Morocco: The Southern Circuit

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 | Skoura, Morocco (map)

Rooftop terrace at sundown at the Hotel Jardins de Skoura, in the heart of the oasis
Much more to come on Algeria, but for now a change of pace.

Back in May, after two months on the clock in Algeria, I was eager for a break. The lady friend and I rendez-vous'ed in Marrakech and quickly set out on a drive across the Atlas Mountains' highest pass (the deservedly infamous Tizi'n'Tichka) to the Skoura oasis.

From there we wound our way up and down the Dad├Ęs Gorge, past the rose fields of Kalaa M'gouna to the Todra Gorge—Morocco's answer to the Grand Canyon.

A day of sucking dust on the patchy road south past stray camels, roadside wells, the oasis of Zagora, and miles of treeless sand brought us to the desert outpost of Mhamid. We spent the next

Algeria: A Beginning

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

A street corner in the famed casbah of Algiers.
In the year and a half I spent in Morocco, I heard frequent talk of Algeria, the forbidden land to the east where no sane Moroccan—and certainly no Westerner—would dare to tread.

The streets of Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakech were and still are filled with ominous rumors about Algerians. If you believe the stories, they are a greedy people, an uptight people, a cold people, a violent people, and certainly not a people one would ever want to visit. (Not that Moroccans can do so easily; their border with Algeria has been closed since 1994 over numerous grievances between the two countries, particularly the Western Sahara conflict.)

At the same time, I only knew one or two people who had ever visited Algeria, so getting a second opinion was difficult. And so, with no shortage of ominous rumors in mind, I arrived in Algiers for a work trip back in March prepared for two months among utter barbarians.