Engagement Shoot: Algeria

Friday, October 3, 2014 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

Alex and Ryan in the Place de l'Emir Abdelkader, on their first day in Algiers.
Although my door is always open, I don't get a lot of visitors here in Algeria.

My longtime best friend Ryan was one of the few people to visit me when I lived in Morocco a few years back, and along with his fiancée Alex, just became one of the few to visit me here in Algeria.

Ryan and Alex's choice to spend their one week of vacation in Algeria apparently raised some eyebrows among friends back home, but made sense to us. Back in our Georgetown days, Arabic obsessed and wanting to get off the usual tourist map, Ryan and I had sat in our dorm room researching the possibility of a summer trip to Libya and Algeria. (Conclusion: not feasible.)

Though those places had seemed so inaccessible then, now that I actually live in one of them, Ryan was keen to finally visit. Alex, who has also studied and lived throughout the Arab world, was similarly curious to see if all my Algeria hype was justified.

House Hunters International, Algiers: Episode 4, "A Year Later, Still So Many Questions"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | Algiers, Algeria (map)

Landlord and would-be D.I.Y. superstar Aziz with his triplets, on a visit to my terrace earlier this summer.
A year has passed since I finally quit squatting with a colleague and move into my own apartment in Algiers—only to encounter a series of comical early misadventures. (If you haven't yet, be sure to read Episode 1: "It's Worth It for the View", Episode 2: "MacGyver's Revenge", and Episode 3: "Is It Over Yet?").

There was never supposed to be an "Episode 4". But to this day, circumstances at my humble abode somehow continue to prompt some uncomfortable questions—including, most often, "What the hell am I doing here?"

* * *

Back in November, shortly after finishing the third installment of this series on the joys of renting in Algiers, I packed my bags for a week back home in the US. My timing was good, as here in Algeria the winter's first rains were just starting outside.

Oh, and also inside.

Dalmatian Sensations: Observations from a Croatian Vacation

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Korčula, Croatia (map)

Croatia's Dalmatian coast is supremely relaxing. Above, Korčula town.
Coming from Algeria or anywhere else, you can do a lot worse than ten days on Croatia's Dalmatian coast. Here's why:

12 Essential Travel Reads from the New Yorker Archives

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yours truly in Paris, almost certainly reading the New Yorker.
To produce good writing, you must also consume good writing; that is why I read every issue of the New Yorker magazine religiously, no matter where I may be living or traveling. (If that approach hasn't exactly achieved the desired effect on my own writing, alas it is through no fault of the magazine's writers and editors, who consistently churn out the best content available in print.)

This week the New Yorker has opened its treasure trove. Hoping to entice new readers after a website redesign—and before introducing an online paywall at some as-yet-unspecified date this fall—for the next few months the magazine is offering unrestricted access to its online archives back to 2007, along with an expanded selection of earlier writings.

While the magazine consistently produces fascinating content on every subject imaginable, today I would like to recommend, in no particular order, a selection of the New Yorker's best recent pieces on travel, adventure, foreign cultures, and other themes explored in this blog. Enjoy these favorites while they're available:

After Epic World Cup, Gavin Reflects on Brazil

Monday, July 21, 2014 | Brazil (map)

Festive street decorations in Salvador da Bahia
In ten great posts over the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has shared his experiences at the 2014 World Cup with all of us back home. Today, Gavin offers his final reflections on the trip.

The World Cup has ended and it will be another four years before 32 teams restart the chase for glory, this time in Russia. So as the summer rolls on, talk of the Cup fades away, and I depart my role as a guest blogger for Ibn Ibn Battutta, I wanted to share my thoughts on the World Cup and Brazil.

* * *

The World Cup is an event truly unlike any other. The closest comparison would be a hybrid between March Madness—because of the unpredictability and sheer passion—and the Olympics—because of the nationalistic fervor this competition generates. But even this hybrid would fall a distant second behind the World Cup. While TV, the Internet, and social media can give you an idea of how things

In Germany, Cautious Optimism Finally Pays Off

Saturday, July 19, 2014 | Stuttgart, Germany (map)

Gavin personally hoisted the (replica) World Cup trophy amid the celebrations in downtown Stuttgart.
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his tenth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

After almost two days of travel, I arrived back in Stuttgart safe and sound.

It took a few days to recover from my jetlag and reacquaint myself with the German language and wildly unpredictable weather, but after three weeks on the road in Brazil I was happy to be back in my house. Best of all, I didn’t miss any World Cup matches because I traveled on the rest days, and arrived in time to watch Germany in the quarterfinals. I now threw my support behind my second home, hoping that one of my teams could maybe take home the winner's trophy.

* * *

Ten days and two wildly different victories later, I find myself watching Germany take on Argentina in the World Cup final. How did we get here, you ask? We almost didn't. Andrew’s adopted home team, the Desert Foxes of Algeria, nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament in the Round of 16

Following the Cup from Iguazu Falls, a South American Crossroads

Sunday, July 6, 2014 | Iguazu Falls, Brazil (map)

Guest author Gavin at Iguazu Falls: Living dangerously, or just trying to dry off in the sun?
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his ninth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

It was so tough to leave Rio de Janeiro, I almost didn't make it to Iguazu Falls. I wanted to explore more of the city, lounge on the beaches, and keep relaxing. After the USA qualified for the World Cup's Round of 16, however, I briefly considered returning to Salvador to see the match with my Naval Academy friends, but flights were crazy expensive and I had already lined up a visit to Iguazu. "How often do I get to see one of the largest waterfalls in the world?" I thought as I boarded the plane to continue my Brazilian journey further south.

After lounging on beaches in balmy summertime weather, it was easy to forget that I was in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is currently wintertime. But I was reminded when I arrived in Iguazu. I had heard it would be a little chilly so I had packed a light jacket in my backpack thinking that would be enough... boy was I wrong. The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a biting cold wind. When I arrived at my hostel and found everyone there bundled up in sweaters and jackets, huddled in front of a TV watching the Costa Rica vs. Greece match, I knew that I had made my second error of the trip. (The first had been to think I could make a 2:30am flight after a 6:00pm USA match.) "No journey is without its challenges, but damn, this waterfall had better be worth it!" I thought as went to sleep that night.

Six Days in Rio de Janeiro, No Stone Unturned

Friday, July 4, 2014 | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (map)

Guest author and converted Brazil enthusiast Gavin posed on the Selarón Steps in Rio.
For the past few weeks, guest blogger Gavin Lippman has been writing about his experiences at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Check out his eighth entry below, and follow all his posts here.

I finally reached my guest house in Rio after a long, hectic day of travel that included a missed flight, a run-in with ESPN's Ian Darke, and a trip to Rio's second airport to retrieve my bag. After a week in the smaller, more isolated cities of Natal and Manaus I was happy to be back in a large city with plenty to do.

The name Rio de Janeiro brings many things to mind: Sugarloaf mountain, and the legendary Christ the Redeemeer statue perched atop Corvocado mountain. The districts of Rio, like Copacabana (home to a beautiful beach and even more beautiful people), Ipanema (another beautfiul beach in its own right, made famous by the legendary song "The Girl from Ipanema"), and Lapa and Santa Teresa (home to the Lapa arches, Selarón Steps and a huge party scene). Rio is also a huge sports hub, both for soccer—it is home to Brazilian powerhouse clubs Fluminense, Flamengo, Vasco da Gama and Botafogo—and adventure sports like hang gliding, paragliding, hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. But leading up to the World Cup, the press focused much more on the city's negative side, particularly the crime and drugs prevalent in its slums (favelas), giving the sense that Rio is a real danger zone.

To get a true sense of what Rio is like, I decided to venture into the favelas, try some adventure sports, take in a World Cup match at the legendary Maracanã stadium, hang out on the pristine beaches, and mix it up and party with the cariocas.