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Day 74: Hassi-R'Mel

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Salah Benyoub at the CNDG at Hassi-R'Mel. Natural gas that will cook lunches from Milan to Mannheim to Madrid is prepared here and despatched along the sub-Mediterranean pipelines.
Michael Palin - SaharaOne advantage of being up at five is to witness the industrialisation of the Sahara in its most dramatic form. Dozens of flares blaze away in the desert, creating the eerie illusion of a false sunrise. The rigs, hung with arc lights for round the clock production, are dotted about in the sand, buzzing with the might and menace of rockets at their launch pads. This, you feel, is the work of the gods.

Barely visible in the glare from the working lights are the dim, huddled Bedouin encampments outside the security fence, a reminder of what it must have been like here before oil was discovered, when the nomads and their families came to find water at Messaoud's well. The only way they can get close to it now is to take on some menial work inside the base, but they're removed from its green and pleasant avenues at the end of the day.

Hassi-R'Mel is cooler and fresher than Hassi-Messaoud, and its airport cleaner and less frenetic. We're given a VIP welcome, which means tea and biscuits on arrival at the airport and a turnout of executives, including my host for the morning, the impressively titled Head of Quality and Quantity Control. His name is Salah Benyoub, an amiable and unassuming middle-aged man, dressed in striped shirt and wearing a baseball cap over a hairless scalp, which, he readily tells me, is the result of recent chemotherapy. He has worked here for thirty years and speaks good English, which, he says, is the lingua franca of the oil and gas business. It's an international business too. Salah has been to Texas and vacationed in Vegas.

'Did you lose any money?'

'Of course. That's what you're meant to do isn't it?'
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 74
  • Country/sea: Algeria
  • Place: Hassi-R'Mel
  • Book page no: 205

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