Saturday, 28 January 2017

It never rains but it pours

Bouira, Algeria
It never rains but it pours

And this is never more so than when it comes to the weather in Algeria.  The country just doesn’t ‘do’ weather by halves.  In the summer it gets so hot that the sun is splitting the stones (an Irish expression, what else), and in the winter it rains, and rains and rains and then….it rains some more.  My husband tried to warn me about the rain in Algeria, but I got on my Irish ‘high horse’ and informed him that being Irish I knew all there was to know about rain.  After all we have different names for the different types of rain in Ireland, from just the fog and mist induced damp in the air (referred to as a ‘soft’ day), through to ‘spitting’ rain where you don’t know whether to go back inside and cancel the day or be optimistic and go forth in the hope that it comes to nothing.  And then there’s the ‘rotten’ rain, the name of which actually refers to how it makes you feel rather than any description of the rain itself, and where you have no excuse not to go out in it as you can use an umbrella, but…..some part of you will still probably get wet anyway. But the rest of Irish terminology for rain best describes Algerian rain whether it’s actually pelting, lashing, hammering or bucketing down, each term stronger than the last.  It literally feels as if the heavens open and all the water in the universe comes lashing down all at the same time.  Of course they have lighter rain, and they have showery days where you can go out and about in between the showers, but on those days when it really takes itself seriously the rain is quite awe inspiring mashallah. 

I’m a sun person – I love the heat and feel energised by the heat and the light of the sun, which means I’m not a particularly rain person.  However I do appreciate it, particularly here in Algeria where the country desperately needs the water to increase the levels in the water reservoirs especially for the dry hot summers, for the crops in the fields, and it does clean away most of the dirt and rubbish (when it’s not overflowing the drains and leaving a mud surface behind).  Above and beyond all that,  I love the rain because it is one of those special times when a dua (supplication) is more likely to be answered by Allah.  And I love the rain on a day when none of my family need to go out in it, I love the fact that we are all snug and warm and dry inside together.  I also love the rain in Algeria because I know it will stop…..sometime, and that when it does the sun will come out again, and the world will cheer up again, and my get-up-and-go will return again (as opposed to the winters in England and Ireland where I felt that my get-up-and-go had got up and gone…..forever).

A lot of Algerians love the winter because they feel more inclined to do things without the oppression of the heat of the summer and I can agree with this.  My problem is that once the day is grey and overcast my brain just goes into hibernation mode and I want to do nothing more than sit on the sofa with a hot drink and a book and just not even THINK.  It takes such an effort of will to ignore this inclination and force myself to get up and DO something, but whenever I do, of course, I always feel so much better and the day seems so much brighter.

I do love the variety of weather here in Algeria though – I love the fact that the heat of the summer very, very gradually turns to mild autumn and then cold winter, back to cool spring rushing back into hot summer.  The weather doesn’t really get cool here until the end of October and it doesn’t really get very cold here until January, although the cold here, where I live in Algiers can not be compared to the cold in England where I used to get a pain between my shoulder blades from hunching my shoulders against the biting cold.  There are areas in Algeria that are snowed under every year and people flock to these areas during the weekends for the novelty of playing in the snow.

The end of our street

It has rained a lot these past few weeks in Algeria Alhamdullilah, and I am sincerely glad as the past year or two we haven’t had as much rain.  We live in what used to be a marsh area, near the sea and when it the rain comes bucketing down a lot of the streets around our house become flooded and the drains have to be opened.  The street on which we live is a cul-de-sac with the sea at the end of the road and when it rains we feel like we’re living on an island as the road at the other end of the street becomes flooded.  I was out driving in the middle of it during the week and in a matter of hours the streets that I had previously driven through had become small rivers and it can be quite frightening when you’re driving through especially if you don’t know the road well and you don’t know if there’s a big hole in the road where you could get stuck.  It’s always a reassurance when you watch other cars driving through first, but it still can be heart-stopping to see the water flowing in waves around the car as you drive through it.  My son and I noticed that there were men in hazard striped jackets beside the most flooded areas to help people navigate the water and, where necessary, carry children over the water to their homes.

A street in our neighbourhood

In most countries, when the wet weather comes in, people dress appropriately.  In Algeria, if you’re not going to work or school and the weather is wet, then you fold up your trouser legs or haik up your hijab and walk through the water barefoot in flip-flops – it’s the only way to go!

Driving in our neighbourhood at the moment

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