Guest Post: Stepping Out Into Algiers

Sunday, March 16, 2014 | Algiers, Algeria

The guest author Maggie exploring Algiers with her favorite big brother
A guest post by my sister, Maggie Farrand

It wasn't exactly how I had planned to arrive in Algiers. I had envisioned a much more elegant, carefree entrance, where I would gather my luggage and manage the airport crowds feeling relaxed and ready for three days of vacation.

Revisiting my breakfast on my two-hour flight from Rabat, being told by the flight attendants that I was the first person ever to cry on their flight, and then suffering through a 45-minute line at immigration with my head spinning and a slight fear that they wouldn't let me in... well, that was how it really happened.

But I made it, arriving safely in Algiers after a two-week work trip next door in Rabat, Morocco. I enjoyed my time in Morocco, staying in Rabat for the first time (even if I spent most of it in the office), but I admit I had my eye on the next stop of my itinerary: three full days with my older brother, Andrew, in Algeria.

His face was a welcome sight in the Algiers airport when I finally made it through customs. After taking my luggage and offering a consoling hug, he put on his elder sibling hat—digging out my antibiotics and feeding them to me with his water.

I was hoping for an instant elixir; instead, my unhappy stomach stuck around through the 30-minute windy, jerky drive to Andrew's apartment.

The next day, I woke from a near 12-hour slumber to a feeling of semi-normality. I tested out a banana for breakfast and crept out onto his famed terrace to finally get a good look at Algiers. A really good look. Perhaps one of the best in the city. An uninterrupted panoramic of the sprawling port. Fresh air, a cool breeze, and a clear view of the Bay of Algiers. Stomach bug, who? It was time to explore this city.

The view!
Andrew and I spent the next days on foot. I learned quickly that to go anywhere in the city, stairs were inevitable. I toured Andrew's new office and walked his daily route to work, saw the little shop where he buys his coffee, and where he gets his daily allotment of oranges so he can squeeze a fresh glass in the morning. We spent one afternoon wandering the Jardin d'Essai, where it felt more like Palm Springs, California than Algeria. He agreed then, as we rested on the stairs staring up at palm trees and a clear blue sky, that this place wasn't so bad.

Both nights, we trekked to The Crypt, a British-owned bar and Andrew's weekly hangout. In fact, it was the main spot for the few foreigners living in Algiers. Friday they were offering a special event: Trivia Night. Three Hoyas and two Serbians took on the competition. While we couldn't quite get the "W," we came a close second—impressive considering that there was one too many questions about British naval history.

In two days of walking and touring the city's many historical sites, we probably only covered a small portion of the actual city, home to 3.5 million people (somewhere between Chicago and Los Angeles in population). But it was never about covering the most ground; it was about seeing where my brother lives—Mom was expecting a full report—and spending time together.

I never figured out the culprit for this latest case of food poisoning and the resulting embarrassment aboard my Air Algérie flight, but part of me was not at all surprised. A 2008 trip to visit Andrew in Morocco brought a similar fate: praying to the porcelain gods for several days, my mom ready to drag me to the nearest emergency room at any moment. That time, I blamed a sip of orange juice from the Marrakesh market. I emerged from that episode with my pants a little looser, but still holding Morocco in high regard. This time was no different.

I really enjoy Morocco. I've been to a handful of countries in recent years, and Morocco is still at the top of my list. It's exciting, welcoming, yet still exotic and different. Unlike Algeria, Morocco encourages tourists. It is incredibly hospitable when you arrive, and I swear, the food is delicious.

It seems, however, that as much as I love Morocco, Morocco doesn't love me. I keep going back, only to have it chase me away. I'm just glad that this time, its aversion to my presence didn't stop me from enjoying time with my brother (or the view!) in his new home in Algeria.

Guest author Maggie in downtown Algiers
View all Maggie's photos from her trip to Morocco and Algeria.


Unknown said...

Great post, Maggie. Glad your brother was there to hug you!

Anonymous said...

Maggie, we love your brother for the beautiful articles he write to us about algeria. so we love you in extension. I would of loved that my country was the one that gave you the big welcome hug and not Andrew. Unfortunately the same thing happens to me each time I visit algiers. I know you wouldn't believe me, but it actually was much worse before, so there is hope for the future with all those billions of dollars in national reserves.
BTW, I love morroco too, you have an excellent taste.

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