|Central Algiers, where - just to|
be clear - there is no sex tourism
As the only foreigner in attendance, I was - for once in my life - in great demand and enjoyed, momentarily at least, playing "hard to get". A clutch of Algerian travel agencies was keen to suggest various forms of partnership with "the sir from England" but the greatest interest was shown by the Algerian media. Being interviewed - especially in a foreign language - is great fun at first... it soon becomes pretty wearing, though, answering the same questions: Why are you in Algeria? What do you think the future of tourism is in Algeria? Are the beaches nicer here than in Tunisia?
By the fifth interview, with the television lights bouncing off my bald head, I'd had enough - except that, a rarity in Algeria, there was a young woman waiting to interview me. Fresh out of journalism school, she began to ask me the same set of questions: What is your name? Where are you from? Why are you here?
"Well, I'm here on behalf of a British tour company, looking to see what opportunities there might be to develop our market here".
"What is your market?"
"Well, normally we operate in the Far East, but we've exploited all that region's opportunities for sexual tourism so now we're hoping to develop the same market in Algeria" - I said this with a straight face but was sure that she'd twig that I was pulling her leg.
"And what age group will your tours be aimed at?"
"Middle-aged men, largely".
"About your age?"
"That's right" - cheeky thing, I thought... but she still hadn't grasped that I was stringing her along.
"And how big will they be?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"How big will the groups be?" It was at this moment that her minder - a middle aged man like myself but with a sense of humour - gently whispered in her ear that I was taking the micky.