I was invited to an aqeeka one day and was really looking forward to seeing the hostess and the other ladies gathered to celebrate her son’s birth. It was just my daughter, Sarah and me and, as I had never been to my friend’s house before, I asked my husband to ring her husband for directions and he told me he already knew where he lived. There are some street names in Algeria but either people don’t know them or the names are not anywhere useful such as in public view, so most directions are given using motorway exits, area names and landmarks with varying levels of success. I hate getting directions from a friend to give to my husband, as it’s a total recipe for disaster and usually ends up with my husband threatening to turn around and go home Minutes before I go out the door I ask my husband for directions only to be told ‘I don’t know his address..... I know the area he lives in’ which inspires me with no end of confidence. So he rings my friend’s husband and gives us the following garbled set of directions ‘up the hill, then down the hill and just past the football stadium.... or maybe just before it, I’m not sure, you turn right, and end up coming back on yourself towards the motorway and you go under a footbridge and you turn right and there’s the gendarmerie..... or maybe..... the gendarmerie is before you turn right... I’m not sure...... and then when you get to this point you ring your friend and she will guide you to the house’. Lesson number one learnt – always get the directions from the sister first, especially if she drives! To be fair to my husband his directions are always excellent if he’s been to the place before because he always looks out for landmarks, or as he calls them ‘my repair’. But a football stadium..... really?
So we take the correct exit and then come to a fork on the road and, after taking a wrong turn, we finally end up on the right road looking for the what seems to be an invisible football stadium. We see what looks like it might be one, or at least one by Algerian standards, so we turn right just after it and end up in Centre Ville which is not where we want to go so we turn back and end up on the motorway going towards home, which is not exactly where we want to go just at that moment either. We’ve just turned back in the right direction and I ask Sarah if she can hear a funny noise and she says she thinks it’s just the road, but it continues so I decide to pull up at the side of a very busy road, where Alhamdulilah there’s space off road to stop without disturbing the traffic. It’s in the middle of nowhere, under some trees with an orange grove, with lovely oranges, just beyond. Sarah gets out of the car and I see by one look of her face that we are in t.r.o.u.b.l.e. I get out and the front tyre on the right is as flat as a pancake and smoking.....literally! Out of nowhere two boys appeared and asked if we had a spare tyre. Do you think we could get the thing out of the car..... that was the hardest part of the whole operation. Who knew you just unscrewed one thing in the car boot and that would loosen it from underneath the car. One of them lay down on just cardboard on the mud and recovered it from underneath the car, and then they jacked up the car, loosened and removed the bolts, replaced the wheel and tightened the bolts back in place and really made sure they were tight. May Allah bless these two boys because otherwise we would have had to get my husband out of work and wait until he borrowed a car and came to us. I think he was very relieved when we decided to just return home.
As we drove home Sarah casually mentioned ‘Did you see the knife one of the boys had his in pocket?’ WHAT knife???? ‘Oh it was just a long, serrated edged one, like a breadknife!’ Oh that’s alright then!!! To be honest they were both so respectful and well mannered that we both felt very comfortable with them, and Sarah said that, as we pulled up, she had seen them coming out of the fields where they had obviously been working and they probably used the knife in their work. Probably. We drove home at a very sedate pace altogether.... in fact we drove so slowly I became totally disorientated and found myself saying things like ‘I’ve never noticed THAT before’, probably because normally I flew past it, or ‘I thought we already passed the airport’ when in fact it was still some way ahead. I was driving 50kmh and I felt like I was in one of those pedal cars we used to have as children. So Alhamdulilah we arrived home safe and sound 2 ½ hours after leaving home.... much to the total disgust of some of the kids! We were very disappointed at not being able to go to the aqeeka, but on the way home we passed an accident that had just happened, and we were reminded of how well Allah looked after us that day Alhamdulilah.
I did go back to that friend’s house another day with a couple of friends, and again, managed to get totally lost and ended up driving down the motorway again, in the wrong direction. There’s nothing more dispiriting than driving in the totally wrong direction, further away from where you actually want to go, and knowing you can’t do anything about it until you can find an exit that will let you off your merry-go-round. We took the back roads in the direction we wanted to go and every now and again we would stop and one of my passengers would call out our destination to a local and point ahead, and we would continue in the hope that we were actually getting nearer and not driving further into the wilderness. We finally found our way to my friend’s house, through some of the most beautiful countryside, and found that elusive football stadium, which to be honest looked more like an opera house, so I didn’t even know it was one until I had reached my destination and my friend told me what it was.