Interview with the father of Essendilène Voyages, by Bruno Guillemin.
Abdou Borgi, are you “son of the desert ?”
Yes, son, grandson, great grandson… my family lived for a very long time here, in the Ajjer area, not far from Djanet and the Tassili plateau.
Were they nomads ?
They were shepherds before everything, raising camels and goats, and were searching for the best pastures for their herds.
Did you grew up with them ?
Until the age of 13. I learned life in the desert, places, trails, and I met those living in it, plants, animals and people. Then my uncle Rajeb proposed me to go farther away. First toward Lybia, then until Niger. The salt transport was almost already a souvenir but our caravans carried away many others goods, like mugwort, a medicinal herb much appreciated there and that we had in abundance. We sometimes left for few days, more often during long weeks.
How was the trip ?
In the beginning my uncle terrorized me. Talking loud, giving orders, I was running in order to obey. I understood lately that leading a caravan is an undertaking full of risks, where everybody’s life is in the leader’s hands, and where any mistake can lead to the end. Thus I’ve been able to appreciate his great experience, his deep knowledge of survival in a very rough and hostile milieu. Today all this learning is useful to me.
Because you created your own agency, Essendilène Voyages ?
Since 1988. In the beginning everything was going well but the tragic events affecting the north of the country deprived us quickly of this precious income that started to represent tourism. It’s necessary to say that at the same time and for our misfortune, a terrible dryness was cracking down. The herds disappeared, many touaregs had to settle and live by one’s wits.
And today ?
It’s been raining again. A little. Violence is still there in the North, but diminished in magnitude ; and people realize that it never affected regions of the South : here reigns a very moderated islam, still permeated by a touch of animism. Touareg people always maintained their reputation of hospitality. So as the desert is still as beautiful, rock paintings and gravures still as impressive, little by little visitors are coming back. As for me, I chose to welcome them in my family, in Azelouaz, distrit of the oasis of Djanet. There, they start to discover our life, to meet friends or neighbours. There starts the adventure…