Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011



The sleek new trains are the pride of Algiers.
What a day it was for the citizens of Algiers!  Amid cries of joy and chants of "God is Great," President ABDELAZIZ BOUTEFILKA made it official.  After thirty years of construction, the new subway was finally opened its doors for business.  Just like in a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the president clasped a pair of gigantic scissors and sliced through a giant red ribbon and bow.  Hundreds of people stormed past the handsome iron-wrought entrance and down the sparkling, brand-new stairs.  Beep! Beep! The first train pulled up opened her electronic doors to an anticipating audience.  God is Great indeed.

I know...you're asking yourself...Why in heck is everyone so down-right giddy over a subway system?  Well, as far as rivaling metropolises go, subways are major status symbols and each city thinks their system is the best.  For example, Londoners boast how "The Tube" is the best because it's the world's oldest!  (First operating in the year 1863.)  New Yorkers say their system is the best because it has the most stations...a whopping 422 in all!  "Non!" Say the Parisians.  Their Metro is the best because it has the most stations per square kilometer.  It goes on and on.  Tokyo has the most trains per minute and Mexico City has the most passengers per day.  Muscovites will tell you their stations are the most elegant...but we here at the DUNER-BLOG don't know how to measure that claim.

Everyone loves a brand-new subway!
Anyhow, the people of Algiers are not claiming their new metro can compete with these legendary public transportation systems, but it does give citizens some pretty cool bragging rights.  The city of Algiers now has the distinction of owning the second underground railway on the African continent.  That means that today, the people of Algiers can thumb their noses at the Kenyans...crammed onto a smelly Nairobi bus.  Today, they can sneer at the lazy Moroccans (Algeria's hated rival)...shelling out dinars for a taxi.  Nope, the only folks on the African continent who have anything on the proud Algerians are the Cairenes (citizens of Cairo) who have a much larger system.  BUT...if you've ever ridden on the Cairo subway, you know it's not exactly clean.

While these bragging rights are fun, the real reason why the Algerians love their Metro is what it represents.  The construction of the subway was quite the soap opera...a long story of ups and downs...that mirrored what was happening to Algeria overall.  Groundbreaking began in 1982, when times were good.  As the world's fourth-largest supplier of natural gas, a robust economy ensured the foreign construction workers would be paid.  Then came the crash of 1986, when natural gas prices tumbled. A broke treasury halted construction.  It was restarted in 1989, this time employing much more affordable local firms.   In 1991, a gory civil war between the army and religious extremists erupted and engulfed the nation.  Work ceased again.  Then, after ten years of conflict and a quarter of a million deaths later, the capital started to build again.  It all culminated yesterday with the opening of the spotless metro.

Optimistic Map of Future Metro Algiers Line
With natural gas prices at their highest ever, the future looks bright for Algeria. "This is a great day for our country," cried Algiers resident ALI HASSAN as he took his inaugural ride. "It shows we can rise from the ashes!"  And finally, for you subway enthusiasts out there, here are a couple quick stats:

Number of Stations:             Ten
Miles of Track:                     Five
Cost of Ticket:                      67 cents
Operating Company:            Paris Metro

No comments:

Post a Comment