Saturday, October 2, 2010

Algiers, the Mediterranean bride in the grey wedding dress (I)

A normal day in Algiers

Yesterday, I was in a cab (clandestine!) heading from El Harrach to Bach Jarrah, that are ones of Algiers’ red spots (Poor and dangerous places, but modest. I was in the front seat buckled up by a tight safety belt in a grey Maruti –when we run over a dos d’âne, I feel the shock going all over my spinal column to my neck-, breaking through the traffic jam like a swordfish drawing its way through a school of fish. I had my earphones on a level that I can hear no one of the other passengers. I enjoy listening to the sounds inside my head that rise, when my spirit is secluded and my thoughts flow through my neurons like an overwhelming river.

El Harrach’ City Hall
I stared at people’s faces ( one can notice more men with beards and women in Niqab. poor areas are more engaged in religion than people living in richer zones), the walls height (in a real country, walls surrounding houses shouldn’t exceed 2m10! But, in Algeria you find 3m walls crowned by “barbed tapes” or “razor wires”, and I imagine a ditch of water with crocodiles and stuff, hehehe) , the unaccomplished metro stations, the scars on the roads caused by the heavy vehicles , the mediocre asphalt and the digging, and the shinny sun of autumn washing the sky like a radiant waterfall . Algiers is a beautiful mosaic wrapped in an unembellished cover, a breathtaking canvas underwent the drawing of a mediocre drawer (I avoid to say artist). In this first part of the trip, I came across Harrach’s city hall with its beautiful bright white walls and its colonial style with its straight well-trimmed palm trees, the bridge passing over the stinky Oued, the charming old small houses that French settlers dwelled in one day, the long forgotten slum shacks, the recent commercial center in Bach Jarrah with the Quran verses in its entry which reveals that it’s a decent place to go to with your family (nowadays, one can barely can go with his family to public places, avoiding the embarrassment and the unexpected bad sights).

The stinky Oued of El harrach
I, while rolling, cry secretly for the sake of this capital, torn apart by the black decade, exploited by hollow-skulled responsible idiots who’re watching her plains losing their virginity by the tractors’ rippers (Metidja is one of the most fertile series of plains on the planet. It’s all along the cost, and it’s well known for the quality of its Citrus family trees that bear: Orange, lemon, etc. and the excellent olives).
Yore, Algiers was mightier than any French city (a simple resident in al Kasbah had a toilet in his house when Europeans didn’t, even, dream of WC’s in their own places), and under French occupation –although all the terrible acts and horrible crimes against humans- she was always wearing her white wedding dress, that’s why it’s called “Alger la blanche” (Algiers the white) or in Arabic “El bahdja” (The delight). I, in my daily way to college, pass through the streets of the so called “Beau lieu” (Beautiful place), with its old pleasant small houses, that was inhabited by French officers, but now they have greasy walls and nothing separate them from the “La décharge de Oued Smar”(the biggest garbage dumping site in Algeria) except the agronomical experimental field (less than 500 m).
In my second part, I went from Bach Jarrah to Ben Aknoun then to Cheraga. It’s like we aren’t in the same country! Neither people nor the places are similar. One can, clearly, see how one is climbing the social stairs. One can behold the big villas all along the highway’s sides, the classy cars. I hate seeing such big buildings, tons of cement on an innocent generous ground, high walls declaring microscopic republics inside the mother land, separating its residents from the sad reality and the ugly truth. The highway in Algiers is a hell, one sometimes find oneself stuck for a whole hour in a bumper-to-bumper situation. The traffic jam is one of the biggest problems in Algiers (I sometimes spend 3 hours on the road daily); I hope the Metro – if I live enough to see it operational- and the Tramway help the smothering highway to breathe again.
After I reached Ben Aknoun, I got on, immediately, a bus to Cheraga’s terminus. One goes through hell of “Dos-d’ânes” or “ralentisseurs” (the humpback speed reducers scattered all over the Algeria territory’s byways). I’ve never understood this concept! In a linguistic point of view it’s a “speed reducer”. So, if I’m rolling at 40km/h, there’s no need for it. But, these accursed bulks of solid asphalt don’t distinguish between who’s speeding from who isn’t. They, both, undergo the screwing of their suspension. This reflects one of the sides of our authorities that apply the “collective punishment”. I saw in a documentary about this issue a moving “speed reducer” in Germany. There are speed sensors meters ahead of each “Dos d’âne” to measure the velocity of the coming vehicle and if it’s less than the maximum it goes down by itself and the road is clear. But, when one is exceeding the speed limit, the “dos d’âne” stays still. The lesson: “They want to reduce speed and not damage cars!”
The Commercial center of Cheraga ElQuds, and that ugly load of red-bricks mangling the view
Whilst crossing Dely Ibrahim and Cheraga, one’s heart sings a sad requiem for the wasted plains. Agricultural Fields attributed to people during President Boumediene under the slogan: “الأرض لمن يخدمها ” (The terrain for he who looks after it) turned into buildings, backs , villas, fashion shops, etc. not knowing that future generations will curse them until the end of history, when they cause irreversible damages to the giving lands. Afterward, I took another bus from Cheraga to my final destination. I passed through narrow roads with bottoms white-painted trees on their sides (typically Mediterranean) not letting the evening sunlight pass through their wide leaves, small nurseries (pépinières) with plants and flowers I ignore their names, but I know very well how they look, smell and taste (I tried some of them :p hehe) and some fields embedding old Spanish styled haciendas surrounded by vines. Sceneries one gets used to and loses interest in them in the midst of the problems and the heavy atmosphere of “je m’enfoism”. I, many times, overlooked the beautiful buildings of “Alger centre” just because I’m lowering my sight, and this remembers me of
Oscar wilde’s saying:
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
I’d rather say:
“We are all in the gutter. We should look at the stars not forgetting where our feet are”

Learn or play Domino

While watching this video, I had a bitter giggling passing my throat like a cutting knife. We see how brits (and many western countries) encourage learning by providing high-quality seminars for free. While in the other side (Algeria’s side), things are completely different. When you take profit out of your idle time, you’re looked upon as a jerk or nerd showing off. I have always my backpack on me, and I’ve at least 2 or three booklets to read while being on the bus or in the taxi. At first-5 years ago-, I was kinda shy to bring out my book in a public transportation mean (‘cause nobody does and afraid to be pointed at), then got used to it. And I can say that I could read a book and 2 scientific or Aircrafts’ magazines every week, and only while being on the trolley (I always spend more 30 minutes per day only to get to the college, not counting other short trips). You can find people playing the damned Dominos until the dawn unveils the thick layer of darkness off the sky’s face, but no books’ club ever exists to not say “stays open ‘till late hour”! You can find people staring at each other or looking through the bus’ windows for hours and no one holding a book (one can finish reading the whole Quran in 2 weeks at maximum only in the bus). What bewildered me always is, when one gets on Students’ bus –Also known by: C.O.U.S. – one can hardly spot 1 or 2 students holding something to read, and if so, it’s rare to see someone reading something useful-boys usually read football newspapers and girls read, mostly, harlequins (they are usually a super fictional romantic stories and Allah knows what would she imagine while reading such dead-end literature in a bus full of guys)- . If this is the case of what should be the “Elite”, laymen are not to blame. As the Arabic common saying goes:
إذا كان ربّ البيت للدفّ ضاربا فلا تلومنّ الأطفال إذا رقصوا