The term ecotourism often conjures images of mud brick eco lodges in the desert or visiting rare endangered plants on a nature reserve, but it can and should be broadened to include enjoying less than natural sites with more eco-friendly forms of tourism (such as walking and biking). As far as carbon footprints go, it may even be more eco-friendly to stay put in whatever city or town you’re already in and taking in the sites without the aid of fossil fuels rather than hopping on a highly polluting airplane to visit the aforementioned plants and eco lodges. If you’re unconvinced of the poetry of walking a city’s streets, though, take a cue from Londoner Adam Ford’s ‘The Art of Mindful Walking’.
“The pavements can be hard and tiring,” Ford says, “but walking in a city has more to offer than we imagine. The city is not all streets and pavements; there are parks and public gardens, river walks and canal banks.”
“The richness and variety of experiences per mile in a city can challenge even the most beautiful walk through countryside; and the density of bird life, flowers and trees is a continual surprise.”
Middle Eastern cities may be taking notice of the advantages of this most ancient form of eco-tourism. There is already a tourism company in Beirut devoted to walking tours, and various areas of Israel offer walking tours as well.
Yet there are other parts of the region that have some catching up to do. Amman is a notoriously miserable city to walk, with a serious lack of functional sidewalks and a general feeling of chaos. In the United Arab Emirates there is the reverse problem. The streets may have comfortable sidewalks, but the Emirati prefer their convenient cars and so only 4% of people living in the UAE walk on a weekly basis.
Ford insists, however, that our cities are the best place to enjoy a good walk and that, conversely, cities are best enjoyed through walking. “For many people,” he says, “the thought never seems to occur that the city is a great place for walking. They imagine that you have to get out of the city, away from the noise, the traffic and the fumes and head for the countryside where birds sing and brooks sparkle. They could not be more wrong.”
Read more about walking in the Middle East::
BeBeirut Offers Eco-Friendly Tours in Lebanon’s Capital
A Miserable Walk Through Amman
Only 1 in 25 Emiratis Use Their Legs to Walk
Take an Eco-Friendly Tour with Israel Travel Company
Image via: DavidSpinks