In my last post, I was describing my visit to an ‘erg’ – the naturally occurring seas of sand which sometimes appear in desert countries. Here’s the second (and last) part of this description – and the final entry in this ‘Algeria’ series of posts.


So what does one do in an erg? I tried lying on the sand, I tried rolling in it, I tried running up a sand face, I tried running sand through my fingers, but that can only divert oneself so far. I was determined to wait for sunset, so I lay on my back, put my hat over my face and tried to commune with the desert. Soon the heat began to distract me. Sweat ran down my face, and my skin itched. It was just not like in the movies. I drank a lot from my water bottle (Ramadan notwithstanding). I took a few photos, then made my way back, relieved when the town eventually fell into view. One never completely trusts a compass.

Later that afternoon I walked out again onto the erg, and as the sun fell, the crescent shadows grew elongated, the long gentle curves grew sharp and distinct – yellow one side, jet black the other – and the sand changed from yellow to orange, depending on the intensity of the sunlight. A look in any direction was as if looking at an abstract painting, striking in its simplicity, being only shades of gold, swept with bold black patches, all elegantly arched across the canvas. Dune surfaces showed tiger-like stripes, patchworks of interlocking shadows, rippled, serrated, and conjoined. Magical stuff, and it was the fragility and ephemeral nature which I loved – the wistfulness and longing one feels when knowing that such intricate loveliness won’t last for long. No one would see exactly what I was looking at ever again. For that moment, it was all mine, and I possessed it alone.


Okay, that’s it for Algeria. The next country will be ….. wait for it …. Libya! But I'll probably first continue with some consumer advice ('The IELTS Magic Book'), and some vocabulary/grammar (with another 'collocation' series, and maybe something on concision). In the meantime, you have some vocabulary work to do.


Find the meaning of the underlined words, also repeated below.

  • to commune (v)
  • elongated (adj)
  • striking (adj)
  • fragility (n)
  • ephemeral (adj)
  • intricate (adj)


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