March 10, 2020:
Before we hit the road for El Oued, took a quick trip into Biskra’s Suk to see what treasures we could find –and treasures we did find! Amel discovered a spice shop where she pointed out special teas and herbs and what they are used for. The owner was in shock that 16 foreign women would walk into his shop that day - we probably contributed to his biggest sale day! In an other small shop we found several Chaoui dresses, traditional jewelry, belts, and other traditional crafts. Across from it was a shop with dates and date products to add to our shopping bags.
Once again we were on the road again. We expected a 3-hour drive, but as before, with the changing of escorts, a lunch stop, and a roadside stop in a dust storm, the trip turned into 5.5 hours. For me it was fascinating watching the desert change from flat with some plants to sand dunes. And the weather also provided a show as it slowly changed from clear and sunny to a dust storm! Here are some photos taken from the bus as we traveled along the route.
We were in the heaviest part of the dust storm, about 2 hours outside of El Oued, when we came upon a group of camels with their owners. Abdelkader had the bus pull over so we could take photos. The owners joyfully let us pet, photograph, and even sample camel milk from their roadside stand across the street! Just one more of many surprise experiences that blessed our travels!
As we entered the city of El Oued, the dust storm had settled, but plenty of dust was still filled the air. We came upon a traffic jam – actually it was a procession of town’s people down the main street. Having a police escort, they usually able were to clear our way through traffic - but this was a funeral procession. The men in front of the procession were carrying what looked like a wooden bed. We slowly and respectfully followed the procession until it turned to a side street. Abdelkader said the deceased must have been a child. Not all surprise encounters are happy ones.
Our stop for the next 2 nights was a resort just outside El Oued – Gazelle d’Or. This would provide us with a bit of rest & relaxation in a beautiful desert resort. We checked into our rooms which were actually separate cottages camouflaged to look like Bedouin tents – well very luxurious ones. Some of us took advantage of the resort spa and hamam, or the camel rides into the sand dunes. I took the time to sort through some of my photos and participate in activities with Amel. She offered a dance class the first night, and on the second evening a Ziker ceremony. I took only a few photos of the resort and it’s compound.