Tadrart: The Mystique of No Man's Land

Friday, February 28, 2020 | Tadrart Rouge, Tassili N'Ajjer, Algeria

The Tadrart's vast expanses leave one plenty of space to ponder life's big questions.
What would your hometown look like without humans, without animals, without plants? What would remain if the land were stripped of life and abandoned to the vagaries of the elements? Wracked by winds, erosion, scorching heat and bitter cold, what would that once vibrant ground become as the centuries ticked by?

Among the peculiar pleasures of an extended desert excursion, several days' drive from the nearest cell phone tower, are plenty of silence and raw, open space to contemplate such questions—and to glimpse the likely answers firsthand.

In early January, Nina and I brought a dozen family and friends to one of the planet's most extreme environments: the remote Tadrart plateau.

Tucked deep in the Algerian Sahara, within the Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, the area is called the "Tadrart Rouge" because of its unique brick-red sand. No place on Earth more closely resembles Mars. But the extreme terrain isn't the only draw: scattered across this rugged landscape is one of the world's most splendid collections of prehistoric rock art.

Want to contemplate humanity's place in the universe, and perhaps even your own? You've come to the right spot.

Andi Hulm - I Have A Dream

Saturday, February 8, 2020 | Algiers, Algeria

Click here to watch the promo clip for "Andi Hulm" / "I Have A Dream"
At last, the big day has finally arrived!

Tonight is the official premier of "Andi Hulm" ("عندي حلم" or "I Have A Dream"), Algeria's first entrepreneurship reality television show. I serve as the show's host, and thus have the surreal privilege of appearing in many of the show's promotional materials, sometimes sprinkled in fairy dust (see above). Who ever said all those years spent struggling through Arabic class wouldn't lead anywhere?

Across 10 episodes, the show tracks the progress of 60 young Algerian aspiring entrepreneurs as they complete a series of increasingly difficult, high-energy challenges. Along the way, jury members whittle down the group until just a few standout finalists—then one final grand prize winner—remain. As the stakes rise you will see numerous surprises, moments of ecstatic joy and profound disappointment, and much more.

With any luck, the show will earn a wide following here in Algeria and spark greater discussion about the prospects young Algerians face as they work to realize their dreams in life. That's the hope, at least, of the show's creators at the

Give Me a Home Where the Buffalo Roam, and the Deer and the Antelope Play

Friday, February 7, 2020 | Granby, Colorado, USA

With every passing year I spend away from the US, I feel the psychological distance grow, stretching to match the physical distance a bit more. Sometimes it's nice to return home and soak up a little Americana.

So for our longest vacation of 2019, Nina and I decided to spend ten days in August in Colorado catching up with my uncle Chris, aunt Kari, and cousin Mitch.

Back when I lived in DC in my 20s, my uncle, an avid outdoorsman, had invited me several times to spend July 4th weekend with their friends and family at a campground on the shore of Turquoise Lake, deep in the Rocky Mountains. I have fond memories of campfire stories with my cousins, and of hikes up to pristine high-mountain lakes in search of cutthroat trout. (See "Turqoise to Timberline: Chasing Trout in the Rockies")

More recently, Chris and Kari bought a small property near the town of Granby, just over two hours' drive from their home in suburban Denver. Ever since, my uncle had been pressing me to come back for another visit. As he well knew, I could only open my phone so many times to find an unsolicited snapshot of snow-capped mountains or sparkling streams before I caved.

Much To Love in MTL

Tuesday, February 4, 2020 | Montreal, Canada

Dépanneur: Even for French speakers, visiting Montreal can expand one's vocabulary and horizons alike.
Spend enough time in the francophone world and you hear lots of hype about Montreal.

Nina had never visited Canada, and both my previous visits had come amid blistering December weather, so while en route from Algiers to a week in the mountains of Colorado last summer, we slipped in a 36-hour layover in Canada's second city.

Visiting in August sure beats the winter. Back in 2013 I had spent a few days in Montreal shuttling an Algerian study mission between meetings—and did my best not to leave the network of tunnels underlying the city's downtown. On this trip, by contrast, we wore shorts and t-shirts and spent all day crisscrossing the city, strolling from trendy brunch spots in the Vieux Port to street markets in Chinatown to an outdoor art expo in the Gay Village. We scarfed a massive platter of poutine (the local delicacy, if you can call it that) from La Banquise, on the Plateau, and tried maple-syrup-flavored coffee, ice cream, and more.

Montreal was covered with exquisite street art and filled with gourmet boutiques. But more than anything else there were restaurants—seemingly more per square mile than anywhere I've ever been. "Does anyone eat at home in this city?" Nina wondered aloud as we walked past yet another block of nothing but fusion cafés,