November 18, 2004

Travel Writing

My worst kept secret is that I would rather write about travel than politics – although I enjoy political writing, too, or I wouldn’t bother with it. This year I finally got to do a little travel writing. And if things go my way, next year I’ll write even more.

After I returned from Tunisia a few months ago I wrote two essays about my experience. The first was about the people. The second is about the country.

That second essay was put into deep freeze because the election overshadowed practically everything else. Now that the election is over it’s finally time to publish it. So here it is: Crossing the Fossa Regia. Please read this one. I worked hard on it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at November 18, 2004 07:16 PM

Well, the ever-charming Mork below says that you don't know anything about policy and analysis of national security beyond the propaganda of "neocons" and the Bush administration (or something like that). I'm sure that this lucid critique has caused you paroxysms of self-doubt, leading you to wistfully dream of a life of travel writing. It's amazing how, in spite of all that, Mork keeps coming back though isn't it?

Posted by: Eric Deamer at November 18, 2004 09:00 PM

Mork schmork!
What a great piece, Michael. Maybe I missed something along the way, but do you have photographs?
Write about travel all you like, you're very good at it, but try not to give up writing about politics. You're my daily launching pad into the blogosphere!

Posted by: Fish at November 19, 2004 01:18 AM

Have a nice trip. We despicable neoconservatives will make sure the bombing doesn’t start until the day after you leave Libya. Say Hi to Moammar Khadafi for us. Perhaps you will also be able to purchase a “Remember Pan Am Flight 103” tee shirt over there.

Posted by: David Thomson at November 19, 2004 01:35 AM

Great piece. Felt like I was along with you.

Posted by: Michael Bryant, MSgt USMC (Retired), Ft Lauderdale, Fl at November 19, 2004 01:37 AM

"The Ghost of Bruce Chatwin?" Your ever-jealous supportive fan agrees with the great piece judgment above.

The economist in me misses any economic analysis: how much oil (little or none?) does Tunisia have?
From CIA factbook:
petroleum, phosphates, iron ore, lead, zinc, salt
More on
purchasing power parity - $6,900 (2003 est.)

They consume a bit more oil than they produce; import quite a bit more than they export but have a big tourism industry.
Looking at the map, I can believe tourism will continue to grow.

I wish there was more work done on Solar Powered Air Conditioning. I don't believe the final idea in the article, that transforming the desert is "beyond the means of man." Right now, it is too expensive. Just like space travel. But not forever.

(I wish you could have discussed Arabic East, and then referred to Arabia, rather than "East". It being in Africa means it's not East, to me.

It's like a white Africaner Boer, whose known ancestors for two hundred years had been born in South Africa, who emigrates to the US and becomes American. He would be, truthfully, an "African American". But there is some disonance for me.)

I loved the "meet market", rather than meat.
Enjoyed the whole thing. As usual.
Hope you enjoy Libya, Michael.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at November 19, 2004 02:46 AM

I've met some white Africans like that.

Interesting writing MJT. Make a book out of it.

Posted by: Eric Blair at November 19, 2004 05:53 AM

Good luck on the trip. Its usually more interesting to read about travel than about politics, so I'm with Eric Blair, make a book about your trips.

Posted by: sam at November 19, 2004 06:38 AM

Now I really want to get on a plane to Tunisia

Although this does capture the essence of life in a very dry climate:

I thought of petroposia -- the quenching of thirst by the drinking of gasoline. It happens a lot in the Sahara when cars break down and no one shows up to rescue the stranded. William Langewiesche said in The Atlantic Monthly that the locals in Algeria suggested it to him as a way to stay off the battery acid.

Ick. Although I’ve driven through the deserts out west, I don’t remember anyone describing such extreme conditions - wondering if the problem is the desolation of the deserts or the condition of the cars?

In any case, hope all goes well in Libya, inshallah.

Posted by: mary at November 19, 2004 07:38 AM

Great piece on Tunisia. I'd argue that your writings about travel are excellent political commentary.

Enjoy Libya -- I've heard that it is a surprising place. E.g., much less repressive and "cloistered" than other states run by dictatorial nutjobs. Can't wait to read your travelogue.

Posted by: Steve at November 19, 2004 08:13 AM

Wonderful work! Thanks for sharing it with us. Looking forward to hearing about the Libya trip.

Posted by: tagryn at November 19, 2004 04:40 PM

Very enjoying. Only lacks some photos including one about that blue eyed Arab woman with red and dried hair .... :)

Posted by: lucklucky at November 21, 2004 06:55 PM

Michael, the very VERY BEST travel writers make you feel as if you are there. You can smell the air, taste the cuisine, smile at the customs of the peoples. You have done that and more. What a great travel piece.

GM ( )

Posted by: GMRoper at November 22, 2004 05:26 PM
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