Year-End Escape to Timimoun

Here I am ending 2023, with a grateful heart and an ambitious look towards what’s coming next. This year was marked by plenty of new experiences and achievements. As a closure, I had the chance to take a few days off to Timimoun, a place dear to my heart, to enjoy some calmness and rest: the perfect ambiance for reflection. 

I visited Timimoun for the first time 12 years ago. When coming back after that long, my heart was full of dear souvenirs and nostalgic about how life changed since then. 

Arriving there is an immediate disconnection and could be described as an empty airport and nothing in sight. 

Lifestyle & Culture

On the first day, we went for a walk through the Ksours (Old city) and then to the actual city of Timimoun. It was a wedding day. Women were, in their festive outfits, congregating at the wedding house without missing an opportunity to greet us creating, through this, instant proximity. 

People’s doors were open, ready to welcome you for whatever needs. I also found myself gifted a meal, a souvenir, anything to express genuine pleasure to have you there. 

It was a good reminder of how people used to be close. Care, trust, and generosity in a community made me realize how far we got from the culture that used to be ours. 

In December, the attention is directed towards tourists. You can find souvenir merchants everywhere and have tens of opportunities to support the local economy and get something in return. 

One surprising thing was a supermarket we went to for groceries. Both local and imported products were largely available. I smiled when I found “Foie Gras” on a shelf and still can’t figure out what to think about it. 

The city gets busy by the end of the day, mainly around markets. I didn’t have the chance to discover many different cities and cultures in Algeria but a constant thought I had in mind was how huge and diverse our country is. While it feels like I don’t share much with the people of Timimoun, it’s only about lifestyle. We do share the most important and reflecting on this made me realize the power of a cohesive large community. 

Taking Charge, The Positive and Negative aspects

We visited Capterre, The Algerian Center for Cultural Heritage Built in Earth. Localized in an old building named “The Red Oasis” a beautiful historical monument in Timimoun, made of raw earth and sculpted with geometric patterns. We discovered a recent workshop in which participants from other cities in Algeria and France came to learn from the architectural know-how of the region which is a good initiative to promote ancestral techniques. 

Inside the Red Oasis, Timimoun, Algeria

Unfortunately, when you visit the city, you can’t ignore how its potential is oppressed and missed.

The city is dirty. Authorities are to be blamed for this. In such a touristy busy season, one job you have is to keep the city clean. Instead, everyone is walking on trash and it is just tiring to still have to talk about this rather than focus on other aspects. The thing is that, at some point, it’s also the responsibility of people who accept to live in dirt and don’t take the initiative to make the city cleaner, especially since it is small which makes this feasible, regardless of whether authorities fail or succeed at doing this part of the job. 

Discovering the desert 

On another day, we jumped in a 4WD to cross the dunes and enjoy the quiet and absolute silence of life. We went to Tala and Aghlad, two Ksars (Fortified villages) near the city of Timimoun where we discovered the Fougara which is a water irrigation system designed to equally distribute water between plantations in the desert. We also saw how people conserved dates for centuries by burring them in the sand and experienced how mud-built Ksours were cold inside even in the hottest days. We asked our guide why people were abandoning mud houses for awful-looking bricks, he said that women were refusing to marry unless provided with nice glossy floors, letting us realize how culturally unconfident we became. 

A fun fact we learned during the visit is that Sidi El Houari, known to be buried in Oran, is actually in Aghlad. 

We spent the day discovering the beauty of landscapes, hundreds of sand colors, and Ksours’ designs all over the area. We had our lunch in the dunes where our guide offered a tea ritual and demonstrated what it is to simply take time, not be in a rush, and somehow, trust that everything is still moving as expected even in the deepest silence. To close the day, we drove to The Small Tassili to witness an amazing sunset and then got back to the city under a full moon. 

The main purpose of this travel was to rest and reflect. I spent most of my days just sitting, facing amazing the dunes and palm trees landscape. As an exercise, I took with me a vision board kit which was fun to do and spent nights identifying star constellations with my sister enjoying life, skies and pure beauty. 

These 4 days in Timimoun are obviously not enough to have a comprehensive idea of the city nor the desert experience but I wanted to share the little I discovered and will take with me a fervent desire to discover other cities and cultures in Algeria. 


Capterre, The Algerian Center for Cultural Heritage Built in Earth

Timimoun town on Wikipedia

Timimoun on Wikipedia in FR

Fougara Systems on Wikipedia

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