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Sahara

Day 96: Algiers to Oran

Algiers to Oran, Algeria 
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On the Algiers-Oran express, one of the most frequently attacked trains in the world. Fellow passengers keep a watchful eye.
Michael Palin - SaharaOur train was once the romantically named Algiers-Casablanca Express, but the land border with Morocco has been closed since 1995, after disagreements over security, and it's now terminated at Oran, 300 miles and five hours away. The silver-ribbed aluminium shell of our coach is studded with small holes, and I'm just about to bring these to Eamonn's attention when a group from Algerian Railways arrives to welcome us aboard and generally look after all our filming needs. One of them is a dark-haired lady with long, lustrous hair and a brisk, efficient manner which barely conceals a palpable nervousness.

She dismisses any current problems on the line.

'It's all much better now,' she assures me confidently, rather spoiling the effect by adding, 'touche bois'. Touch wood. Inshallah would have been more appropriate.

The train rolls out on time and I push aside the flimsy green curtain to take a last look at Alger La Blanche, which I doubt I shall see again for a long, long time. The morning sun catches the roofs of the casbah and the city finally slips away behind a succession of tunnels and flyovers.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 96
  • Country/sea: Algeria
  • Place: Algiers
  • Book page no: 248

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