Friends have been telling me for many years to write a book about my experiences in Algeria, but I’ve always found excuses – not enough time; people wouldn’t be interested; too painful and so on. With the advent of social media, I have found that writing little snippets on Facebook has been cathartic, so have decided to make my first tentative effort at writing a blog.
A budding author and scriptwriter once contacted me to ask me to read his first draft of a film script about a convicted felon being sent from Algeria to Cayenne. His vision of Algeria, especially as events in the film were supposed to have taken place before independence, was so laughably WRONG that, in order to spare his feelings, I just said to him that he couldn’t write about Algeria unless he had lived there.
You have to have lived in Algeria to understand its contradictions – the constant war between French and Arab influences, even though its people are not Arab and not French- the division and mutual distrust between so-called Arabs and ethnic Berbers- the confusion that Algerians feel about their identity. They are a mixture, ethnically, linguistically and culturally, of all of the influences on this beautiful but benighted land. They often use three different languages in one sentence when expressing themselves. They have a rich, varied history, but are only allowed to acknowledge the past millennium.
I lived in Algeria for nearly twenty-four years, from May 1969 to January 1993. I have not been back since. After a short break of three years in the Gulf, I spent another twelve years working for an Algerian institution in London. As the latter was a microcosm of Algeria, I can confidently affirm that I spent a grand total of thirty-six years there. A lifetime of memories, some good, some bad.
I hope that my blog will help readers get to know Algeria and its people, at least from my point of view. I am so sick of reading negative portrayals of them. I want everyone to know that it isn’t some dusty hell-hole, full of budding terrorists. It is a beautiful Mediterranean country with nearly 1000 km of coastline, snow-capped mountain ranges and warm, welcoming, vibrant inhabitants.
As for myself, I have a love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand I feel incredibly nostalgic – on the other I feel as though my husband and I wasted many years of our lives. It’s only when I’ve casually mention certain events to friends and seen their jaws drop and their eyes widen that I realise that perhaps, perhaps, people might be interested.