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Sahara

Day 96: Algiers to Oran

Oran, Algeria 
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The trauma of France's loss of Algeria is embodied in the grand Opera House in Oran. It was modelled on the one in Paris, and you don't really build things like this unless you intend to stay.
Michael Palin - SaharaSaid goes to the door, but peers out a lot more warily. For the first time I begin to wonder where my cordon sanitaire has gone. Probably been given the night off for getting us to Oran safely.

After a few more minutes, during which the stamping and shouting rises to a frightening intensity, the crowd moves on.

I ask Said what it was all about.

Don't worry, he reassures me, it wasn't directed at us. Kabilya, where the winning team comes from, is a mountainous region of eastern Algeria, not Arab but Berber. They are a strong-willed, proud and enterprising people (the actress Isabelle Adjani is Kabilyan) and have their own quarrel with the government over suppression of their language and culture. After a recent protest march in Algiers, forty young men disappeared, and the word is that they were taken away on police wagons. The military-backed government is known by its opponents as Le Pouvoir, The Power, hence the shouts of 'Pouvoir' and 'Assassins'.

In Algeria it's quite common for football teams to be used for political protest.

'Were you as worried as I was?' I ask Said.

'If this had been in Algiers, yes.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 96
  • Country/sea: Algeria
  • Place: Oran
  • Book page no: 250

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