I had a lucid dream this morning in which Vivian and I were stuck on the wharves in Algiers on our way to Iraq. I had forgotten my sunglasses and had to run around looking for clip-ons that fit my specs.
Right next to the wharf-and-building complex we were on was a sort of historical display of old sailing ships, but mixed in with the restored and retired grandes dames were grounded and swamped old rotting wrecks, like the tall ship near Port Townsend.
As I walked by the line of old vessels, I noticed that one appeared to be a Soviet-era olive drab truck – what are they, Ladas? – on a sunken barge/trailer attached to a small boat covered with a tarp. Workers swarmed over it shouting and gesticulating.
Turning back toward the foot of the quay, I mounted a stand of wooden crates and was able to see over the cluster of gimcrack vendors selling tapestries, rugs, bags, dates, and the like. I clearly recall several 3×5 hookrugs that reproduced the covers of Tintin books, which is where a great deal of the dream imagery of the wharf originated.
Over the tents and stalls, and in contravention of the actual geography of Algiers, I was able to see down the broad boulevards lined with date palms that make up the old government quarter of the city, large French colonial buildings and wide streets shining in the mediterranean sun. In the dream, the streets reached into the heart of the city rather than running parallel to the coast.
When I first became aware of the dream the prevailing emotion was anxiety and danger. When I realized that I was dreaming of Algiers I lost those emotions and became intensely interested in remembering and seeing what I was dreaming. I have been in the actual city of Algiers twice, for a total of about three days in December 1982, and my memories of the town are jumbled and fragmentary.
The actual experience I most clearly recall was wandering through the Old Quarter, the Casbah (in North African cities that’s the generic term for the old quarter). Steep, narrow-waisted flagstone streets with a central exposed sewer trough (all dry in my memory). Three-story buildings leaning together conspiratorially as the bright sun echoed off the golden stucco walls, illuminating the neighborhood like a canyon. Curious youngsters turning.
I clearly recall the neighborhood as clean and well-kept, with none of the amazing jumble of smells I associate with other third-world cities. Only food and spices on the wind, and behind them, the sea.