Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 8th August, 2010
The last day I was in Algeria, a local friend drove me up into the Djudjura National Park, the physical and spiritual centre of Kabylie, the Berber region about two hours drive east of Algiers. The Kabyles built their settlements on hill tops, partly as a defensive formation but also because they like to be perched high so they can survey the land below, and in some places see right to the sea. The Djudjura National Park is a protected reserve, though in places the forest was cleared as government forces tried to remove safe hiding places for Islamic militants and, alas, the roadside is often littered with plastic and glass bottles and cans — including a surpising number of Heineken cans. Many Kabyles drink more than Algerian Arabs and indeed their attitude to Islam is often less strict. Some are Christians or free thinkers. But all share a passion for their region and their mountains. I was driven right up to the highest point, near an amazingly-shaped crag called the Jew’s Hand. At one point, the narrow road runs across a ridge between two peaks, with terrifying virtigenous drops on either side. But then one comes to a tranquil area where there is a running track for training athletes and in summer there are cows and sheep grazing. In one corner of this highland meadow there is a pothole, so deep one does not hear the splash of a stone dropped down. And even in mid-summer when the outside temperature is 40 degrees celsius and more, the air in the pothole is like a fridge.