For Sale: "Algeria 2019" Wall Calendars

Saturday, December 8, 2018 | Algiers, Algeria

The New Year is just around the corner, and if my latest article didn't already inspire you to buy Algeria-themed gifts for everyone you know, now is your chance!

For the fourth consecutive year, I have selected 12 of my favorite film photos representing different regions, themes, and perspectives from across Algeria, and published them as a wall calendar. Printed on high-quality semi-gloss paper, "Algeria 2019" calendars are now for sale at the following locations here in Algiers:
In the coming days, the calendars will also be available for delivery throughout Algeria via Etniz.net, and elsewhere for international orders. Stay tuned here for details.

Souvenirs from Algeria: The Best Algerian Gifts & Where To Buy Them

Friday, December 7, 2018 | Algiers, Algeria

Just a few of the trinkets we've accumulated here in Algeria over the years (photo: Nina)
Surely the largest country in Africa—at the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and the Arab world, with its own homegrown Berber traditions—has some souvenirs worth taking home? But of course! It just takes a little searching... or a savvy guide.

While neighboring Morocco has made a name for itself selling exotic trinkets to visitors, with Tunisia not far behind, Algeria's arts and handicraft scenes are much less developed. In part, that's because far fewer tourists visit the country, leaving Algerian artists and artisans with a limited market. But throughout the country, a brave handful have kept many traditional crafts alive, while today a new generation of enterprising creators are experimenting with modern updates and fusing local styles with international ones to great effect.

In nearly six years of living here in Algiers and crisscrossing the country, I've scouted out every potential souvenir I can find. I also recently solicited ideas from my Facebook followers and received some great recommendations! I've reviewed them all and come up with my own (admittedly Algiers-centric) list of favorites.

While many of my selections come down to personal taste, Algeria's artistic scene is diverse enough that there's something for nearly everyone here—including the Algeria-phile on your holiday gift list.

Happy shopping!

All Books Are Sacred: Kamel Daoud in Translation

Friday, November 30, 2018 | Algiers, Algeria

Kamel Daoud in Oran (Source: LePoint.fr)
Of course, it’s not about absolving the West to please them: I don’t live there and I’m no fan of moral compromises nor of denials. Colonisation was a crime, but so too are our present failures. The elites of the "South" must accept it and stop denying it by accusing those who don’t think like them of being traitors.
...
Literature is the only nearly universal dialogue of which we are capable and that gives us the unique privilege of making conversation with strangers, with the distant and the dead, with those who are not yet born and those who dislike one another. To read is to soothe, and not just to travel.
These disparate passages both come from Algerian author and journalist Kamel Daoud's latest piece, which I translated for publication yesterday at regional news-and-commentary site Middle East Eye. Daoud originally delivered the text as a public lecture earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland. Middle East Eye published it in the original French under the title "Tous les livres sont sacrés" ("All books are sacred"), but selected a more pointed headline for my (uncredited) English translation: "Blaming the West is not enough: We too are responsible for this calamity".

Daoud is best known internationally for his novel Meursault, Contre-Enquête, published in Algeria in 2013, in France in 2014 (where it won the prestigious Prix Goncourt for a début novel), and in English translation in the US in 2016 as The Meursault Investigation. The novel, written as a modern, postcolonial counterpoint to Albert Camus' famous The Stranger, earned Daoud critical acclaim and

Photographs at M Suite Hotel

Monday, October 29, 2018 | Dar El Beïda, Algiers, Algeria

A series of my film photos now grace the walls at the M Suite Hotel, a chic property that opened this month in Dar El Beïda, on the eastern outskirts of Algiers.

To stand apart from the depressingly sterile hotels sprouting up across the capital's suburbs, the M Suite owner chose to highlight Algeria's diverse beauty as the hotel's core concept, selecting different cities and regions as themes for the hotel's 52 rooms. It's a concept I was—no surprise here—eager to contribute to.

For nearly a year, I've been working closely with the hotel's artistic team (from Al Marhoon Gallery) to select and prepare works, ultimately printing and framing several dozen that now hang in rooms celebrating the architectural, natural, and cultural splendor of places like Biskra, Taghit, Algiers, Oran, Constantine, Adrar, and more.

Best of all, my photos stand alongside works from great homegrown photographers, as well as pieces by eminent modern Algerian artists like Mohamed Belaid, Rachid Koraichi, Hamza Bounoua, El Moustache, and others. These works complement built-in architectural accents—from a multi-story moucharabieh screen to each room's unique combination of vivid tiles and and elegant wall inlays—that give the hotel's modern aesthetic an unmistakably local flair.

Featured in "Veiled, Unveiled!" Exhibit

Thursday, October 18, 2018 | Vienna, Austria

Verhüllt, enthüllt! Das Kopftuch @ Weltmuseum Wien
A photo I took early in my Algeria days is featured in an exhibit opening today at the Weltmuseum Wien, the ethnographic museum in Vienna, Austria.

The exhibition, entitled "Veiled, Unveiled!" (such enthusiasm!) features works on the female headscarf ("just a piece of cloth but laden with countless facets of meaning") from its earliest origins to Jewish and Christian traditions to Islam and its association with recent waves of immigration to Austria and the wider EU.

My contribution, a print from one of my early Rolleicord film photos, dates back to a March 2014 cultural event organized by Algerian artist Souad Douibi's Belaredj collective. There, at Souad's direction, young women donned the traditional Algerian haïk—a relic of their grandmothers' era that has nearly disappeared from the streets of Algiers today—and reenacted Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" before parading through downtown. (I'm honored that my photo will appear in the exhibit alongside one by the talented Francis Sistiague, who invited me to that first Belaredj event.)

To see my photo and all the other works, visit the Weltmuseum! The exhibit runs from today through February 26, 2019. Location, hours, and other information are available here.

Marrying the Platypus

Saturday, September 29, 2018 | Kassel, Germany

Nina & Andrew, September 8, 2018 (photo credit: D. Michelmann)
"If you were an animal, which would you be? Which one fits your character best?"

It was August 2016, and Nina and I were lounging with our friend Tania on the grass beside a hotel pool in Algiers, chatting idly as the shadows stretched longer in the late afternoon sun. Over two years had already passed since I had met Nina one evening at the spectacularly unromantic British Embassy pub here. We had taken our first trip together (to Croatia) just weeks later, moved in together the following spring, accepted new contracts so we could stay on in Algiers, and acquired our first dog soon after.

That afternoon, Tania answered her question first—"a tortoise"—and justified her choice (entirely needlessly, since it fit her so perfectly) in her syrupy, melodious Portuguese accent. Next, I vacillated before eventually mumbling something moronic about golden retrievers and raccoons. But when Nina's turn came, she answered decisively: "A platypus."

Chorba Meets Bourek: The Family Grows

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 | Algiers, Algeria

Ever since the fateful night, three long years ago, when Nina and I adopted and eventually named Bourek (see "Bourek Meets World"), we've half-joked about getting him a little sister and naming her "Chorba." Doing so—as anyone who's visited Algeria can tell you—would complete the traditional Algerian Ramadan meal of bourek (local spring rolls) and chorba, the tomato-based soup that accompanies them. In Algeria, the pair are as inseparable as spaghetti and meatballs, burgers and fries, or sushi and soy sauce.

Nina, who developed a penchant for rescuing lost animals during her enchanted childhood in Egypt and India, claimed (dubiously) that acquiring a second dog couldn't possibly double the amount of work it takes us to care for a single one.

Unswayed by that math, for several years I resisted her steady pressure campaign, which was fed by a steady stream of images of forlorn street dogs shared online by a local humane society called "El Rifk" (Arabic for "kindness"). Then two weeks ago, Nina's birthday arrived, and my resistance waned.

The family was about to get a little bigger.

"Algeria Viewed By An American"

Friday, August 3, 2018 | Algiers, Algeria

Andrew in Tassili National Park, southeast Algeria, March 2018.
Hard though it is for me to believe, this spring I passed the 5-year mark in Algeria. Time flies when you're having fun.

After all these years living here and exploring the country, I have collected plenty of insights about the place—and about how it looks from an outsider's eyes. Visas & Voyages Algérie (a new web portal offering information for foreigners seeking to visit Algeria and for Algerians traveling abroad) recently interviewed me and published an article ("Tourisme : l'Algérie vue par un Américain") on my view of the country and its potential as a tourist destination.

My English translation is below. Bonne lecture!