Two years ago, soon after I passed the Bar Exam, as a young lawyer, I participated at The Hague Academy of International Law – Private International Law Section in an academic setting at the International Court of Justice, with participants from all over the world.
Because nothing happens randomly in this world and maybe my path to the Middle East and Arab world was already crystallizing somewhere in the universe, I resonated most with the Lebanese, Syrian and Algerian. With them, I shared school hours, seminars, beach parties and chic by the street lunches in the close vicinity of the Palace of Justice. That summer I think changed us all a bit, saying goodbye was hard because even though we spent just a summer together, the memories together will really last forever. Actually, I think for all it was the moment when we said goodbye to “adult childhood” and went back to our countries to become responsible adults, young professionals. We all hoped to see each other again and some did – my friend from France spent a week in Bucharest right before moving to Luxembourg to work for Deloitte, others went back to the Academy together, others moved together in a continuation of a beautiful love story born in The Hague, other met regularly.
We all evolved in a way or another, some passed the Bar Exam and are now lawyers, others changed law firms or are studying in the best universities around the world. I completed 5 years work in a law firm and passed the final bar exam, becoming fully qualified lawyer in December, exactly two days after my destiny changed and I obtained the ticket to travel the world and change my life.
What is amazing now is that everywhere I go there is for sure at least one person I met in my participation at the numerous international school I attended, which makes my already amazing traveling scheme amazing.
I announced my Algerian friend that I am going to be in Algiers at the end of the month. I really cannot express my gratitude to his way of welcoming me in the country, taking me to the attractions of the city at a heat of 37 degrees Celsius while he was fasting, having patience for me to click each photo of each corner and building, inviting me to his house for Iftar dinner (braking of the fast, the time when the people who fast can eat at night at sunset) together with his wonderful family who were more than nice to me, gathering his friends for a Ramadan specific clubbing night (looks like club, DJ is there, everybody is well groomed, but they only serve non-alcoholic drinks) with the most amazing view of the Algiers Bay by night.
Traveling does give you new perspective. Lately, I thought obsessively of the important things in life, my dreams, my plans.
Everywhere I go I discover a new world, a new universe of all the new angles in me that come out.
I thought I’m starting to be bored, but I landed in Algiers and the movies start rolling again in my mind.
That “Oh My God, I’m here” popped up unwillingly again.
Red pink and yellow entangled flowers cover the fence of a dull state authority building.
It is full of Romanian cars (Dacia) and Renault made in Romania and the white and green flag is visible everywhere, at every corner.
I arrived at the hotel and about 20 minutes later I was downstairs all changed from my uniform ready to spend a day with my Algerian friend I did not see for two years.
He said in the characteristic style of people who make you feel welcome in their country “Algeria is you second country” and so we started my wonderful day in the hectic traffic of Algiers.
First we visited the Monument of the Martyrs (Maqam Echaid), a landmark of Algeria, which can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and which I admired from my jump seat (crew seat in the airplane) while we were landing. The Monument was erected in the memory of the ones who shed their blood in the battle against the French domination – the Algerian Independence War (1954-1962), a decolonization war. It resembles three standing palm leaves looking like a flame – the eternal flame of the city. Each of the three pillars is guarded by an Algerian soldier. From the monument, located uphill there is a great view of the Algiers bay, the Hamma Botanical Gardens where Tarzan movie was filmed, exactly under the monument.
Next to the monument there are flat buildings that look poor and actually I find out it is true. As an effect of the struggles of the country, the population of more than 40 million, the lack of jobs, the poverty rate is high. However, the overall look of these buildings with what looks like endless number of windows of small rooms where sometimes more than ten people live is charming. It is part of the country, of the scenery and in the strong North African sun and after almost 30 hours sleepless I feel an internal tranquility.
In my travels (even before starting my intense flying activity), I saw many places and my favorite were never the very fancy, luxurious, but the interesting, the particular, the little dangerous or with something specific. For example, the perfect Singapore I did not like, but when I arrived in South Africa I felt absolutely at peace and relaxed (this is why in was there twice in two months – without changing my opinion not one single bit). Same in Algeria – I loved every second, every corner of the city, from the luxurious Aurassi
to the poor slums, the merchants’ exhibitions in the city center, The 1St of November Avenue consistent architecture, the colorful tiles randomly found in the city, the crazy traffic, the roundabouts, the police, the blue of the Mediterranean Sea water and the African sun.
In the city center we looked at the Sea again – which can be seen from the entire city and admired the wonderful architecture of Grand Post Office,
Then, on our way to the Notre Dame d’Afrique, I found charming each building and corner which actually made the traffic not to disturbing.
The edifice is uphill and the narrow road is absolutely unique with houses which seem to be built one over the other, small street shops, children wearing long traditional clothes playing, buses driving up and down with the few tourists in Algiers.
The Algerian Civil War, terrorism and high poverty which lead to increased criminality rate scared the tourists who prefer Morocco or Tunis. The truth is that I spent my day before the flight to Algiers studying for my upcoming assessment and watching movies about the 1994 Air France hijacking in Algiers Airport. Maybe a normal person would not watch this… (After studying a while I try to sleep for more than three hours with no success, so I put Lionel Richie playlist on, go straight to the fridge, grab chocolate bought from Lebanon and I only stop after the last piece is finished. Then I prepared for the flight.)
At the cathedral entrance the priest is welcoming us, actually he is there to welcome the ones coming with the inaugural flight of Swisse Air to Algiers, as I find out from one of them who has a professional camera and notices my selfie stick. Actually he is Vietnamese born, living in Switzerland and seems to know Romania quite well.
I had seen a lot of police honking, trying to surpass us. Then the bus together with the police cars and motorcycles were here, on top of the hill. When I found out why they were here, I thought they were not very smart. How can you open a new route to a destination, say it is safe and then send people with so much police? How contradictory is that?
In the cathedral, I notice the Catholic style and I am shocked by the inscription right in front of me “Priez pour nous et pour les musulmans”. (the picture below source http://chirpstory.com/li/200909)
I don’t know if you have seen anywhere this, but I haven’t and I am really shocked, impressed and a little sad. This is how it is supposed to be.
The priest talks about the recent history of Algeria, the struggles of the country and his background. He is a kind man for sure. I notice the two ships hanging on the left and the right of the cathedral’s interior. This reminds me of a church, a very old one from the 13th century where I attended a classical music concert in Sylt, the luxury island of Germany.
Casbah is under the cathedral and this reminds me of one of my friend’s comment “Follow me to Casbah”, when I find out about Algiers movie (1938) which I’m planning to watch soon.
Now we are at Aurassi Hotel, sipping a great cocktail called of course Algiers and admiring the view of the whole bay, the port, the monument.
Algiers is a place I love for sure and I know that without my friend’s warm guidance and Iftar dinner
it would have been just another destination. Now it really became a place I’m looking forward to return to.