And then one day on the 9th of August, 2004, Allah guided us to an estate agent who took us to see the outside of a house that really got my heart racing. The road on which this house was built was a cul-de-sac with the sea at the end, and I could see that there was a space between the house itself and the outside wall so I knew it had some kind of outdoor space! The agent did not have the keys so we were to come back the next day, which we did, but the agent wasn’t there and his partner was really embarrassed as he had no record (these agents actually kept records of appointments!!!!) of our visit the previous day and didn’t have a clue as to which house we had looked at the previous day. Instead, to try and make up for it, he brought us to another house, again with the sea at the end of the road. He didn’t have the keys but could we come back the next day? Where had I heard that story before? We agreed, but my heart was still on the first house we had seen and I asked my husband if we could still see it. He said lets wait and see this one first. So back we traipsed to the agents (we are talking about an hour and a half’s journey each way here) and he brought us back to the second house. We went in and around, and then upstairs, and I went out on one balcony and saw the sea at the end of the road and felt myself holding my breath. We went upstairs to the terrace and I took one look at the sea and across the bay to the El Aurassi Hotel, and thought “I could die happily in this house.” We got into the car without looking at each other and then my husband said, “That’s it – that’s the house!” There was something about the house that reminded me of our home in England. My husband said the same, and when Sarah, our daughter, saw the house she said she knew what I meant but could not put a finger on it. It was so different and so much bigger and yet it had this familiar feel to it.
A few days later my husband brought the structural engineer to look at it and he was really impressed with it alhamdulilah. Within two weeks of seeing it, we had bought it and two weeks later, just in time to enroll the children in school (as the previous owner hadn't found an apartment, he had nowhere to put all his furniture so we agreed to store it for him in one of our rooms), we were able to move in – what a record for bureaucratic, paper laden, everything-has-to-be-the-most-difficult-way-possible, Algeria – the biggest importer of red tape in the world! And that is when our life in Algeria truly started alhamdulilah.
Wisdom often comes with hindsight, and this was certainly the case with our search for a home of our own in Algeria. The person from whom we had bought our house was an émigré who lived in France, but had bought it as a holiday home for him and his family when they visited Algeria. He loved the house, but as his wife’s family were all on the other side of Algiers, she found it very difficult staying so far away from them when they only stayed here once a year, so he had decided to sell up. The amazing thing is that he had only come to the country and put it up for sale just before we came to the estate agents, so this house wasn’t even for sale all the time that we were busy pinning our hopes on the other one in Bou Ismail. It was as if Allah had planned this house for us and kept us busy with that one and all the other ones that we knew in our hearts weren’t what we wanted, until this one became available. When people come and visit and admire our home, I always tell them that this was a gift from Allah because I always like to give credit, where credit is due. My husband’s nephew visited and, as he stood on the terrace and looked out at the sea, and then looked to the side across the rooftops to the minaret of the nearby mosque, he marveled as he said to my husband, ‘ you both got what you wanted – she got the sea and you got the mosque’.