Timimoun - An Oasis in the Shifting Sands of the Sahara
Most people have never even heard of Timimoun, a small town in the Sahara desert. However, those that have heard of it will likely agree that is a great place to visit. Timimoun is situated in the middle of the Gourrara region, which is a part of the Grand Erg Occidental. This is one of the most uninhabitable parts of the Sahara due to the incredibly high sand dunes that shift restlessly day after day across the hot sandy plains of the desert. However, despite the region's formidable reputation, Timimoun manages to not only survive, but to do so in style.
Timimoun is situated between palm groves and a salt lake in a little desert oasis. The magnificent sand dunes of the Sahara rise and fall in the distance providing the city with the most picturesque backdrop. The town itself is quite small and can be divided into two sections. The old part is called "ksour" and most of the houses are built of red mud in a style known as "Sudanese Architecture". These homes seem to compete for space, almost climbing on top of one another as they try to gain the highest ground possible. The streets between them are narrow and, in true desert fashion, are shaded over by large sheets of cloth so that passing pedestrians can have some sort of relief from the blazing sun. In the newer sections of the town, which were built by the French, much of the original architectural styles were drawn on to create a harmonious feel. The "Oasis Rouge" hostel that was once built in this newer section by the French is now a cultural center and a great place to spend a few hours if you are visiting. Because slavery was abolished very late here there is a strong African presence. The most notable feature of this are the gobbas, which are buildings dedicated to the marabout.
Another place worth visiting is the palmeraie. The properties here are enclosed by mud walls that are too high to see over and the shade of the palm trees provides welcome relief. Most visitors to Timimoun use the city as a base for excursions into the uninhabitable Grand Erg Occidental. If you are visiting this characteristic little town, make sure you also take time to get to know the locals. Many of them come from Haratine, Zenete Berber, Chaamba Arab and Black African backgrounds and they are all very friendly and helpful. Timimoun is a place that simply should not be missed.