Nik and I drove by car in North Africa in 1965. First through Morocco meandering leisurely over much of the country.
Blithe we were, first cruising from Tangier to the caves of Hercules and south down the Atlantic coast for a few days in Marrakech. We then drifted Northeast across the country up to the Spanish Morocco enclaves of Melilla and Nador on the Mediterranean coast and over the border into Algeria. A large ball of marjoum purchased in Tangier had lifted us some few hundred feet above sea level and put us on course for conversations on the purpose and function of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Egyptian gods, and a discussion on the tomb of Tutankhamen where a great-uncle of Nik had worked with Howard Carter.
Nik expounded on the genetic engineering of man by the Annunaki, (and this is decades before Zecharia Sitchen wrote of the decoded tablets of Ur, the 12th Planet space invaders and gold digger slavery.) We raved awhile on P D Ouspensky, objective art, esoteric magicians, (dropping Alistair Crowley firmly into the category of theatrical bum)) and like this we floated across half of Algeria for a couple of days until arriving in Algiers City late at night. Here we encountered a serious change of vibes, which brought us into a crash landing from our previous high altitude. We drove into the city shortly after a coup d’état had come to a close at sundown.
We had no idea that the coup had taken place while we were swanning along the desert roads. Algiers had machine-gunned and grenade blast pocked buildings, deserted streets, most of them blocked to traffic and a general feeling of frightened confusion amongst the few citizens abroad. The Algerian President, Achmed Ben Bella, national hero, freedom fighter in the war of independence against the French, was already in jail and despite his popularity amongst the majority of the general population, this Coup D’etat was the act of the Algerian military which put in place army general Houari Boumedienne as President and Dictator. Nobody was about to risk his neck to try and get Ben Bella out.
Most businesses were closed and there were no other moving cars in sight. Driving along a dimly lit street Nik and I arrived at a hole shot sidewalk café where the owner, admirably showing faith in the blessings of Allah and a wish to earn any passing Dinar, and regardless of having a street front covered in broken glass instead of having café windows, had re-opened for business as soon as the shooting had stopped. To say that Nik and myself were viewed with intense suspicion from the moment we stepped out of the car onto the street is putting it mildly. There was an uneasy silence and aura of tension from the four or five other café clients as we sat and asked for coffee. Anybody looking even remotely French was not welcome here tonight, memories were agitated; French settlers had massacred 6000 Algerians in one weekend orgy in 1958. On top of that, the French Army had killed more than a million and a half in the war of independence.
Our cool amidst all this frigidity stayed reasonably smooth and was surely conditioned by the fuzziness of view brought about by our generous intake of the ball of marjoum.
There being danger of French intervention should this Coup in Algeria not hold, and me agreeing with Nik as having no wish to be trapped in Algeria if more fighting broke out, we decided to start back to Morocco on the following day.
Somehow, while still being rather stoned, Nik and I found a room in a Pension on a narrow one meter wide alley in the Casbah. Although I have stayed comfortably at times in Medinas and Casbahs of cities across North Africa and Central Asia I have never been in a Casbah as claustrophobic as that of Algiers. Most Medinas and Casbahs are built as fortresses and like these, the Algiers Casbah is a densely packed citadel on a sharply steep hill where the twisting alleys are really staircases with houses built haphazardly one on top of another, forming a maze. But tonight, possibly because of the coup d’état there was no lamplight and most citizens were indoors, the alleys and passageways were eerily silent and deserted.
Nik decided he wanted to go out to find something to eat. I decided I was going nowhere until daylight, and then only to walk straight to the car. Having driven all that day and knowing it would take me two days of hard driving even without bad incidents to get back to the Moroccan border – I opted for bed.
As our feed since arriving in North Africa from Gibraltar had been hard boiled eggs, kebabs and bread, with chunks of marjoun for dessert and boosted with a couple of sebsis before meals, then after and in between – Nik’s urge was probably a case of the stoned munchies conjuring up fantasies of British fish and chips or a raid on a midnight hot dog stand.
Instead of finding food Nik got mugged at knife point by two men in an alley before he even got down to the level of the main streets. He didn’t panic, handed over his cash and searched around for a cop-shop. On reporting the theft of his wallet and money to the police the only questions were asked in five languages on a standard piece of paper, which read—“ I was robbed. Name? How much? Where? What time?” Obviously, whether or not the police would make any attempt to investigate the mugging, it was sure that Nik and I were not hanging around to find out.
Leaving Algiers in the early morning of the following day and savouring the last of our magic marjoun en route, we got to Oran, where, from friendly dock workers we obtained a fine piece of sunny gold to smoke and keep us up and flying along the coast.
The next day, with great relief, we crossed the Algerian / Moroccan frontier at Oujda. We enjoyed driving westward through the Rif Mountains, and unwound with a travel break in Tangier. Landing safely from the Alicante ferry at Ibiza some days later was a distinct pleasure. Our adventure had been exciting and now we were home. Breakfast at the Café Montesol has never has tasted so good.
Finally: I must comment that we all know that Nik had his particular ways.To this day I have never figured out why on our North Africa trip Nik was carrying an LP record of Otis Span and a catalogue of twenty years of the daily temperature performance of a solar water heater as his luggage. But — He knew what he was doing and I am sure he found them useful. And I am sure that you all join me in wishing him Easy Roads. (© neil rock 2012)
Zecharia Sitchin official web site.
P. D. Ouspensky in Wikipedia.
Coup D’état in Wikipedia.
Cafe Montesol official web site.
RIP Nik Douglas – born Yorkshire UK, 4 November 1944 – died New York City USA, 28 July 2012.