My work with Union Industrielle des Pétroles in Paris, led to my going to Algeria regularly beginning in 1964. In this troubled period following Algeria's independence, my being French speaking but not French was an asset for my work dealing with a local company Algeronaphte, in areas of technical and commercial assistance, training of Algerian nationals etc...
For two years, I spent almost two weeks out of every month in Algeria and the rest of my time in Paris. Those were the days of Ben Bella before corruption set in under Boumedienne. There was a tremendous enthusiasm fed by the prospect of building a new country for all Algerians including the poor. I knew many Algerian nationalists at that time and found them admirable.
Most of the important French colonial owners of lands and industries had repatriated to France with generous financial compensation from the French government, leaving behind the "petit pied noir" (middle and lower class colonialists) that obviously had no future in Algeria. Feeling traitorously abandoned by France they were fertile breeding ground for the extreme right-wing Organisation Armée Secrete OAS that opposed de Gaulle for granting Algeria its independence. I also knew many "pied noir" and understood their plight.
The intense period of Algerian idealism and OAS negativism petered out with the defeat of the OAS and Boumedienne's coup d'état that opened the door to corruption whose excesses contributed to the rise of the Islamic fundamentalism that makes Algeria a country to avoid today.
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I landed in the Algiers airport again in 1999 coming from Bamako in Mali but I stayed only long enough to catch a flight to Tunis. It broke my heart not to spend a week in Algiers reminiscing the good times I have enjoyed here in the '60s.
This is the "Grande Poste" (central post office) in the center of Algiers.
And this is "l'amirauté", a naval establishment in Algier's port as seen from my office window.
Below left, a view of the marina from my the window of my Algiers office and below right, the common sight of a traditional Algerian woman wearing a "haik" and face veil.
I travelled all over Algeria on business and would go out of my way to visit archaeological sites whenever possible. This is a Roman site at Tipasa not far from Algiers on the Mediterranean coast, that I visited with my colleague Paul and his wife one weekend.
I have good memories of Constantine in eastern Algeria, where my friend Ben Abbas explained how he had wed the wife his father had chosen for him and how it had turned out OK even though he had not seen her before the wedding.
The women of the household stayed out of sight when I had dinner in his home so I never got to meet his wife.
Known as Bône during the French occupation, Annaba is the largest city in eastern Algeria.
I was there one night when a cargo ship loaded with weapons and ammunition from Egypt blew up in the harbour. It was a fantastic fireworks that lasted half an hour with mortar shells landing all over the place. A unique experience, my friends and I went down to the port to help move the dead to the morgues and the wounded to the hospitals.
On a beach near Annaba with business associates, the Algerian Boulsane and the Pied Noir Poggi.
One weekend, I went to visit the Roman town of Tebessa almost 100 km south of Annaba. Here is the original 6th century city gate.
The ancient Thevesti became an important Roman city after the fall of Carthage in 146 BC. It grew to 30 000 under Trajan, was sacked by the Vandals in the 5th century, rebuilt by the Byzantine general Solomon in 535, taken by the Berber in 597 and finally by the Arabs in 682.
The city wall on the left was built by Solomon in the 6th century. Below left, that's me next to the city gate from the inside. Below right, the Temple of Minerva built in the 3rd century.