Why I Love Traveling to the Middle East

I pretty much listen to Arabic Music everyday. Some traditional Lebanese, Iranian and Egyptian hits. And other times, these techno variation mixes of Arabic music. It takes my imagination back to all the countries I’ve visited. The people I’ve met and miss. I am continually reminded why I love traveling to the Middle East so much. Despite all its faults, it’s inequality, its wars, religious conflicts, political strifes. What’s happening today and in this past few decades cannot replace the hundreds and thousands of years of history that have taken place in this region.

I am absolutely mesmerized by the beauty of this music video & am instantly transported through my imagination back to the Middle East. The mystique in her astonishing opera voice coincides with the mystery of the Middle East we all can’t seem to understand. Even if we tried. But for those that have visited, there’s no denying an existing alluring attraction.


I think of our time getting lost in the Spice Bazaars, haggling for the best deal on Saffron.  The first Call to Prayer (before sunrise) from the local mosque from the mysterious voice of the Imam. Admittedly at first, sounds incredibly creepy, until you quickly fall in love with its serenity. And then 4 more times the call comes over the intercom from the Mosque, for devout Muslims to thank Allah for all he provides. I reminisce of the conversations I had with locals on their political views of the Middle-East.

I miss the long deep thoughts and questions I had for Turkey. A nation that is considered a “secular state“, yet has tugs between going back to a more conservative past with the others tugging towards modernity and westernization. Turning back to their fundamental, religious roots. With women in beautiful hijabs on the latest cell phones. Men in handsome suits working at big corporations, while still taking the time to lay out their prayer mat 5 times a day to pay their respect to Allah. I have confusion for old values retained while still moving forward, and appreciation at the same time. This constant tug, the dichotomy, the extremes is what fascinates me so much of the Middle East.

It was tragic hearing about the ‘aid’-ship from Turkey to Gaza Strip / Israel incident. The occurrence happened while we were in Greece (after Turkey, before Israel). Friends back home were worried for our safety. Of course from afar, anything happening in the Middle-East, despite it’s size, can worry people as they clump the region all together. We didn’t know if we should worry or not. Once we talked to a few people in both Turkey and Israel, they assured us that unfortunately, this type of event happens all the time. They were numb to such news. Like Earthquakes in California.

While we were in the southern tip of Israel, in Eilat, laying on a beach, we had a beer in hand while looking across the sea to enjoy the view of the Jordanian border. Saudi Arabia bordering the south, Egypt within a half mile walking distance to the border.


Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences is smoking hookah on the top floor of our hostel in Istanbul for hours with new vagabond friends. All the while looking out our window with the view of the most beautiful mosques in the horizon. It’s quite intensely different hearing opinions first hand from the Arabs, from the Jews, from the Palestinians, from the French, the Pakistanis, the South Africans and the Canadians on their views of their homeland, on America (Bush vs Obama) and on the world in general. As Americans, we learn how skewed our views are. Especially compared to Europeans and Australians. Really the rest of the world and how they receive news.

why i love traveling to the middle east
Visiting the Tower of Silence in Yazd, central Iran

There’s a lot to learn. Perspectives to be learn and analyze.

One of my All Time Favorite Poems I heard from a Hostel Mate in Istanbul:

“This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see;
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.

So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wonderous worlds I’ve known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there-
The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.”

This Bridge :: Shel Silverstein


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