Searching the Sahara for Desert Roses
I got my desire for exploration from my parents. While living in Algeria our family made many trips within the borders and out. One trip I do remember is a drive to the Sahara. Searching for desert roses…rocks, gypsum to be exact. These are fascinating formations scattered in the desert sand. We used sticks to dig around the rocks before we put our hands in to pull them out of the sand. This was to prevent little creatures such as scorpions from nibbling on our fingers. I do not recall seeing any but their tracks were present.
These natural crystal formations of circular flat plates give the appearance of shiny rose petals. Some were the size of quarters while others combined to form large clusters, the largest we found and brought back to Setif was the size of a shoebox. Sadly my dad did not allow us to bring these treasures with us when we moved, he refused to import rocks to Canada. My mom and I were not very happy with him, still a sore subject if ever brought up!
I remember the desert fox I wanted my dad to buy for me from a man who was selling one out of his car on the side of the road. The little creature was hiding under the man’s car seat. My dad’s reasoning was that we travel too much and we could not have a pet. As an adult, I am baffled by the fact that someone thought it a good idea to take these beautiful creatures out of their natural habitat.
As hunger set in, we stopped at a small concrete building with the quintessential rackety table and plastic table cover, we devoured a plate of pommes frites for 5 dinars and washed it down with gazouz (a drink similar to Fanta), my favorite flavor was orange and lemon. I am not sure why at eight years old I remember vividly the roughly drawn price on a chalkboard and the way the place looked and felt inside. This photograph not only is a record of this day but it leads me to remember details to make this photograph whole.
Another memory is of my parents arguing over our accommodations, which were always in a tent. Where to pitch this enormous canvas tent is another story! In this case, should the tent be inside the grass enclosure or out? To clarify, this particular campground consisted of a grass fence around a sandy area that was littered with grass huts. Ultimately there was minimal protection from the scorpions and other potential critters my mom was terrified of.
In the morning I remember one of my parent’s friends pretending to shave me with an electric shaver that was plugged into a palm tree. My brother and I were in awe of this electricity miracle. We continued on our way to the city of Ghardaia. One of the few things I remember is trying to climb a palm tree in the middle of the city, with no success, and the fact that we weren’t allowed to go into part of the city due to our choice in attire. Shorts and sleeveless shirts were not allowed.
More photographs and memories of this particular adventure exist, they intertwine to tell a story of family travels in a foreign land. Because Algeria, although our home for four years, was very different from our native Poland. Out of the many curiosities, some moments, although seemingly insignificant, have carved out their place in my memory.