Government Travel Advisories
UK FCO • US DoS • French MAE
Updates ended 2014
It seems the dreaded IS threat that has been terrorising Iraq and Syria for the last few months may now have found it’s way to North Africa. On the weekend a French tourist was abducted in the Tizi Ouzou region just a day after he arrived in Algeria, and just days after France announced air strikes on IS (ISIS/ISIL) position in Iraq/Syria. Three days late he was beheaded.
The Tizi Ouzou province (also known as Kabylia after the Berbers who live there) southeast of Algiers has long been a dangerous area, even before the AQIM era, and it was just last week that the fringe group Jund al-Khalifa (Soldiers of the caliph) announced they have switched allegiance from AQIM to IS. As I suggest on this thread about this latest abduction, if IS-affiliated groups crop up to the more touristed countries of the Maghreb, it could be another blow for desert travels. All the more so when the longest established player in Saharan abduction business, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, also announced his affiliation with IS.
The Frenchman, Herve Gourdel (above right), was about 100th European to have been abducted in the countries of the Sahara in the last 20-odd years. Currently four others – all abducted in Mali over two years ago – are still in captivity. Full list here.
Following two cancellations there is one space available for the first November fly-in Morocco motorcycle tours. Click this for more.
And another more intriguing tale that climaxed in a lonely plane crash northwest of Bidon V in Algeria’s Tanezrouft, this time in April 1933.
New S-File, Tuareg documentary online
A new S-File from Mauritania, exploring coast and interior. In French but easily translated.
Also, a well-filmed, three-part documentary on Al Jazeera (TV and online) about the fortunes of the Tuareg in Niger and north Mali following the fall of Gadaffi. Rather biased and selective but well worth watching.
Morocco bike tours late 2014
Small group ten-day fly-in tours this November with local bikes and suitable for Morocco first-timers and off-roading beginners. Details here. First date is full, spaces available the week after.
Christmas competition on AMW
Think you know your desert bikes?
Then click this and answer a simple question to win a couple of cool desert biking dvds. Or got straight to the answers, including a list of 41 deserty themed bike names.
Back from 10 days and around 1000 miles through southern Morocco on locally rented bikes. All worked out fine with great rides, pistes, accommodation (all rated here), food and a fun group.
Off to Morocco I go, leading a small group of beginners down through the Anti Atlas. Looking forward to riding Husqvarna’s 650 Terra which I reviewed about a year ago on the AM Website. Talking of Morocco, check out a few short vids on a GS12 in the Anti Atlas here.
Migration, updates, new old stories and SFiles tidied up
The migration of the old website is just about complete. It’s all here now, even is some pages are hosted on the old site (mostly masses of S-Files)
The Routes map has been updated as that’s among the most visited page.
And on the Desert Travels site I’ve finally made a proper gallery plus a few words and a map about the 2006 eclipse in Niger.
Eclipse is just one of the 60+ travel reports that feature in the S-Files which have now been more clearly presented so you can see how it was and when it happened in the good old days.
Mali: Hostage releases and hostage deaths
Only a few days after the ‘Areva Four’ (right) were released in Niger following over three years in captivity (the longest so far), two French journalists were abducted in Kidal by what turned out to be elements associated with AQIM. Within a few minutes they were executed, some say when the vehicle broke down. Links and further details on this page.
Algeria: Tassili N’Ajjer partly open
It’s said that part of the ‘low level’ Tassili N’Ajjer around Djanet – Tadrart, Essendilene and Iherir – have become open again tourists, if not the actual plateau itself. This seems to be the only part of southern Algeria open to tourists, and only fly-ins at that.
Visas at Mauritanian border again
That’s what I read here with updates on the Mauritania page. I also hear that they’ll soon be available to fly-ins at Nouakchott airport, hopefully for more usefully longer durations.
End of the road for Sahara Overland the book
Sahara Overland 2, originally published in 2004 is now out of print in the UK and as things stand won’t be reprinted, though it will probably be available in shops for a few months yet. Watch the price climb on amazon to ridiculous levels.
Algeria: Gallery of 2013 mule trek
And a bit late but here’s the gallery from our mule trek up on the famous Tassili plateau around Tamrit, Sefar and Jabbaren.
Libya: Mission Marchesi
The Italian IGM has produced a special edition of its journal commemorating the Marchesi Mission to Jebel Uweinat in 1933 (right). More details here.
Algeria: Paul Elie Dubois illustrations
On that site you’ll also find more Hoggar images from Paul Elie Dubois’ illustrations (left) of the 1920s L’Atlantide novel.…………
Chad: Makin hay while the sun does shine
A trip report from Chad. Up to the Ennedi, around to Ounianga, over to Gouro and into Tibesti and down to Faya and back to Ndjamena.
Mali: Operation Serval
Things are moving fast in north Mali. While announcements by the Chadians of MBM’s death were probably premature, it’s been confirmed that fellow ‘AQIM’ emir Abou Zeid did die in a battle in the Adrar Ifoghas. More news and maps here.
Algeria: Tassili slideshow
Photos from the first two weeks of our trip right here.
Back from Algeria
Just back from three weeks in southeast Algeria: a two-week, 200-km camel trek along the base of the Tassili N’Ajjer plateau to Essendilene and back, followed by a week and about 70km on the plateau itself visiting the famous rock art sites of Sefar and Jabbaren.
Towards the end of our tour the events at the gas plant near In Amenas kicked off about 350km to the north, and whose conclusion in a Russian-style ‘take no prisoners’ counter-attack by the Algerian army has been well covered by the world’s media. A couple of jihadists are reported to have survived and at least 37 foreigners – specifically targeted as non-Muslims – were killed.
My initial impression in Algeria was they must surely have come over the Libyan border just 40km away. Someone suggested that the recent French intervention in Mali – in notable co-operation with Algeria – against an Ansar offensive led to Algerian air patrols along the Libyan frontier being redeployed to the Tanezrouft border with Mali, so allowing the jihadi pickups to cross unnoticed. The idea that they could have worked their way north a 1000km across Algeria from the Niger border seemed rather far fetched or just alarming, but would include routes through the Tassili used during the mass kidnapping in 2003.
Suddenly the ever-reliable bogeyman Moktar Belmoktar (MBM – right) has gained OBL-like global notoriety for masterminding the raid, aided it’s said by insiders working in- or for the gas plant. The fact that the raiders didn’t grab hostages and flee back to Libya, but got stuck into a brazen firefight suggests a suicidal commitment that hasn’t been seen before. One theory is that MBM (who remains in north Mali) is hoping to re-assert his credentials as the ’emir of Saharan jihadism’ to other groups with closer AQIM connections and all competing for dominance or prestige.