La Dolce Vita: A Roman Wedding with an Indian Twist

Monday, July 31, 2017 | Rome, Italy (map)

The man of the hour can enjoy two drinks at once if he damn well pleases.
I would go anywhere for Joe, and he knows it. That was surely all the more true when he told me he was getting married.

Hailing from the US east coast and living in North Africa—with friends scattered across the globe—I have certainly made some long journeys to celebrate nuptials in recent years. But this time around the trip was an easy local jaunt, since Joe and his wonderful bride Christianne decided to get hitched just across the way in Rome—an easy 2-hour flight from Algiers. Joe is a former roommate and among my closest friends from my Georgetown days, and he and Christianne had even made the effort two years earlier to come visit us in Algeria—getting themselves added to several Homeland Security watchlists in the process (sorry again, guys!)—so there was no way Nina and I were missing this one.

We organized with friends to rent an apartment along Via Giulia, a block from the Tiber, and spent a few days before and after the wedding festivities exploring the city. If we failed to eat every last bowl of pasta in Rome or make the bartenders weary of mixing Aperol Spritzes, it was surely not for lack of effort.

Then vs. Now, Here vs. There: Making Sense of the Beirut Blur

Thursday, July 6, 2017 | Beirut, Lebanon (map)

This Beirut trip was a chance to see how the city had evolved since my last visit a dozen years earlier.
Khalil and I never really met back in college, but we recognized each other's faces well enough to make the connection one summer evening at a mutual friend's party here in Algiers. "Hey, didn't you go to Georgetown?" Like me, Khalil had moved to Algeria in recent years for work. We've stayed in loose touch since that evening two years ago, catching up occasionally at functions around town. Then back in March, an invitation hit my inbox: for no particular reason whatsoever, Khalil and his wife Julia were inviting us and a few dozen other friends from around the world to a party at his family home in Beirut.

On the face of it, Lebanon seemed a bit far to travel to just for a party. But Nina and I both had a few friends there we wanted to see, and we were keen to escape Algiers for a long weekend somewhere different. Besides, Nina had always wanted to visit Beirut, and I was eager to see how it had changed since I was last there 12 years ago. "When in doubt, go out"—right? In the end, it was an easy choice.

When we checked in at the Algiers airport, we discovered that a large group would be making the trip with us, including several close friends. Team Algeria was going to Beirut.