March 11, 2020:
This morning we ventured into the market in El Oued for a much desired shopping trip! Part open-air market, part shopping mall (without the big box stores or chain stores), the market is a beehive of activity! You can buy spices and sweets, have your shoes fixed or purchase new ones, buy fabrics or ready made clothing, parts for you stove, groceries…the list goes on and on! It is a great place to learn about, and experience, the people and culture of the area.
Our first distraction, right inside the gate, was a fabric store. It was a small shop lined with bolts of fabric from day dresses to wedding/celebration dresses. From there we meandered through the open market where Amel pointed out special teas and herbs and what they are used for. At one shop she assisted us in purchasing samples. The owner was in shock that 16 foreign women would walk into his shop that day and we probably made it his biggest sale day! We sampled date sweets, tried to make purchase from a costume jeweler dealer who seemed more interested in arguing then selling. Explored the covered alleyways where we discovered the bridal section with jewelry and special occasion dresses. In a small shop of traditional crafts we found several Chaoui dresses, traditional jewelry, belts, and some souvenirs. All of us had treasures to take home.
Before we headed back to the resort, Abdelkader lead us to a hotel with a small roof top tower so that we could get a view of El Oued – The City of Domes. The dome roofs are very practical for this hot desert climate. As heat rises, the hot air rises into the dome creating natural air conditioning. The domes also make it impossible for the dust and sand from the storms to settle on the roof. We had lunch at the hotel, which had a nice restaurant with a lovely traditional interior design!
Back at the resort, we had a few hours to ourselves before meeting Amel for a rooftop Ziker healing ceremony. First we shared our shopping treasures, and then Amel lead us in chanting, breath, and ritual movement creating a healing and cohesive group experience. We ended it, under the stars and moon, sharing grateful hugs with each other. For dinner, we went to a local restaurant in El Oued where they had a musician who played the oud and sang a mixture of classical Arabic and traditional Algerian songs. We danced between courses. Amel, inspired by the music, grabbed her frame drum and played and sang with him. His face lit up having such an enthusiastic audience.