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#33389 - 11/03/02 09:41 AM Travelling to the Middle East
VegetarianOnHiatus
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/18/02
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I live in Jordan. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I've been here a year and four months. And I'm safe where I am, people are just living their lives, going about their business, whatever.

My question is this: if someone offered you an all-expenses paid trip to a Middle Eastern country, would you take it? I don't mean an actively combatant country like Palestine/Israel, and obviously I wouldn't send you to Iraq (they wouldn't want you, especially if you were American), but to a peaceful country like Lebanon or Jordan.

Really I'm just curious about what the perception is of the Middle East right now, out in those other places where they are deciding my neighbors' fates. Would you come here for a visit?

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#33390 - 11/03/02 09:47 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
essay
Ching Shih


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I would definitely go if someone offered me an all expenses paid trip. But it's interesting that it probably wouldn't be near the top of my travel list otherwise, and there may be some fear factor in that. On the other hand, I'm not very good at initiating travel adventures, but am often very willing to go along on other people's schemes. I hate planning.

When one of my younger friends left to study in Turkey for a semester this fall, I did wonder a little at the wisdom of her timing, and that isn't even the Middle East, just near enough to be uncomfortable. But I didn't try to talk her out of going. It isn't like there is some really safe place you can travel to anyway. Who would have thought that nightclubbing in Bali could land you in the middle of a disaster?

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#33391 - 11/04/02 12:26 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
cat
Ching Shih


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word, essay, on there being no safe place. I would definitely go to the Middle East if offered a trip. Some of the seemingly less safe places are ones I would otherwise find really appealing--Syria, Iran, Jerusalem. I would love to visit Lebanon, and I understand that there are some gorgeous, peaceful beach areas in the gulf states (though I have no idea to what degree women can enjoy the beaches).

I had a near miss with this kind of decision--I was booked to go on a press trip (expenses paid) to northern India in mid-October of last year. I really wanted to go, but the trip was canceled about September 8, for logistical reasons. I now wonder if I would have gone--being an American journalists traveling near the Pakistan border would have seemed terrifying just after the September 11 attacks.

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#33392 - 11/04/02 04:17 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
SusyQ
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I loved Israel, and would like to return someday. India was interesting, but it's not on my top 100 list of places to go back to, although I would return to the Maldives.

I would go to Jordan in a red-hot minute if somebody else was paying the freight. I was there for just one day a few years ago, and spent the majority of it at Petra. I never felt the least bit unsafe there.

I would have to research Lebanon a little bit more before I could comment.

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#33393 - 11/04/02 05:06 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Invinciblegirl
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Registered: 04/08/02
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Well, I grew up in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, so I kind of feel comfy with it. After living there for 18 years, you get kind of used to it.

If someone offered an all expenses paid trip to the Middle East? Man, I'd be on the shores of the Red Sea with all my diving equipment faster than you could BLINK.

I have a list as long as my arm of places I want to go in the Middle East. I'd definitely do it. Mostly the Red Sea, though.

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#33394 - 11/05/02 05:14 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Angiv
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Count me in. If I had any money, I'd be there anyway.

I'm an Arabic and Middle East Studies major, so I probably have a somewhat atypical point of view, but I'd happily go to an actively combatant country too. A friend spent a summer at Bir Zeit university and had some great experiences mixed with the horror.

Funny story (well, not really, but, y'know...): a couple of friends of mine were in Lebanon for a year. They were out taking photos of bombed-out East Beirut one day when they were held at gunpoint by Hizbollah guerillas. They'd inadvertantly photographed the cadet training HQ, and were mistaken for Israeli spies. Oops.

I know people in Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, Oman, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and I'd love to visit them. I also want to see Petra (who doesn't?) before it's closed to the public, and what's left of Iraq.

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#33395 - 11/11/02 08:24 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
SusyQ
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Angiv, when and why is Petra going to be closed to the public?
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#33396 - 11/12/02 04:34 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Angiv
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SuzyQ - as far as I know there are no definite plans to close Petra, it's just something that's going to have to happen sooner or later because the tourists are destroying it. And I want to get there before then.
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#33397 - 11/12/02 02:52 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
SusyQ
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Oh, I see. Yes, it's definitely worth the trip. Breathtakingly beautiful--and I rode my first camel there. (Sorry, couldn't resist using the smiley.)
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#33398 - 11/21/02 11:31 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
juliette
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I'd take it in a minute.

I had originally planned to go to Morocco next Spring, but so many friends and family gave me a hard time about how dangerous it would be that I changed my planned destination to Turkey. Same story (even though neither are technically in the "Middle East.") Now I'm going on a walking tour of Ireland, and everyone is happy. Sigh.

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#33399 - 12/31/02 10:48 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Ekaterina
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Registered: 11/16/01
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I would go to Israel in a nanosecond. I did a big story on it last year, and Jerusalem is one of the places I most want to visit in the world. I want desperately to do my year abroad there, but my parents insist I stick to Europe. (as far as I'm concerned, it would be the perfect place. They speak English, are quite modern, farther away than England yet not as far as Australia.)

I just think it would be incredibly awe-inspiring to go to someplace so ancient; to walk where Jesus walked, to see the Temple of the Mount and the Kotel.....my heart aches for Jerusalem. I want to support the brave people there with my tourism - I want to show them that not everyone's afraid.

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#33400 - 11/24/03 12:43 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
miercoles
Ching Shih


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I've almost definitely been accepted to a winter school at Hebrew University (intense two-week program), and I'm really leery about going. I know that most of the travel warnings are about Gaza and the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that the campus is well-secured and enclosed, but still. Jerusalem? Am I completely crazy for even considering going?

Meanwhile, my bf has already bought his ticket to go to Turkey in January to build a telescope. I'm more worried about him than about myself.

Needless to say, my mother thinks we're both completely bonkers, and part of me wants to reassure her, while the other part agrees with her and would be quite happy to stay in Ohio over winter break. (This is the same part of me that would rather not travel overseas at all while Bush is president, thankyouverymuch.)

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#33401 - 11/26/03 02:30 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Sweet Potato
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I just saw a documentary on Petra last night... looks stunning.

I would love to go to Syria, because my ancestors on my mother's side are from there. Actually, I'd love to go anywhere in the Middle East, because I've never been there.

I must admit though, I guess I might be a bit scared of traveling there, mainly because all you hear is about how dangerous it is, how different it is to be a woman traveling in the Middle East, etc. I am sure once you get there, you see that it's just normal people living their normal lives.
A big part of the fun of seeing new places for me is being able to spend some time sitting in public places and observing daily life without standing out too much (which I know, as a tourist, is basically unavoidable, but some cases are more extreme than others). I am a bit worried that with my red hair and pale skin, I would not be able to do what I like to do best, which is observe unnoticed.
I guess it sounds silly, after all, plenty of people have to deal with that every day, and I'm sure it would be a good lesson, but I have to admit that it does kind of hold me back.

Vegetarian , I'd love to hear more about your experiences. Have you done much traveling throughout the region? Have you had any very positive/very negative experiences?

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#33402 - 11/27/03 09:12 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Emily
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 Quote:
A big part of the fun of seeing new places for me is being able to spend some time sitting in public places and observing daily life without standing out too much (which I know, as a tourist, is basically unavoidable, but some cases are more extreme than others). I am a bit worried that with my red hair and pale skin, I would not be able to do what I like to do best, which is observe unnoticed.
I know what you mean. I've never been to the Middle East, but I did take a trip to Morocco a few years back. I'm very fair and have blond hair, so I knew I'd stick out, but I hoped to remain as unnoticable as possible - no camera, no sneakers, don't assume everyone speaks English, etc. Did not work. I was immediately pegged as an American by just about everyone I encountered. (One person told me that I *walk* like an American.) I felt very, very safe there and it was a wonderfully friendly country but at the same time I've never felt so consicuous. And privileged/rich (not that I'm rich by U.S. standards).

I'd love to go back there, and I'd love to travel to the Middle East too, but I think I'd stick to the touristy areas just because I would rather be the tourist behaving well than a complete outsider trampling around someone else's hometown. Especially if I were travelling to an area less welcoming than Morocco (in other words, just about anywhere else in the world).

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#33403 - 01/05/04 06:12 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Kalirga
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Great topic. I just concluded a year living and working in Kuwait.

I would love to see Jordan, especially, and Dubai I hear is lovely. I would travel in the Middle East again if given the opportunity, but right now I've had enough.

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#33404 - 01/05/04 01:52 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
megancita
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Registered: 07/01/02
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Kaligra,

you've piqued my interest! In another post, you mentioned further travel in Europe. Can I ask what you do for a living that lets you travel so much (so that I can vicariously live through you)?

As for the topic of this thread ... I am fascinated with many Middle Eastern countries as well as the North African countries that have an Arabic influence, but I think I'd start with Turkey. My preconceived notion is that the culture in some of these countries would be very alien to my own US set of values and outlooks, but I'd very much look forward to that challenge.

Also, I think Arabic is lovely language, and I'd welcome the chance to learn some. I feel like the Middle East is such an ancient society and any travel there -- whatever my political beliefs -- would be a rich experience.

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#33405 - 01/05/04 02:55 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East
Kalirga
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I wish I could say I had an inspiring job that alllowed me to travel at whim, but my travels are borne out of the unanswered prayers of my life.

In a nutshell, I went to the Middle East as a government contractor. I worked on a US Army base in Kuwait and lived in downtown Kuwait City. I came to this job through my contacts when I was enlisted in the Air Force, and after facing financial ruin in Miami (too many $12 martinis!).

I, very suprisingly, fell in love in Kuwait to a soldier in the British Army. He is stationed in Germany, where we will live after our marriage. I left my job in Kuwait and am currently at his family's home in England awaiting his arrival from Iraq.

There were many lovely things about Kuwait, but most of my fond memories come from my experiences with the Third Country Nationals that make up the majority of the work force there- people from India, Bangladesh, Nepal. I personally found Middle Easterners to be arrogant, self-important, and rude. Certainly there are exceptions, but I didn't meet any in Kuwait. There seems to be a fatalist mentality, a harsh, haphazard view of life. Children play chicken with cars on the highway, and when a kid gets hit and killed, there is no public outcry, only a shrugging of the shoulders, an acceptance that it was Allah's will. Translate this into a million other scenarios and perhaps you can understand why I was happy to leave.

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#90849 - 05/01/11 10:17 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East [Re: Kalirga]
viva
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Registered: 09/06/03
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Bumping this old thread as I was searching for travel book recommendations...

I leave for the Middle East on Wednesday - hitting Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. Was originally scheduled to go to Syria as well, but that doesn't really seem to be an option right now. Was really looking forward to Damascus & Palmyra but my inconvenience pales in comparison to the agony of the families of the hundreds of protestors being killed. I think I'm going to head to Croatia instead for the week I was going to be in Syria.

I'm constantly peppered with questions here at home about how safe it will be, how crazy I am, why I'm going somewhere so dangerous, etc. It's pretty damn annoying, I'll admit. I've always wanted to go - it's the cradle of Western civilization! Petra, the Aya Sofia, old Jerusalem, Ephesus, Baalbek - I can't wait! I travel by myself from the US, but join into pre-arranged tour groups so that I have others to share the experience with. (By the way, I've always traveled with Intrepid Travel, an Australian-based small-group tour company that I love.)

The only other Middle Eastern location I've been so far has been Egypt, and the constant harassment was quite a pain - but I've heard Egypt is the worst in terms of that, so I'm staying optimistic for this trip. I dress conservatively, keep my shoulders and knees covered, and usually have a scarf around my neck that I can quickly draw up over my hair in case I want to duck into a mosque or feel I am drawing too much unwanted attention. Although sometimes you have to laugh, like when a young man in Egypt ran out of his shop and after 3 of us, shouting "I need woman! Please!"

So anyway, I'll wrap with a query for any good historical fiction from the region - I didn't particularly care for Pamuk, but am willing to give anything a try. Especially if it's available on Kindle!

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#90850 - 05/02/11 09:15 AM Re: Travelling to the Middle East [Re: viva]
VegetarianOnHiatus
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/18/02
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Y'know, I can hardly think of anything for you, viva. Michener's The Source is very good. I read it before I visited Israel in 2007. It's super long though, so you probably couldn't finish it by Wednesday.

I'm so jealous of your trip! I hope you have a great time. Say hi to Petra for me. Also, my favorite town in Jordan is Madaba. The people there are more used to tourists so you're less of a curiosity, and it's a friendly place.

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#91550 - 05/16/12 04:54 PM Re: Travelling to the Middle East [Re: VegetarianOnHiatus]
turtlegirl



Registered: 11/12/07
Posts: 29
Loc: new york city

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I liked reading "Bitter Lemons," by Lawrence Durrell when I was in Crete. It's about his time as a p.r. flack working on Cyprus. Not the exact area you're visiting, but not too far away.

The four books of Alexandria Quartet are a fun read. Might be a little dated, but from the hedonistic 70s.

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