Travel to the Middle East has never been a better deal than now – in terms of economics (deep-discounted hotels and holiday packages), weather (blizzards have all blown by and crushing heat is still months away), and – in most of the region’s top touristic venues – political stability. All my view based on four years of living in Amman. But how to convince the media-saturated and uninitiated? A five-minute film may do the trick.
My great pal Agnes just announced she’s coming to visit me in Jordan from the USA. This intrepid Hungarian has been to more countries (and speaks more languages) than anyone I know. She doesn’t blink at being cooped in an airplane for double-digit hours. She’s sampled freshly fried grasshoppers off a Singapore street vendor, noshed on baby sea cucumbers in rural China, and – in the Little Odessa neighborhood near New York’s Coney Island – chased Russian stroganov with vodka that can strip paint.
My travel hero survived Havana pickpockets and Macchu Picchu altitude sickness, but for years was steadfast in her refusal to hop over to the Middle East. It took a National Geographic special on Jordan’s epic UNESCO site, Petra, to get her shopping Amman flights.
I stumbled upon a short YouTube clip that produces the same effect in just five minutes. It takes you to Egypt’s pyramids, Jordan’s Red Sea, Dead Sea and moon-like desert in Wadi Rum. There’s Turkey’s Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar, Cappadoccia seen by hot air balloons and Pamukkale’s carbon calcinate baths. I’ve been to these places, all deftly captured by amateur videographer Daniel Camenzuli. Check it out:
If travel teaches us anything it’s that the nuance and diversity within geographic regions cannot reduce to a singular description. Is ‘Europe’ an Irish pub ceili or a Northern Lights dip in an Icelandic hot spring? Is ‘Canada’ explained by a Québécois ice festival or a stellar Chinese dinner ordered up in Vancouver? Probably nowhere is it harder to condense culture to a stereotype than here in the Middle East, yet it’s the place so broadly painted as backwards, violent, and terribly unsafe.
Bad stuff happens everywhere. Some of the baddest being in places that sell most of the world’s postcards (consider Paris, London, New York and Madrid). Open your mind and park paranoia. Brush off your passport and come see this slice of the globe. Television documentaries and YouTube clips can whet your appetite, but experiencing it all in person is a mind-opening game-changer.
Image of Petra, Jordan at sunset from Shutterstock