Photo: The mosque in Ghardaia, Algeria

Now that the world has gone crazy, Algeria is one of those amazing countries that many people don’t visit anymore.

This photo is from a 1991 trip I took to see the Grand Erg Occidental, also known as the Western Sand Sea, in the Sahara Desert in Algeria. It is of a mosque on the top of the hill in the town of Ghardaia. I had just arrived after taking a 600-kilometre taxi ride from the southern town of Timimoun.

I had been stuck forever trying to get a bus ride out of Beni Abbes, but kept missing the through bus which had a schedule that was apparently random. It might arrive in the day, it might arrive at night. Whatever.

I finally caught the bus after three days of waiting and had to stand the entire night as we drove through the moonlit desert. I slept on my feet, hanging on to the overhead rack to keep from falling down and hallucinated much of the ride.

Eventually, I descended at Timimoun, tired and cranky from the bus trip. I decided that dusty town wasn’t worth spending any time in. Since there was no telling when the next bus out of town was, I looked at other options. A shared taxi was one of them.

I found a driver heading to Ghardaia, but he wouldn’t leave until the car was full. I sat in the shade of date palms at the taxi stand to stay out of the hot sun. Some of the trees were short enough that I could nibble on dates as I waited.

Hours passed, but no other riders turned up. Tired of waiting, I offered to pay the fares for the missing riders, which amounted to only a few dollars. The driver agreed and we headed out on an 8-hour drive along the lonely stretch of highway north. We passed wild camels and road crews clearing blowing sand off the roads using equipment I associate with snow clearing.

It was probably the most memorable taxi ride of my life.

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