Previously posted on the other blog.
29th December 2006 - 9th Dhul Hijjah 1427
We are in the land of home-made couscous and freshly baked breads of various types. We are in a land that is proud of its olive oil and Deglet Nour dates. And what a treat it is to break the fast with one of those. We are in Algeria.
Having made our first and previous trip to Algiers (the capital city) in the summer, I really wasn't expecting the cold to be this cold! Maybe I've been spoilt by the Jeddah heat! Now that the worst of my 'flu is over Alhamdulillah, I'm looking forward to making the most of the rest of our time here. Today we watched the hujjaaj gathering at 'Arafah, on TV, and then leaving to go to Muzdalifah after Maghrib. As my mother-in-law reminisced her time there a few years ago, I too privately missed being there as I was last year. What a wonderful experience it is. May Allah accept the Hajj of the pilgrims.
The children had an exciting time today as they had gone with their father, grandfather and uncle to buy 2 sheep (definitely not an everyday occurrence for them). They had been waiting for the sheep for days and they know full well what will happen tomorrow in accordance with the sunnah of our Messenger in sha Allah.
30th December 2006 - 10th Dhul Hijjah 1427
Today I can say "Been there. Done that," as far as udh-hiya goes. We started off the day by going to the mosque a little while after Fajr. It was a usual Muslim affair. But, having experienced the Eid prayer in the slightly snobby Rawdah district of Jeddah and amongst my reserved British sisters, this was different. There I was with my 2 daughters, a complete stranger in this country but I was greeted by many of the women with their traditional "Saha 'Eidkum" and "taqabal Allahu minna wa minkum".
Upon returning home and greeting the rest of the family, preparations were made to begin the slaughtering. This was a completely new experience for me and the kids. It was a humbling one too. All sorts of thoughts came to my mind: the following of the tradition of the Prophet Ibrahim; adherence to the sunnah of the Messenger and thoughts of life and death.
31st December 2006 - 11th Dhul Hijjah 1427
Yesterday we ate liver for lunch and that was ok. But, for dinner my mum-in-law had prepared bouzellouf. This is a local delicacy and is eaten on the 1st day of 'Eid ul Adha. I ended up eating the delicious veggies from the day before, because bouzellouf is a dish made of the head of the sheep. I just couldn't!
We visited family members and ate more Algerian specialities. I like rishta. It's a bit like thin tagliatelle and is steamed in a kiskaas (couscousiere) and eaten with a sauce like that of couscous. The great thing about Algerian meals is that they always have salad and fruit. And the fruit in season now is oranges (really good for me and my cold). I must add that the bread is really good here too. The home-made bread is nice. There's kisra which if made with less yeast is a thin, slightly hard bread usually made with semolina (like most Algerian breads). It's made with olive oil and is great with soup. Matlou' is a soft, thicker bread and is another favourite amongst my in-laws. Infact, even the shop-bought bread is really good. The French bread beats Tesco hands down! And the croissants and pain au chocolat are really something else. Aside from bread what else does Algeria have to offer? Well, the olive oil is really good. It doesn't smell like the ones I'd had before and the taste is really different too. They sprinkle it over some really light, soft pastry leaves with a little sugar for breakfast.
Ok, aside from FOOD what else does Algeria have to offer? My impression so far is that Algeria is slightly closed off to the rest of the world compared with Jeddah and the UK. Some Algerians have been abroad but generally people are not so aware of how others live in rest of the world. Having said that, I have seen most Algerians to be extremely welcoming and hospitable and very keen to talk to me when they realize that I'm not Algerian. There is a lot of warmth amongst the people masha Allah even though many live in difficult conditions. To look at, the people are quite mixed up (!) Sometimes I feel like I'm walking down a street in London, with all the different types of clothing not to mention the various types of hijab. Most people look like the Muslims in the UK. Other times it seems as though I'm in the France of yesteryear. This is more due to the streets and architecture. It's as though the French left and everything has stayed the way they left it, but without much development. There are some nice parks and gardens in the city centre and there is a lot more character to this city then there is in Saudi or in the Emirates.
4th January 2007 - 15th Dhul Hijjah 1427
I went to visit a Berber friend of mine today. She and her family were so welcoming masha Allah. I had a nice time chitchatting and we had a lovely meal of couscous and Mtouem (meatballs and olives). We then went to Bouchaoui Forest. We went on horse and pony rides. Many families gather there in the fresh forest air, sipping tea and coffee while children run around and play. The kids loved hiding behind the trees. From there we went on to Sidi Fredj. This is a favourite holiday spot in the summer, by the sea with hotels and restaurants around it. We managed to get in a short but fun boat ride.
5th January 2007 - 16th Dhul Hijjah 1427
This morning we made our way to the mountains of Chreea (Sharee’ah). We drove out of Algiers and in to a city called Blida (Bulayda). From there we hit the mountain road up to Chreea. For anyone that’s been from Jeddah to Taif up the Hada Road, this was a bit like that, but much safer and much more scenic. From the escarpment you get beautiful views of Blida and all along the way there are houses and even a mosque. The roads seem to be heavily guarded all over Algeria, by soldiers and gendarmerie, with check points all over.
We stopped at one of the plateaus where there was a mosque for us to pray jumu’ah. From the structure of the building, I’m pretty sure it was built as a church by the French. After a little picnic lunch and absorbed beautiful views of the city below us. The air was so fresh and exhilarating. Masha Allah. We then had a nice walk around, going up the mountain and along the foresty pathways, where many come to do the same and also to go biking. They have little shops and cafes and an old cable car track. Unfortunately, this has been closed for a while now due terrorist attacks in the mid 90s. We had a wonderful day masha Allah!
6th January 2007 - 17th Dhul Hijjah 1427
We headed off early today as well going west of Algiers to the town of Tipaza. Tipaza is also by the sea and home to various ancient Roman ruins. It is more of a holiday location with streets of hotels, cafés and restaurants. After lunch we drove further west to Chenoa Plage. Standing at the roadside, we had tree-covered mountains behind us and the beach below us. The sea-air here was amazing. The kids played in the sand a bit. It was too cold to contemplate wading in the sea! But it was nice type of breezy!
9th January 2007 - 20th Dhul Hijjah 1427
I saw a bit more Alger Centre (Algiers Centre) this time than I had on my first trip. They had a light thing going on the way they do in Central London for Christmas, but on a smaller scale. There were a few small parks where one could sit and relax a bit, but the streets were just like what you’d expect in any other capital city. Busy. Nearer the office buildings the streets are filled with people going to and from work and the other streets are filled with shoppers. I was looking for traditional souvenirs to take back with me, but most items were just too expensive for what they were. Most traditional items were very similar to what you would fine in the souqs of Jeddah or the bazaars of Pakistan but at a much higher price. I put that down to the shops being in the city centre.