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Day 77: On the Libyan Border

On the Libyan Border, Algeria. 
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The Libyan frontier near In Aménas is marked by a single tree. This spare, uncluttered, beautiful spot was one of my favourite places in the Sahara.
Michael Palin - SaharaRoads are rare in the Sahara. They are usually built to exploit resources of some sort, and once they reach those resources they stop.

So it doesn't surprise me that the road to Libya, after winding its way across a grubby oilscape of grit and shale, littered with pipes, empty cable spindles and rusting Portakabins, comes to an abrupt halt at the top of a cliff. The debris also comes to an abrupt halt. Instead, there is a magnificent view of towering, shining dunes, soothed by the wind into graceful, sensuous contours and stretching out to the east as far as the eye can see. This is Libya.

Between the dunes and the edge of the cliff is a flat and sandy valley floor, about a mile wide, and in the middle of this is a single acacia tree. This marks the border.

There is no fence or wall or guard-post or flagpole or barrier to be seen. Just the tree and, beneath it, an indistinct cluster of white dots. I'm told by one of our tireless escorts that the tree is a famous meeting place, where people on both sides of the border, Libyans and Algerians, get together to take tea and exchange news and gossip.

We drive down off the falaise and I join a group of them for local dates and strong mint tea. The sun slowly declines, turning the colour of Libya from gold to russet.

It is a grand, remote, spectacular spot and for once a border lives up to its romantic expectations.
On the Libyan Border, Algeria. 
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Algerians and Libyans gather beneath the tree to take tea and exchange local gossip.
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  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 77
  • Country/sea: Algeria
  • Place: In Aménas
  • Book page no: 209

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