have worn down the old stone steps and cobbled passageways, but there are no traffic jams today. I catch glimpses of faces at black-grilled windows, set high in the walls above us. Doors scrape into place just before we reach them, and I can hear the hum of voices behind them. I have the feeling that the casbah is only holding its breath until we've gone.

It doesn't surprise me that UNESCO has named the casbah a World Heritage Site. It is undeniably atmospheric. The buildings crowd in on one another. Some of them, judging by their elaborately detailed stone doorways and patches of decorative tiling embedded in cracked white plaster, must be substantial inside. Many houses have upper storeys cantilevered out over the alley and supported by rows of wooden poles, so they almost touch at the top. They have mains water and electricity now, but some houses still rely on the old system of collecting rainwater on the rooftops. Litter drifts about and there is a pungent smell of wet plaster and drains. Said confirms my suspicion that everything is going on on the other side of the walls.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

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

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