“Whoever you meet in your journey of life, enlighten them with the light of your love and kindness...” - Debasish MridhaDay 09: 12 October 2016 (Wednesday)
Route: Biskra - Ghardaia
Distance: 578 km
Hotel: Hotel El-Djanaub, Ghardaia
Biskra is the capital city of the Biskra Province and is a fascinating destination for visitors to explore. Biskra is on the borders of the Sahara Desert. It is a picturesque oasis that breaks the endless horizon of sand with its beautiful buildings and massive date palm plantations. It is estimated that the city of Biskra is home to approximately a hundred and fifty thousand date palm trees that are very important to the economy of the city. It has a population of over 200,000.
|(Photo shots after breakfast at Les Ziban)|
|(A mosaic painting of Gorge of Kantara)|
|(Driving out of the town of Biskra)|
Our first visit is to the Hammam Salihine Complex in Biskra. This bath complex is situated on the road to Batna. The region enjoys a dry climate with mild and warm winter. The sun nearly shines constantly all year round. The complex offers air-conditioned bungalows and hotel rooms. The waters of Hammam Salihine are sulphurized sodium chlorinated with a temperature of up to 43°C. The water is used as a cure for Rheumatic, gynecological disorders, respiratory and dermatological diseases. Local tourists love to stay in the Hammam Complex during winter.
|(A hammam complex with complete aminities)|
|(Private cubicles bath for families)|
Before lunch we made another visit to a date plantation on the way. We noticed that most of the dates were already ripened and time to be harvested. According to the guide, unharvested dates were left as the fruits were not up to standard. These fruits will be exported later for fi-sabi-lillah in other needy countries.
|(A bridge with dried-up river bed in the barren area)|
|(Carcass of a dead camel in the desert)|
|(This is not an archaeological finding)|
|(Visiting a matured date palm plantation)|
|(Acres of date palm plantations along the route)|
We drove on the Trans-Sahara highway through the barren desert the rest of the journey to Ghardaia. We had to make a stop at the boundary of each territory for a change in police escort. Normally it would take less than 15 minutes wait but at certain territory, we were made to wait for more than half and hour by the road side. There would be checks on the passenger list and details of our visits. Most of the times, the guide had to submit a copy of the group list and itinerary to the police or National Guard for their record.
|(A change of police escort at every district)|
|(Beware of camel crossings)|
|(Petrol stations along the Trans-Sahara Highway)|
|(Mouth-watering grilled chicken at the R&R cafe)|
|(Beef or mutton of skews)|
|(A free flow of French bread)|
|(A must stop at every district)|
|(Checks and formalities before the escort)|
In Algeria, security is very strict. While waiting, we were not allowed to get out of our vehicle. If there was an urgent need to visit the washroom, we would be escorted closely. To while away our time, we got a few snap shots of the surrounding local scenes.
|(Locals were subject to road blocks and checks too)|
|(Typical houses in the small towns)|
|(Children playing in the hot sun)|
|(Adults resting after a hard day's work)|
|(Water supply for drinking and ablution)|
|(A make-shift bus stop)|
|(An old train on an unused railway tracks)|
|(Local transportation for Sahara commuters)|
|(Sand dunes in the Sahara desert)|
|(The changing colors of the desert and sky)|
|(The newly paved Trans-Sahara road|
|(High-tensioned power cables running across the desert)|
|(Wild camels roaming the Sahara)|
The Trans-Sahara Highway is a transnational highway project to pave, improve and ease border formalities on an existing trade route across the Sahara Desert. It runs between North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea in the north and West Africa bordered by the Atlantic Ocean in the south, from Algiers in Algeria to Lagos in Nigeria, giving it the alternative names of the Algiers-Lagos Highway or Lagos-Algiers Highway.
|(Rock formations in the desert)|
|(Rocks and pebbles replacing the desert sand)|
|(An oasis with water encatchment in the desert)|
The Trans-Sahara Highway has a length of about 4500 km of which about 85% has been paved. It passes through only three countries, Algeria, Niger and Nigeria. However, an additional 3600 km of linked highways to Tunisia, Mali and Chad are being considered.
We performed our prayers at Masjid Othman bin Affan in Touggourt a small town on the way to Ghardaia after crossing a part of the Sahara desert.
|(Close police escort on the highway)|
|(Arriving at the town of Touggourt)|
|(Performing our prayers at Masjid Othman bin Affan)|
We continued our journey on the Trans-Sahara Highway. On the way we were hit by a bad sand storm. It was dusty and windy and the road was covered with brownish dessert sand. For almost an hour we traveled cautiously in the thick orange haze that had severely reduced visibility. We were lucky to have the escort in front of us as visibility was at its very minimal.
|(The sun was covered with clouds and dust)|
|(Strong wind covering the road with desert sand)|
|(Minimal visibility in the desert storm)|
|(View of the sun in the sand storm)|
|(Travelling with caution in the strong wind)|
|(The desert storm was clearing a little)|
|(Other vehicles travel slowly and carefully)|
|(Getting little assistance from the sunlight)|
The sand storm reduced a little when we approach the town of Ghardaia. It was already dark when we arrived in Ghardaia and checked-in Hotel El-Djanaub, hungry and exhausted.