In Algeria in the end
I watch the city lights from the deck. Once again it is time to leave Europe. I do not say good bye since my voyage itself is an unknown route. The turmoil in Libya deepens, I’m not able to pass to the southern countries, civil wars are continuing and Ebola virus has become active again taking lives. Also the south of Egypt is not safe anymore. This being the situation, I might skip Libya and Egypt to return back at the end of my tour around the world. The best possibility seems to jump to Jordan via airplane.
(I’m grateful to our Rabat ambassador Ugur Ariner and to all staff of the mission)
How hard I struggled, we struggled for this Algerian visa, gee. First I waited for two weeks in Rabat capital of Morocco. I visited every second day the Algerian Embassy without success.
Lots of people asked me: “Dude, why was it that hard to obtain an Algerian visa?” The point is that I’m a bike tourer and apply for the visa outside my home country. Well, how do we apply to a visa? Bank accounts, if we have a title deed, employment documents, etc. Well, I have none of these documents. The world is a huge village and I, as a villager, am traveling form one house to the other…
When I just say “Salam-un Alaikum, I want to visit your country”, the officers ask me “Hey, who the hell are you?” of course. Consequently, I couldn’t get the visa in Morocco. My 3 months were about to end, even I passed the border 3 days after my visa had run out.
The border passage was another story. Dude, my every border passage is problematic. Anyway, I passed to Madrid and was waiting again for about two weeks there. Since it was meaningless to wait I decided to continue to cycle through the southern coast of Spain. There is a final point where I can receive my visa, Algerian Embassy in Alicante. Our Algerian ambassador made a phone call to Algerian Foreign Affairs Department: “Our sportsman is going to follow this route in your country” (By the way, every single detail of my route was asked, as if I would not make any detours.) I don’t know what else were mentioned, but when I arrived in Alicante only the red carpet was missing. There is a saying in Turkey “A bound and determined rat digs a mountain through (You may mention the corresponding idiom in English or any language) ” This was exactly the case I went through. I really struggled hard for the Algerian visa and now I’m on the board of Alicante-Oran ferry. The ticket costs 225 Euro. All together 1….. 2…. 3….. shit!… Dude, as if I’m flying over. Dude, what the hell is this? On the ticket it is written:
– Ferry fee
– Algerian tax
– Driver fee?? (what driver, dude?)
– Meals’ fee (even I didn’t want any meals, I was charged)
– Bicycle fee!
What 50 Euro for bicycle? Are you crazy? This is a bicycle and not a motorbike. “Alright, my bike is also a transport vehicle and occupies place in the ferry”. Well Gurkan are you speechless, you were the one that falls over at every meeting for bicycle to be recognized as a transport vehicle. Aha, here it is recognized! : )
During such ferry travels my Oslo-Copenhagen travel comes in my mind always. That was a modern, clean, beautiful ferry. You could find anything you wanted from its restaurant to Duty Free, from the grocery to snack bar. I cannot help but compare the European and African ferries. Almeria – Nador (Spain – Morocco), Alicante – Oran (Spain – Algeria). The interior content of both ferries was the same; nothing : ).
Furthermore I must mention that they overloaded passengers. The officials would say they won’t do it. If this is the case, why are people sleeping on the aisles and any other suitable places they find? Are their armchairs uncomfortable so that the passengers can’t sleep on? : ). There is a strong smell. Not the smell of sweat, not the smell of cooked food, a hodgepodge of a strong smell which I’m not used to. After a while you get used to it.
The restaurants are not open for 24 hours. Breakfast and dinner are inclusive in ferry fee. After seeing the long line for dinner I decided not to wait. For breakfast I woke up at 5 a.m. and started to wait in front of the restaurant entrance. I was wondering whether they manage to hold the line. I’m at the front of the line waiting for the door to open. The nearest person stays about 1 meter behind me, in total there are about 50 people waiting. With the door opening, all the 50 people stormed towards the door as if they were gone through famine. This group holding their morning pray 5 minutes ago pushed me to the end of the line. The whole group is now in front of me, some among them did not fail to glance at me. Since I’m blond and have blue eyes it is obvious that I’m foreigner. As they stared at me, I’m sure that they won’t forget my smile for their lives. Maybe the next time they won’t seize the right of the person staying at the front, who knows?
The entrance time to ferry is 7 p.m. but it won’t leave from the port before 10:30 p.m. Arrival on Algerian port is 8:30 a.m. The morning I went to take my ticket I recognized a KTM behind me. Gee, this is the KTM Tolga Basol is now riding on during his tour around the world. Hahaha…. that guy replaced an ordinary suitcase on its back dude. That was an amazing view. : ) While taking his photo he smiled at me.
We left the ferry and went towards custom together. First he handed his documents and went through without any problems. Then it was my turn and I handed my passport. The officer keeps asking “your documents”. Which document?
– What documents? Here is my passport. The visa is on the 26th page.
– The documents of your motorbike, unless them you won’t be allowed to enter our country.
– Well, this is a bicycle and not a motorbike.
– %&%+%????? Put your bicycle aside.
(Aha, the switches turned off again)
Aha we are going to start all over again. This episode is true everywhere. Dude, if there is something irregular the switches turn off. At first they examine the bicycle, check whether it has a motor. Dude, it is a bicycle. After I say “Tour de monde” they wonder how many kilometers I have cycled. After seeing 24 000 km the whole team started to examine the bicycle. After a thorough examination acceptance for entrance was given. I rode my bicycle into a big shelter, this time my bags are to be controlled.
– Any weapons?
– What are in these bags?
– Clothing and bicycle spare parts.
– Alright, pass on.
Well! It is over. Then I came to the third door, again I was asked to hand my documents. “You didn’t get the written document for your bags. Go and get it.” Of course, he said this in French. I understood what he said, but I pretended myself so as if I didn’t. So, he went to get those documents. But the officer of that section said “let him pass” and they allowed me to pass through the gates just showing my passport.
Dude, I hope I can exit this port without a further snag. The last gates open and I’m in Algeria, yihaaaaa…
The previous day I had 230 Euro in my pocket. I had to pay in cash, so I was left with 5 Euro which I exchanged in ferry, 150 Dinar for 1 Euro. Good, at least I have some cash in my pocket. As soon as possible I’ll draw some money from an ATM.
It wasn’t one km I rode towards the city when a driver let me stop. He spoke in French with me and I told him that I only know English and Turkish. He told me that he saw me in the ferry with some gestures:
– Are you Turk?
– Yes, I’m
He took some cash out of his pocket and said:
– Welcome to my country.
Even I thanked him and said I didn’t need money, he insisted me to take it, 3000 Dinar which is about 30 $. I came upon people giving me money in some countries before, but this was the first time I was given money just after entering a country. I arrive in the city. I try every ATM I see but unsuccessful. Dude, is it because I’m trying a master card?
Well, master card is not accepted in some countries therefore I also carry a visa card. I try ATM’s of least 6 different banks visa, master, American express without success. Dude, aren’t my cards accepted in this country? Another obstacle to surpass. In that case I need to find a cafe with WIFI. While I was looking around a policeman calls me next to him. We salute each other he shakes my hand and welcomes me to his country. He adds: “Are you hungry? Did you have breakfast?” “Not, yet. My French is bad I can’t understand you.” He replies as “No matter” and takes me for a breakfast. Dude, where the hell am I? By the way, people whom ever I asked took me to the ATM.
I found another cafe with WIFI. People were also talking about me in this cafe.
– Turk, Turk
Well, since I don’t have much cash, I’ll use internet banking and transfer money via Western Union. I saw in some banks the western union sign, at least I can get cash by this way. The bank charge is high for such transfer, but I have no other choice. While I was in internet I received a message via Whatsapp:
(Turgut and Cumhur Abi (elderly brother in Turkish) were on Mediterranean tour by their motorbikes)
– Gurkan Selam. I’m Giray. I got your phone number from Turgut (We met Turgut and Cumhur abi while I was in Spain. They also stayed at Giray when they were passing through Algeria). You can stay at us when you are in Oran. The mosque construction area of Bil-Yap. I send you the coordinates, you’ll find it easily.
That guy sent directly the coordinates, not bothering to mention streets and so on, a pinpoint. “Aha, we are here”. He shows sympathy for sure. Well, let me postpone the bank issue to a later time. While using internet in cafe I drank a glass of juice. I went to the cashier to pay:
– No need, welcome to our country. I hope you would like our country.
Not even 4 hours passed since I entered this country. I’m not used to such hospitality in big cities the last one was in Japan. Well, if the people in big cities are like that, I can’t image how it will be in small towns and villages.
In no time I went to the Turkish construction area following the coordinates Giray sent me. Bil-Yap is a Turkish company constructing mosques in Oran, a company becoming significant in construction sector in this country.
The couple Giray and Gul is working for that company. They hosted me for four days in their home. Gul cooked delicious meals for me. Also, they took me out to a restaurant. We watched the world cup games of Algeria all together. By the way, they possess a BMW F800 motorcycle with which they travel around the country whenever they have time. Even, we had a long conversation with Ercan, the project manager of the company, about my route (his passion is motorcycling. Even he had come to his work from Turkey to Algeria on his motorbike). He made a very nice route for me half of which I already thought to traverse. To cycle down to the end of Algeria? I need to think about it (I went to the spot I aimed. This has a long story…)
I left the construction area in the morning with a nice farewell.
Now I’m writing this blog after I have pedaled for 1872 km around the country from Algiers. I spent 16 days for this journey, but it took almost a month to arrive in the capital. I must say that I spent some time to rest on the road.
What I have seen, have learned during this time…..
First of all it was worth to wait for two months to enter this country? You know why?
I’m traveling around the world for the last 4 years. I don’t know whether this is a long time or not, but I did not come upon anything alike what I have experienced and witnessed in this country before. Japan was one of the top countries in terms of hospitality but that in this country is just extraordinary.
– Dude, Gurkan our hospitality is also known
– oooooo Well, yes we are known for our hospitality but not in common. Our people have become scared!
It was just before Ramadan (fasting month for Muslims) when I started to cycle in this country. On the third day of my travel Ramadan started.
– Aha bro, they are hospitable due to Ramadan, at the end it is an Islamic country, they are Muslims..
The slipper of my mom came in my mind right now. Well, the slippers moms throw at you when they get angry. Those slippers which become sensitive to sound and motion as soon as leaving their hands! They lock on the target. Hugh, I feel like smashing in the mid of your mouth with one of those slippers.
Look the photo above is from the Turkey leg of my world tour. I cycled from Ankara to Izmir and from there to Dardanelles. Onur, Enes, Ozlem and Urim abi were accompanying me. Let’s say my memory is not the same as before, but let me ask them, did anybody come next to us and said: “Let’s take a break, drink a glass of chai (Turkish tea).” : ) I remember that we had to bargain to reduce the room prices in hotels, we were not allowed to stay in teacher’s quest houses etc, etc. Furthermore, I cycled from Amasra to Istanbul in Turkey during October 2009. At that time it was Ramadan and I came upon the hospitality in my country dude!! Don’t tell me about our hospitality, don’t… Hospitality issue is really different in Algeria. I was not invited by one or two persons but by all. You can stay at every home in Algeria!
In one of the towns I stop at a cafe to have a rest. It looks like the village cafes in Turkey, children surround me. People come and examine my iron horse with great interest talking French with accent. Look, this is very important. There are many people trying to show that they speak French with accent in Algeria (keep this information). Aghhhh! I wish I spoke some French but not. Really it is a big gap. They also get disappointed. A young boy comes and starts to speak in English with me. I tell him what I’m doing, where I have been and he translates to the people in the cafe. Then, an amca (elderly man in Turkish) comes and hands me 500 dinar. “Amca, thank you but I don’t need it”. He insists me to take. Also, some others hand me 200 dinar. Oh my! Also they don’t let me pay.
While cycling on the road something kept me busy why French with accent? This is the same as me speaking English with or without accent. Why bother? While thinking all these, a car stopped next to me, a young boy and his father. We talked in English. Man! There are people speaking English in the villages, I got really astonished:
– Salam-un Alaikum
– Alaikum Salam
– Welcome to my country. This is my father. I guess you are Turk. I recognized your flag. If you don’t have a place to overnight I would like to host you. 3 km ahead is my village.
I accept his invitation. Arriving in the village I look around. He told me he would be waiting for me at the entrance of the town. There is no one. Well, just go on, while I was thinking to camp somewhere outside the town, a man came next to me.
I didn’t understand what he was talking about since it was in French. He made a gesture to wait. He called someone and after 5 minutes a man came. Dude, what the hell is happening? Here is someone else also speaking in English. Oh! Am I going meet with all the English speaking guys?
– My uncle wants to host you. What is your name?
He tells my name to his uncle.
– No, Gurkan
I don’t care this name issue anymore. Young in China, Takashi in Japan, Yurkan in Ukraine, Yuri in Russia and Khan in Algeria. During my two month’s travel in this country everybody called me as Khan. It is easy to call me Khan and also memorable. Sometimes they ask the meaning of Khan. Sultan in Arabic, Han in Turkish. Dude, I liked my new name Khan as I did Takashi. : )
What a lucky guy I’m, unbelievable. Alright, thank you very much. He took me to his home. People recognizing me as a foreigner informed immediately the police. After 5 minutes the police was in front of the door. He was also surprised asking me: Who the hell are you? Miloud (cousin of Abulkader) asks me in English what I’m doing, I tell him and the policemen are listening. Meanwhile my phone rings. That guy who was supposed to wait for me at the entrance of the town is calling. Dude, I cannot answer right know, I’m talking with the policemen. He calls me many times. Anyway, after the police officers left I replied:
– I’m at the entrance but you didn’t arrive.
– I was there but you weren’t. Anyway, someone else invited me. Thank you again for your invitation.
– I was the first who invited you. I wished you stayed with me.
– I’m sorry but I have already settled in this house and will leave tomorrow.
– Look I’m gay.
– Whaaatttt! #$#$4????
– Yes, gay.
– My friend, but I’m not a gay.
He hanged up.
Dude, look at this. What a situation, hahaha!
The name of my host is Abdulkader. He has two daughters and one sun. The little one showed up but the other 13 or 14 years old one didn’t. She was the one who prepared the dinner because Aldulkader’s wife was not home. This little girl prepared a quite delicious meal for three of us. I was really surprised. It must be difficult for her. Since a foreigner is at home, all the relatives and friends around came to visit of course. Abdulkader’s friend Hamid a history teacher was one of them. He asked me which place I would visit in his country. He is asking because he wants me to travel his country thoroughly and inform others.
The first spot I want to visit is the town Tlemcen. Hamid immediately made a program. He said: “Leave your bicycle here. We would go by car and I’ll take you to some other places. It’s OK.” One of the reasons why I wanted to visit this town was to observe how the people settled 400 years ago by Ottomans were assimilated.
It is possible to observe how Arabs, Balkan and Anatolian people live together while walking around in Tlemcen. I also mentioned Balkan people since during Ottoman period not only from Anatolia also people from Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Bulgaria were settled in Tlemcen. Now the descendants of these people settled in 1554 are walking on the streets. Blue eyes, blond hair, light-skinned or red hair, green eyes. They are directly called as Turk by the natives and they like to be called as Turks.
My first stop was El-Kebir mosque built in 1082. It is forbidden to take photos but I was given permission after I mentioned that I’m also Turk. Even, I must mention that the imam of the mosque was happy to shake my hands having a big smile mixed with admiration. Don’t misunderstand, he didn’t take notice to my journey around the world by bike but in his eyes I was a descendant of Ottomans visiting his mosque. From outside its minaret is the same as that in Morocco. These square minarets represent Amazith (Berber) architecture which you can see in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and even in Egypt.
There are some principal questions asked in this country. One of these is “are you Muslim?” I’m traveling around the world since four years and this question was asked to me by Abo Anas an Arabic traveler in Georgia, by my countrymen in Germany and in Turkey, also by people in Morocco and Algeria. I guess this question will be kept asked in all Islamic countries. Well, are Europeans pagan? Isn’t Jesus a prophet? Why didn’t anybody ask me my religion in Italy or other European countries? Is it fair to ask someone strange to you his/her religion, whether he/she goes for prayer, whether he/she fasts in Ramadan? For me to comment on these questions must be interpreted as religious fanaticism! The owner of such questions should be the one who shows his/her humanity, charity, hospitality in frame of his/her belief. Since there are people replying positive to my positive answer and vice versa to my negative answer, I do speak so precisely!
The second type of question is really very interesting, “Is Tayyip Erdogan Muslim?” This question is not specific to a certain region in Algeria. Algerian people believe that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a Muslim. Furthermore, many people believe that most of Turkish citizens also are not Muslim. Especially Turkish relationships with Syria strengthened this thought. Even Turkey counts as an Islamic country, what they see on television and come up during their holidays in Turkey is very different than that in Arabic world. I realize that our living style is completely different than that in their country. I asked an Algerian asking me this question: “Well, are you sure that your country is 100% Islamic?” He replied: “99%” : ). I asked him again, “are you sure?” He thought a little and then said: 90%. I asked him one again, “are you sure?” He said, “no less, impossible”. However, there are many Central Africans migrated from Nigeria and Chad at the south of country. There isn’t a real border in Sahara. People keep moving between countries. The people on the north don’t know what happens in the south. I’m examining European and Arabic cultures since last two years extensively. Putting together with my experiences I gained during my Asian travel in 2010 I must say that my country belongs neither to both cultures but is in between. There is an incredible mosaic of people in Turkey.
I went to Sidi Bel Hasan mosque in Tlemcen its name derived from Abu al-Hasan situated on the north of the center kayseri (kayseri means bazaar). It was built between the years 1283-1303 during period of Ebu Said Ottoman (Ottoman? Who the hell is he?). Abu al-Hasan was one of the best teachers of that period. The mosque is a one storey building. Inside, the first thing which drew my attention was the mihrab (niche of a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca) which I examined with great curiosity.
The museum staff gave me some information: “There is no second mihrab better than this in whole North Africa”. The fine work of the artisan is really impressive. Next to the mihrab are hand writings and Koran which I think are quite old. The rooms at the rear are classrooms. This mosque had been a madrasa (theology school) at the same time. While there were 46 mosques in 1846 in Tlemcen, only two had overcome French vandalism.
Well, why had French demolished those mosques? Hostility to Islam? Asking people they immediately answer as “yes”. In the whole country more than 600 mosques were demolished. However, it has nothing to do with religion. Let me explain this way: Before 1832 the rate of literacy was about 87% which then went down to 4% when they had taken back their independency. It is unbelievable what happened in just 129 years. When they speak Arabic Moroccans won’t understand Algerian, Tunisian-Moroccan, Algerian-Tunisian and so on. Also people in the other Arabic countries won’t understand north African “Fusha” and “Ammi” spoken and written languages.
Algeria gaining its independence asked for help from Cairo University of Egypt. Why? Dude, don’t you understand what I’m talking about, they got illiterate! Whom Egypt sent as educators is a subject of another research which I already did. By whom and how Cairo University was established in 1908 and who gave lectures on Islam (!) and Islamic philosophy? During the colonial period of African and Arab countries by Great Britain, France, Italy and Spain mosques and madrasas were demolished. This being the situation the educational system was completely destroyed in those 129 years and was reestablished by the colonial countries.
Well, this is the reason why every Algerian tries to speak French with an accent. On top of it, civil war broke between 1990 and 2000. Civil war just after 28 years of independence, then the commercial agreements, the situation this country came up is visible and sets one to silence and makes to think about. There are so many tiny details. Just like the Rabia sign with yellow frame is not enough to establish Arab solidarity nor Islamic solidarity nor you would be able to help to the people 3000 km away.
At this point I wish Ilber hoca (Ilber Oltaylı is a leading Turkish historian) would accompany me by bike for a while. I read both of his books about his travels recently. Hocam (my teacher in Turkish) please come over, let us talk while on the road, promise I’ll pedal at your speed. If there are someone who knows him please hand my message to him (during 24 months of my travel I have read 24 e-books : ). This year I may read two books per month).
Giray had mentioned a cave near Tlemcen. I just said cave and Hamid drove me there. The cave was situated on a plateau. We entered the cave at this hot climate. Oooo it is very cold inside. Wow, gorgeous!
The cave is covered with spectacle stalactites. Before 1957 this was the biggest cave having such stalactites. Its length is about 144 km. You enter from Algerian side and come out at Morocco. But during their war with France it was blocked with 60 m thick concrete wall by French to prevent arms and munitions aid by Moroccans. This concrete wall cannot be removed since its removal will harm the stalactites. Entering the cave from Tlemcen side you cross a small waterfall. Since I hadn’t a swimsuit and a towel I was not able swim there.
The small town I visited after Tlemcen was Bou-Hanifia a spot with thermal baths 20 km away from Mascara. Hamid’s friend from the university will host me. At the main square I meet with Maruhan the son of the house and he takes me to his house. Ferit is the director of the town’s high school. If you happen to visit this town one day, go to Ferit, he’ll host you. Furthermore, this family has a special place in my heart.
It was the only family which accepted me as a family member and sat around table all together with wife and daughters Esma and Hint who didn’t wear head scarf in my presence. Aside this exception, during the two months I was hosted I never saw the female’s faces. Once again, thank you for the delicious meals and your hospitality.
I mentioned that this town has thermal baths, but due to Ramadan all hotels were closed. Therefore, they took me to a natural hot springs. Like an oasis; hot springs emerging from underground, palm trees, high rock formations at the back. Before having a bath in the natural pool we climbed the rocks and looked down at the town. Then I dived into the hot water. That was such a good feeling, for a long time I didn’t have bath with hot water.
While on the way to the springs we passed a small house. The owner stopped us and invited to his house. While chatting he said: “Turks came here before.” We all got surprised since this was a remote place. His reply to the question “when did they come?” was even more interesting. “1965!” I guess they were traveling by camels at time. I wondered who they were but unfortunately was not able to get any other information.
As time came to leave, while I was about to leave quickly (I leave quickly so no one could see my eyes filled with tears) his wife gave a gift to me a necklace very similar to that my mom gave me. I hugged and thanked her. I left the family which I put in my heart. Dude, I was about to cry while setting off. I’m like a cry baby, what the hell is this dude?
I was hosted in houses in every city and town till I reached Sahara. People stopped me on the road and handed juice or water, even money. This money issue became absurd after a point. During my visit in Algeria I was given about 370$. With this money I stayed for two months in this country. I stayed also in hotels where I was not allowed to pay. I went to groceries to buy bottled water, bread, fruits etc. but again was not allowed to pay. Also in cafes either people paid for me or the owner didn’t take money from me. In restaurants I was not allowed to pay either. People applauded me from their cars, handed water while seeing me on my bicycle making hard. As I mentioned before, such an extraordinary hospitality was shown at every corner in this country which I haven’t experienced till now in any other country.
The grave of Ibni Haldun is found in Tiaret and that of Emir Abdelkader el Djezairi
in Mascara both of which I passed by. I don’t know if you paid attention to that? A take photos of graveyards all around the world for the last four years of my journey. I made an archive reflecting the peoples’ perspective towards death and corpses. I may share my observations about this subject one day.
While I was cycling towards the town Ain Deheb, Giray and Gul met with me driving 250 km on their motorbike. We set down under pine trees at a gas station at the entrance of the city and chatted. Giray had prepared some food. Well, why didn’t we go and sit somewhere else? During Ramadan month the only open places during the day are gas stations and groceries in Algeria. Furthermore, there aren’t any sitting facilities in the gas stations. You just take gasoline and go. There are groceries in one or two but that’s all. I would like to say how many years it would take for them to catch the modern service sector but impossible. This might date back to a period of BC and I’m not joking. They don’t know what and how to do in service sector and there aren’t any successful initiatives which can be taken as an example. Hey, I only saw two camping places in this country in which I was not allowed to camp. The reason for that was that they were for families and I was single. Shame on you. After Giray and Gul left they got an accident on the road back to their home. Gul broke her arm. Now, they are alright and do not give up motorcycling. After Gul recovers she will get back her motorbike.
While I was about to leave the town a man owner of a ceramics shop called me. First he asked where I’m from. I replied as Turk. He said: “Then you are Muslim and so you are seferi (one who is exempt from the Ramadan fast because s/he is on a journey)” and brought me a glass of water. It is forbidden on Algerian streets to eat or drink during Ramadan. Only in one city a man came next to me while I was eating a banana and said: “It is forbidden to eat during Ramadan”. But after I said: “I’m seferi”, he apologized and said that I was allowed to eat. As I mentioned before nobody should intervene with anyone. Nureddin invited me to his house saying: “The rest of the road goes through the desert. Be my guest tonight”.
Meanwhile I got a call from Olcay Guzel: “Abi I’m going to Valkhan valley, what should be the pressure of my tires?” Dude I laugh and go back to past. Then Elif comes in my mind. She put a present, a buff into my hands and said: “Gurkan, do you think that I can manage?” At that time I smiled to her and now whenever I receive Elif’s messages I feel happy. Ibrahim: “Abi, let’s talk from time to time, alright? When I feel myself lonesome you come in my mind and I think what you are doing.” Erdinc sent a message; a man let him stop and presented a knife to him. The same man let me stop and presented a knife to me. Oguz is also somewhere in south Asia. I was lost in my thoughts….
– Khan would you come to my home?
– Yes, yes, of course I would like to.
I wish all the best to all of them and they may have always back wind.
The dinner during Ramadan was almost the same in every house; soup, salad, main dish with meat and fried potatoes, pudding, fruits and tea. But in this city I ate couscous for the first time at sahur (meal time before dawn during Ramadan). Afterwards I was offered couscous many times. The most advertisement on regional TV is related with couscous. Also Oredo a GSM operator is frequently advertised on TV. They made a contract with Messi, you can see him on the billboards all around the country. I also used Oredo in this country, it has a 3G speed in big cities and also you have internet connection even in the desert. It costs 1000 Dinar (about 10$) for 750MB internet service.
Generally this country is cheap, but going down towards south the prices of vegetables and fruits increase. One of the issues I paid attention was that every one possesses a car, mostly a pickup truck or a truck, in this country. It turns out that vehicles are very cheap. Furthermore, the government supplies incredible high incentive credits for trade investments. But many of these credits are not returned. Just for an idea to carry goods to the south of the country a credit is given fulfilling a couple of documents and you get a brand new truck.
If your business doesn’t work and you cannot repay you credit, the government grants an amnesty. Well, you didn’t misunderstand. Such amnesty grants are repeated periodically. It seems the government seizing power since 2000 tries to prevent upraises by this way. Actually it is pretty funny to say tries to make an effort since this country has 8 billion of budget surplus every year. Well, this number is correct. I guess Algeria is one of the richest countries of Africa having petroleum reserves on the south. Furthermore, it bears gas reserves and gold mines. But, on the other hand, being a rich country its welfare level is not high. Another issue which makes no sense to me is that people like to sit in cafes doing nothing. This was the same also in Morocco. Dude, how do they earn money? Please tell me. I know the government pays aid to some but not too much. The rents are so high as if you rent a house at the French Riviera. I’m cycling around since two months in this country but I have so many citizens doing nothing. Anyway they are not prone to work or produce. A loaf of bread is 15 kurus (about 7 cents) and one kilogram of tomatoes 2.5 Turkish lira (about 1$). One and a half liters of water costs 80 kurus (about 37 cents) which is filled into bottles at mountains. By the way its population is 35 billion with a surface area of 3 times that of Turkey. Every single person looks satiated. Everyone has a shelter. The government builds houses and sells for almost nothing. By the way, due to petroleum reserves and mines, in the last 14 years infrastructure constructions as tunnels, roads etc. were done by foreign companies. This is because this country hasn’t any experiences and engineers to build such constructions and I think this will not change for a long time.
My host the Titi family has a farm at the skirts of the city. They deal with livestock breeding and farming. I guess the produce is consumed within the family or at most sold to the people in the town. Look this is another issue.
They have huge and fertile land but farming is underdeveloped.
The number of cattle is more than that in Turkey but milk is not abundant in this country. They use mainly milk powder. Well, there are also commercial reasons for this. The big Algerian companies holding the milk powder market in their hands do not allow milk production for the time being. Also, since they do not want foreign companies to grow in this market they threaten them. Maybe, these companies will provide milk in future who knows?
On the northern region there are vast olive trees but not any olive processing factories and therefore no export.
This country has 2000 km long coast on the Mediterranean Sea but any touristic facilities. There is no investment on tourism sector. I’m cycling around since two months in this country but haven’t seen a single tourist yet. On the other hand, if you ask them the answer is: “Tourists visit our country and Bejaia is a touristic region”. Well my friend, I have seen only domestic tourists but not any foreigners.
Probably the most delicious chubs, sea bream, swordfish, shrimps you can eat at Mediterranean coast are found in this country. But, there is no fish export. The fishermen say: “Algeria is the only country where fish die a natural death.” For god’s sake, two Turkish fishing vessels came to Algerian coast to fish and paid for it. But as they were about to leave towards Turkey the government confiscated their vessels. There are similar situations in every sector. Sutas (a Turkish dairy company) wanted to invest in this country but was not successful. Also, the companies active in this country have problems with the government. The socialistic way of thinking is functioning quite interesting.
The far most town in the south was Gardaya. My journey to this town in this region and then back to the north was the most challenging part of my four year’s tour I faced in my whole life.
I won’t forget the villagers who run towards me to help when I lost my consciousness at the village square in the middle of the desert, I won’t forget this hot (61.7C) as the hell and the ascents in that hot. To witness the daily life of the villagers in this region was an amazing unique experience. This part will be forgotten together with my observations and experiences on my not book among my Algeria memories. I would like to thank Ahmed a member of Titi family giving me the opportunity to rest in their home.
I met all the members of Titi family. One day while I was sitting at Ahmed’s home his mother called him. After talking a while he put off the phone:
– Khan my mother is asking you.
– Wish you said hello
– Dou you know what my mother said for you?
– This boy is a special kind. Always call him and ask how he is, if he is in trouble help him, if he is ill or needs any help go next to him till he leaves the country.
Till I left Algeria they called me almost every day and asked whether I need anything. I knew if I said yes they would come even into the mid of the desert. Let me tell one thing… I think they would come to the next country also. In truth many of my friends won’t do this.
After Gardaya I cycled north towards Algiers. On the road people stopped me, took photos and chatted with me, as usual. One occasion was really interesting. I stopped to have a break under a tree on the road side. Heading towards north the temperature dropped down to 45 °C and I started to breath much easier. From the vehicle which stopped behind me:
– My friend, do you need anything? I can offer you some water.
– No thanks. I’ve everything.
– In the car I have fresh bread, are you hungry?
I had eaten an hour before on the road side. I had plenty of food and water and I didn’t want to carry over load.
– Thank you very much but I really don’t need anything.
– Welcome to my country. I hope you’ll like it here.
– Thanks a lot. Your country is beautiful, I liked it very much.
These were my last words. I saluted him and he went back to his car. I turned my back and was about to sit again, he drove back next to me.
– I offered water and bread but you didn’t accept. You came here to visit my country. I can’t let you go like this. Please take this money, stay at a hotel and have a dinner.
Then, he handed me 5000 Dinar, about 50 $ which I didn’t want to accept. But he got off his car and handed it over.
I stayed just one day in the town Media. Also in this town you can come up with Ottoman descendants assimilated in within Arab culture. After this town there is an about 21 km descent to the capital Algiers. Don’t miss the side street on the left of the first tunnel. On this side street you will see a beautiful water fall and also monkeys jumping around. By this way, I saw for the first time monkeys in their natural environment. One of them made an attack to my bags. I was lucky that they were not open. : )
In Algiers our ambassador Mr. Adnan Kececi hosted me. The first morning I had a breakfast; eggs with sucuk (Turkish sausage) and pastırma (Turkish style cured beef) prepared by Seyran abla (in Turkish sister) yummy yummy yummy… and so I met Aylin Hanim (lady/Miss in Turkish), Suad Hanim and İlkay Hanim with whom I stayed in contact for the next three months. Also, Gulcay Bey (Mister in Turkish) and Barbaros Bey helped me a lot during my stay in Algiers. Thanks to all of them.
Indeed there wasn’t any formality among us. All the foreign mission staff was a brother, a sister, a friend to me. Hereby I would like to thank all the staff of Ministry of Foreign Affairs I met which means a huge family to me. I give my best regards where ever you are : ) (Now, I’m in Tunisia from here I send also my best regards)
One day while writing these sentences in the embassy, Gulden Hanim called me for help. I enjoyed her company very much I wish I had more time to spend with her. At 9:30 p.m. all the employees at the visa department come to the embassy. Why? Because, before Bayram (religious holiday after Ramadan) there were thousands of passports to be delivered. We were 8 together including me.
The duty I was given: To apply Turkish visa on the passports. On the bottom of the page the seal of secretary, to the left the seal of Foreign Affairs Ministry and at last embossed stamp. First of all this was the first time I saw a Turkish visa. For god’s sake what a visa. Looks like the labels adhered at the front face of the school note books, really the same. Even I heard that they get off by time. I visited 34 countries so far, the worst visa is ours. I was told that a new visa would be applied after the new year, to me they were already late for that. Anyhow its procedure is too long, that many seals and embossed stamps etc. it is really hard to apply. I got off the building at about 3 a.m. and the others at 4 a.m. The next day there were still unapplied visas left. In short, the employees of our Algerian embassy work day and night. In six months 80 000 tourists had entered Turkey from Algeria. Most of them prefer Turkey for shuttle trade. The commercial relations of Turkey with other countries are expanding from year to year. Unfortunately, in some missionaries there aren’t enough employees nor enough place for new staff. Services are provided in old buildings which I think should immediately be renovated.
Thanks to Barbaros Bey I met businessmen from my country active in Algeria. The problems they were faced with in this country are really funny. I got informed about their fields of interest. I stayed overnight in the construction area of Ozguven one of these Turkish companies near Jijel.
Adil and Kenan abi hosted me at the construction area very well. The company bids for highway and railways constructions in this country. I also stayed for three days at Arslan Yapi’s construction area. Azat one of the company owners called Timucin abi the construction supervisor and told him that a friend of him will come. Well, I thought that this construction area was situated within the city center of Constantine. I had arrived in the city late in the evening and was really exhausted. Before the entrance there was a steep climb. Anyway, my phone rang:
– Hi Gurkan Bey, welcome to Constantine. I’m Timucin the Constantine construction area supervisor of Arslan-Yapi. Where are you now?
– Hi Timucin Bey. Thank you. I’m right now at the city center.
– Our construction area is 20 km outside the city. If you drive towards south you’ll see our construction area. You have a car haven’t you?
– I have a bicycle as a transport vehicle Timucin Bey and I can’t ride 20 km, I’m really tired.
A short silence….
– Ok. I got it. I’ll call you back in a minute.
They tell me the other side of the story on my second day of stay:
– Hey Ahmet come over. Azat Bey’s friend has arrived. I guess he pulls my leg. I asked him “do you have a car?” He replied as “no, a bicycle.” He probably is an egghead. Get and pick him up from downtown with a car.
– Ok abi, what is his name?
– Gurkan, I guess.
– Ok abi, I record him as egghead Gurkan on my phone. We are ready to go.
They come and take me to the construction area. Meanwhile I met with two teenagers. They stayed with me on the city square till I was picked up. Ahmet came with a pickup truck. We loaded my belongings together on the truck and went the construction area. Timucin bey:
– Dude, this guy has come really by bike. Welcome Gurkan Bey!
– Abi call me just Gurkan, no need for Bey.
I rested in their construction area for three days. I met project manager Mursel bey, Ahmet, Kerem, Timucin abi. Thanks to all. Also, one day Kerem invited me to his house.
“My mother is here Gurkan, what would you like to eat?” My first word was “dolma (stuffed grapes leaves)” : ).. She cooked it for me which I appreciated a lot. By the way Arslan-Yapi is constructing 8500 buildings in Algeria. I had the opportunity to see some of them.
I met Fatih abi and Gokkadir. I’ll the story of Fatih abi in the upcoming months. Fatih abi called me almost every day and asked if I need anything. Also, he kept helping me in organizing home stays at his friends. Gokkadir had newly settled in this country and he was following my journey, what a happy coincidence. While I was staying in the capital, one day he took me to the Roman ruins at Tipaza 50 km outside the city.
Dude, there are so many beautiful antique cities but there isn’t any sort of protection or publicity. I ask the guy what the name of this antique city is. He replies: “Roman town” Dude I know but what is its name? “Here, Roman!” Entrance fee is 10 kurus (5 cents). Being this the situation people play football on top of the mosaics or picnic and swim at beaches of these antique cities.
Places worth to visit in the capital are Kasbah also called the old town, Kabir-i Sherif (Martyr’s memorial), Ottoman mosques, botanical garden and national museum. Thanks to Muhammed who accompanied me for some parts. Mosques are being renovated and the botanical garden needs extensive care. The museum of El Mujahid below the memorial should be in list of must to visit.
Well, I would like to interpret this Kasbah issue by my own.
What does Kasbah mean?
(Morocco – south of Quarzazate)
The word Kasbah has nothing to do with the one Kasaba (town) in Turkish. This is also not an Arabic word! But there is a word Kasbah in Amazith language! Some Turks heard this word and interpreted themselves: “Aaa, look Kasbah, it comes from Kasaba”. Yes dude, yes, from Kasaba! Well, alright Turks were and are everywhere but take a breath Turks didn’t create the world. Furthermore, of course its meaning is also not “old town”! Kasbah is a single construction where about 10 families live with some communal areas. It looks like a castle from outside. Usually it is situated at the hilly side of the town having 4 or 6 exit gates.
(Morocco – north of Quarzazate)
Every night one of the gates is kept open and the others closed which all the families living inside know. In the past the person choosing the wrong gate had been killed. The motives on the outer walls of Kasbahs reflect the power of the owners and also whether they accept visitors or not. Nowadays, you might find the largest examples of Kasbah in Morocco 200 km to the south of the town Quarzazate. There are still families living within the Kasbahs. I visited, examined the motives and interiors of the Kasbahs, talked to the people living around and discussed with history teachers and museum directors. These are my information and my interpretation.
As you know I like to sit in cafes. In Turkey or other countries I spent some time in cafes whenever I have opportunity. Once while I was sitting in a cafe a man sat next to me. He started to talk first in French and than in English. His name is sergeant Aziz one of the descendants of Anatolian families settled in this region during Ottoman reign, an Arabic language and literature teacher at an age of 60. İlber Hoca always says: “We even don’t know our own history.” “Hey Gurkan! Are you going to believe to the information given by that old man in a village cafe (these were the words of a guy working at the ministry of foreign affairs)?” But the information given by this old man coincides with that told by our ambassador. Hold a minute! If that told in a remote village kilometers far away coincides with the other even if it cannot be proven you must think of it. Yes, I do believe. I hear you saying “dude make it short and tell the story”. But I won’t since this won’t add anything to our history but I know if I write the story here hundreds of comments will come in. This will be a subject of casual meetings.
To cycle at the Mediterranean coast in this country was a great pleasure. Especially, I would advice to motorcyclists this coastal road of Algeria. The road is generally at 50 m level expanding on cliffs. There were times when I climbed 1200 m in a day but returned always back to 50-60 m level. The road has up and downs and mostly is S shaped. On one side is Mediterranean Sea and on the other side pine forest. The beaches are crowded but as I told before there aren’t any facilities. If you want to take a bath with fresh water you have to carry with you.
The best hotel I stayed was that in Bejaia thanks to Murat abi. The name of its owner was also Murat a Berber. From him I learned that Berber people do speak Berber language but are illiterate. Aside main symbols they cannot read and write their own language.
The sea water is pretty cold since underground cold water mixes with sea water in some regions. It is such a pleasure to swim in cold water in July when it is hot up to 40-50 °C. There are control posts at every 10 km. Since I gave interviews on television and newspapers policemen and gendarme salute me with a smile. Sometimes they stop me to have a photo with me. But I was not allowed to take their photos. It is normal for them to take my photos but the reverse is forbidden. : )
The sea towns Bejaia, Jijel and Annaba are quite live. All the beaches are full of crowd. But Bejaia region differs from the others which it is a Kybel (Berber) region. Well, Arabs don’t like these people much and vice versa is true for the Kybel people. Well, why did the Arabs all over the country recommend me to go especially to this city? Since it is a historical touristic city? Of course not. There is a historical Spanish castle and a mansion from the Ottoman’s period. An Arab family spending their holiday there told me: “People there are more free and relaxed.” I witnessed that by myself. You won’t find a liquor store anywhere in the country but one per 300 m in this city. Women are free on apparel. In many regions women are not allowed to stay outside in the evenings but not here. Restaurants, cafes are open till late hours. It is really a live town. Furthermore, there are night clubs and brothels in this town. Previously there were many more but people revolted against and said: “We don’t want our town named with brothels.” Therefore all but two were closed. If people didn’t show me these brothels I would stay at one of them by incidence. You know, I really got experienced on staying in brothel during my journey.
The sea town Annaba was also very crowded. In this town Senol abi working as junk dealer for the last 9 years in this region hosted me. He sends both plastic and metal junk to Turkey. During my one day stay he took me around for sightseeing, introduced his family and offered a meal. On top of it, we surfed in internet together whether a mosque we had visited belonged to Ottomans or not. It is known as an Ottoman mosque. It was closed due to renovation. I was wondering who the renovation work undertook, Turks? It was done by Algerians. If this construction had had an art value, I beg with such a restoration work all had gone. After I had learned from the wall inscriptions that it was built in 13th century I must say they ruined it. Actually it is wrong to call this mosque as Ottoman mosque since Ottomans hadn’t taken over this region at that period. But people’s response is quite normal since Ottomans had reigned this region for 400 years.
The next day Senol abi came to see me off. Just as I was about to leave he said: “Do you know Gurkan, you changed a life just in a day.” Actually, he had more to tell but I didn’t halt more and started to cycle. As usual I did not look back. Just raised my right hand. My right hand raised up for Adnan abi and the others at the embassy, for Fatih and Gokadir in Bejaia, for Kenan abi and Adil abi in Jijel, for Ahmed in Gardaya, for Titi family in Ain-Dehep, for Abulkader in Tlemcen, for Ercan abi and for Giray and Gul my first dear friends in this country. This hand had raised up for the first time in Turkmenistan… Each time, I heaved a sigh and continued to cycle. Actually I’m a member of a huge family. Do you know, I tell those people what my future dreams are? Just as I told people that I would go to Japan, after my Japan tour, as I told at my presentations in hundreds of schools that I would go for a tour around the world and as I talk about my future projects during my world tour. One day I would realize all my dreams.
(This is a bicycle question. Between the given period 2420 people have read this question. Only 28 of them answered. Among those answers only 7 of them were correct (Berk Ozer, Mert Op, Samet Gokay, Emre Işık, Kadir Korkmaz, Burak Alparslan, Yetkin Tozlu). I sent the right answer to those 28 people. Thank you for spending your time. Upon drawing the winner were Burak Alpaslan and Emre Isik. Congratulations.
In which countries Gurkan Genc traveled were state government system? Did those states have a separate flag? If they have, write their names and languages? I asked this question on August 20th and will accept answers only given by 19:00-24:00 p.m. If you send your answers to any contact address besides that one given on “gurkan genc bisiklet veriyor” page you won’t get any reply.)
If Enes had been next to me he would say after reading this question, “Dude, once again you didn’t tell any fucking thing.” : )
Kiss you… I’m passing to Tunisia… : )