You can cycle through the Middle East, with some advance planning: ie burka coverings for women going through Saudi Arabia, and special VISAs for Syria. Image via Tyson Manering while cycling through Jordan.
Bicycle touring enthusiasts interested in going on biking tours of the Middle East are now discovering that this sport is not just confined to North America, Europe and Asian countries like China and Japan. While it is true that Western countries have the most developed system of bike touring maps and travel info, Middle East countries also have cycling information that can enable either individuals or groups to undergo a unique and interesting travel experience. Eco-tourism at its finest. But is cycling the Middle East possible and safe?While previous Green Prophet articles have praised the best eco tourism in the Middle East , including how to be ecologically responsible while embarking on hiking treks, not enough attention has been given for those who have considered going on tours via pedal power in this region, which has much to offer to adventurous bike riders.
One of the foremost authorities on bike trekking in this part of the world is a guy named Stephen Lord, who recently published a book entitled The Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook in which he gives a number of tips on how to go to places that may not have an advanced infrastructure any may require building a modified terrain type of two-wheeler “from the ground up”.
The tour site Travelling Two gives a number of tips worth noting for traveling in these Middle East countries, including those for women bike riders. Advanced preparation beforehand is crucially important, especially in respect to having the proper equipment suitable for riding on rough “off the road” terrain.
Here are a few of their tips for Middle East bike touring which are worth noting:
* For Western Travellers – and this can apply to Israeli ones too in “allowed countries” such as Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey – a traveler will be get a chance to meet the ordinary citizens of the country first-hand, and will soon discover that local people are much more friendly than what is officially said by their government. After all, in the Middle East, the first general rule is kindness to visitors. You may very easily find yourself eating a feast with a local family.
* For women travelers, especially those going to conservative countries, conservative dress codes are important, although one does not have to overdo it. We’ve heard in Saudi Arabia cyclists should wear complete covering from head to toe and in most cases, women on the road should not travel alone – this goes for Turkey, Syria, Sinai, Egypt, and Jordan especially, and should be especially cautious towards truckers. Dress codes are also important for men too, especially in areas where even men wearing shorts can be considered as wearing “un-Islamic dress.”
* Getting visas for countries like Syria: Travelling Two Notes that those interested in visiting countries like Syria (those politically able to) need to get a VISA in advance, but that travelers from countries like Ireland and New Zealand (where no official Syrian diplomatic missions are located) can get a VISA at the border. An easy way if you are coming by land from Europe through Turkey is to get a VISA at Istanbul or Ankara.
Bike tourists considering a touring itinerary of Jordan will definitely want to include a bike tour of Petra and Wadi Rum, as well as a scenic ride along the Kings Highway to Aqaba on the Red Sea.
Naturally, those living in Israel have a problem touring most Middle Eastern countries, but there are plenty of bike touring possibilities within Israel itself to satisfy even the most seasoned two wheel trekker. Since Israel has a well established infrastructure for cycling enthusiasts, I’ll leave this topic for a future article in itself. It is considered very safe for women to travel in Israel alone, except for areas in the West Bank.
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