A Whiff of Farewell in the Air

Tablat, Algeria

You are headed toward the road flanked by trees. Your heart aches as you remember.

The sun slants across the mountains. You watch the roaring waterfall tumble down the cliff. A sudden breeze rustles the grass. You are not lyrical about what the bucolic setting bodes for the future. The landscape is blanketed in snow. The almond trees are in bloom.

Tablat’s spirit endears the town to everyone who has been lucky enough to traverse its streets. They come like migrating birds, which despite having had to circle around the world several times dare not cover the safe distances the different cultural worlds comprising our globe keep with one another.

On the day of your date, the air smells so sweet that it cloys your senses. We may be meant to be, you think, secretly wishing destiny will allow you to play a part in your own story. You step out the door and Tablat’s sparkling everyday nature unfolds before you. You bang the door closed behind you, careful not to slam it on your heart, which clings to the frame. You stride confidently down the lane. You are set on taking decisive steps ...Read more

The Kid and the Fortress

Bordj El Kiffan Algeria

Ahmed is a very bright and inquisitive six-year-old boy who lives in a city called Bordj El Kiffan—shortened as Bordj—which has amazing sand beaches and a formidable fortress.

The old fortress was built beside the sea centuries ago, during the Ottoman Empire. It was erected by soldiers and was once guarded by sentries who would squat down beside the majestic cannons that still crown the fortress today. Their snouts stick out of the bastion’s crenelated walls in order to deter outsiders from approaching.

In truth, the fortress looks snotty, standing there all high and mighty against the celestial blue backdrop that merges with the marine one. However, it probably deserves to feel smug after having gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect the burghers who hid behind its walls back in the day. At that time, the fortress deterred the enemy ships that had crossed the seas in hopes of getting a shot at desecrating the jewels ashore from approaching any further. It still stands to this day—well, “stand” is perhaps not the most appropriate word, given that its walls lean precariously against one another. Yet, ...Read more

Blue Litham

Hoggar Mountains, Algeria

His bleary eyes cast a plaintive glance at the rearview mirror. They stood out from the sea of blue folds belonging to the litham he wore around his head. For a second, it was as if nothing else mattered in the entire world but for what was going on inside those eyes, which reproduced the sky. We were both sitting close to the front in order to show the driver the appropriate turn for the road that led to the Hoggar Mountains.

Time was already dragging, and our destination still lay a considerable distance ahead, at the end of the mostly unpaved track that twisted before us like a frazzled cord clumsily trying to encompass the landscape. Here in the boonies, there was sand as far as the eye could see. I zoomed in on the reflection of Azooz’s veiled face in the mirror in a botched attempt to explore the mystery that shrouded his mien. My attempt had been doomed to fail from the start, but I had to confirm my suspicions before I could lean back in my seat and let my eyes stray aimlessly. ...Read more

Thieves Rise at Nightfall, Isn’t That What They Say?

Ain El Kebira, Algerian countryside

I was folding clothes when a piece of paper came flying through the window and fell at my feet. As I picked it up, I saw it had something written on it. This immediately aroused my curiosity. The paper read, “Behind the forest, where the failed attempt to scrape the sky.”

I would have thrown it away, but then I saw a note on the side that caught my attention.

“Luke 9:11.”

I looked the verse up on the Internet: “But the crowds learned about it and followed him.”

My findings got me all keyed up at the thought of having chanced upon a treasure map. I had planned to spend the next day with my friend not doing much of anything but decided last minute to urge her to embark on an adventure with me.

“Hi! How are you, Tina? How have you been?” she greeted me over the phone.

“Good, thanks! Emma, I called to tell you about something strange that just happened to me.” For a second I balked at revealing my secret.

“Don’t hold back. I want to know it all,” she chimed in with enthusiasm.

“I found ...Read more

In Love with the African Coastline

Le parc archéologique de Tipaza

I am from Tipaza, born and bred, and can attest to the fact that it’s a very unique city. It is steeped in history and attracts many tourists because of the Roman ruins that can be found everywhere. Most of its warm-hearted and good-natured citizens live a simple but honorable life working in the fields. It is a safe city for outsiders to boot.

Every year, I invite a friend of mine to spend summer vacation in my city with me and my family. A very dear friend of mine came to visit me this year. His name is Omar alHalbi, and he is a Syrian athlete whom I met at the Grand Cycling Tour of Algeria some years ago. When I invited him, he thanked me warmly for the opportunity I was offering to learn more about Tipaza, its surrounding flora and fauna, and its people, because as he told me, he had fallen in love with the city when he had first stayed in it during the tour. Unfortunately, he could only vacation with us for two ...Read more

Faint Breeze, Shattering Revelation

Port of Tipasa, Algeria

I haven’t heard from you for a whole month. I fear you might never come back to me again. Your phone is off, and you are not answering my messages. Even though it is still way too early and I risk waking my mother up, I call her on the phone to ask whether she has information on your whereabouts. She accuses me of being a crazy fool and beseeches me to come to my senses and return to her. As I open my notebook in hopes of finding a trace of you, the smell of your perfume hits me. I inhale deeply and try to hold on to it for as long as I can, for it may very well be the only thing you have left behind. Not knowing what has happened to you is driving me nuts. In order to see your face again, I open the photo album and look through the pictures I once took of you. It’s a shame that I have to resign myself to an unresponsive image of you.

In my desperation to find ...Read more

Sidi M’Cid Bridge

rsz_dsc_1517-1024x680

Like the bridge, her life was held in abeyance pending a reversal of the past. He would have tried to comfort her by hugging her, but she would have pushed him away. He wanted to keep his distance. It started raining as tears began to pour down her cheeks. It was as if the sky had agreed to assist her in hiding her sorrow. She didn’t mind the rain splashing on her lunar face. She felt in harmony with the elements. Everyone else started running to take shelter, but she stayed where she was sitting and faced the rain. God was by her side. Half an hour later, the storm abated and a rainbow graced the sky. At long last, Constantine’s thirst had been slaked. The city seemed content. Sukina, however, could not find it in herself to wake up to her reality and move on with her life. It didn’t help matters that she preferred to keep to herself, for this reticence of hers had everyone’s imaginations running riot. Some assumed she was a lone wolf, others argued she was just a stray ...Read more

Insane Jealousy

Ouargla, Algeria

She didn’t love him. Strictly speaking, she worshipped him and the mere thought of losing him tore her up inside. One day he had to go on a trip for work. The prospect of him leaving her side harrowed her. She would not be able to breathe the same air he breathed or smell the distinct charm he oozed in order to raise her spirits.

He would be absent for a whole week—each of the seven days would feel like seven years, for they had not spent a single day apart since they had gotten married three months ago. God had wanted them to find their way to each other’s hearts while in their fourth year of college. They had fallen madly in love the moment they had set eyes on each other. They had only seen the other’s good qualities and had instantly become inseparable.

During the day, she stayed at home missing him, waiting with bated breath for his return and getting things set to meet his every need as soon as he walked in the front door. Thus he could just relax after having spent the whole day at work ...Read more

Summer Slumber

Beni Hammad Fort, Maadid, Algeria

I had spent the whole night walking on my own and was starting to feel pretty desperate to, for lack of a better alternative, spy a murky light shimmering on the horizon. I had been trying hard to ignore the foul stench of my bleak surroundings. After all, I had to reach my destination no matter how long or unpalatable the journey turned out to be. As I continued plodding forward, my mind set sail for where my fondest memories had taken place.

Suddenly, a gruff voice asked me about my love. Fear gripped me, but I tried to conceal it as I offered my answer.

“She belongs to my past, a past I wish I could leave behind. The notion that many of the stars we see gleaming in the sky are actually just mirages has always transfixed me. It is scary to think that we make wishes upon carcasses of light. The wilderness of velvet forests opens up unrivaled opportunities to stage ambushes on the saps of this world. Wait, wait! Jinn, don’t finish me off just yet. ...Read more

Bowing before the Prophet Khaled

Sidi Khaled Argelia

I stepped across the threshold of his humble abode and greeted him. I chanced upon the butler, who was carrying a bowl of dates and a glass of milk on a tray.

“Welcome to the sanctuary of the prophet Khaled.

“Prophet?”

“Yes, don’t you know? He is the Arabic prophet who was given the cold shoulder by the people he was committed to guide.” He didn’t care to provide me with context so that I could cushion the brick he had just dropped on me. Instead, he left me to my own devices and went to minister to the rest of the guests.

I had been on my way to the Algerian city of Biskra to buy the dates my wife had asked for—or rather, entreated me to fetch her. She had declared that she had been craving them for quite a while already and reminded me of the perils of leaving pregnancy whims unanswered. “Before you know it, the child is born with a skin patch the color and texture of a date on his or her ...Read more