BootsnAll Travel Network



Middle East…Done.


This plaguerized photo is for Mohammed, his family runs the Safwan Hotel where I stayed three different times. Everyday he asked if I was going to see the Saladin Castle and every day I replied “if it is on a tv show that I am watching I’ll see it.”

Some final thoughts before we wrap things up and move on to stage 5.


I really wrapped up my stay in the Middle East on a perfectly boring note. Roughly two weeks of straight tv watching. I guess it does represent a bit about the Middle East even though it comes off as me just being lazy. For many, especially my fellow Americans, the Middle East is solely represented by what is shown on the news. That is very rarely a good thing. By all accounts, it is a bunch of whacked out guys running around screaming things about Allah with bombs strapped around their bodies looking for foreigners to blow up. Not to minimalize the culture of the Middle East, when you really break it down, it is a society very similar to the US and when you take a more in depth look, possibly a more moralistic and peaceful one. For example, I spent my last two weeks in Syria (one of the wild card fanatical countries in the ME as expressed by our fearless leader) watching satellite tv, eating pizza and cheese burgers, watching all the girls in tights jeans and stiletto boots, and pretty much just vegging out. In the four or so months of traveling throughout, I didn’t actually rough it once where I wasn’t in some hotel with electricity, hot water, restaurants and snack places galore, and of course internet everywhere. Not to mention all the shops and stores where you can buy anything that you could find in any US city. Paved roads, easy and clean transportation, scheduled and regulated buses, fair taxis, and even places with luxury ferry boats all made things a breeze to get from point A to B. Education is very high so even my refusal to learn Arabic was fine because English speakers abound. Overall, the Middle East was one of my easiest areas of travel on my trip so far.

In regards to what makes it possibly a better culture was learned while traveling through Africa. After being bombarded by beggers, scammers, thieves and touts galore, it was always a relief to pull into a Muslim community. Basically, no hassles. In general the Muslim culture creates a much more compassionate environment. Everyone is family and nobody is left to fend for themselves. You see very few beggars or homeless people on the verge of falling off the end. Extended family extends throughout the neighborhood so that is why it is okay for kids to be wandering around the streets at all hours of the day because an aunt or uncle is always looking out for them. The issue of women is also one of those things that we see as negative because of what the news portray. Women do live by a certain creed, having certain dress codes and expected behavior. The flip side is that women are treated with much respect. They are revered as mother and yield surprising power. Women do not wait in line, they are given the seats on buses, contact with them is limited, and the family is their responsibility. The religion of Islam is a huge factor in the way that the people live their lives. I believe it is one of the stronger forces in giving people hope as well as helping people to understand how to live especially when there is not always someone there to learn from. It is a very straight forward religion similar to Judaism where things are outlined for people on paper. You pray at specific times of day, you say certain things, you act a certain way, you eat certain foods, you celebrate at specific times, basically, if there is a life question, there will be a specific answer for which you should follow. I believe in societies where because of extenuating circumstances like poverty, a religion like Islam is a way to help people manage and survive. It is kind of like before in the US when people who were convicted of a crime were often offered the chance to join the military instead of prison, with hope that the discipline that they receive would help them more than going to prison. I believe that having something to give guidance when you are spiraling out of control becomes a lifeline for people. In the end, the Middle East wasn’t the sandy dunes experience I thought it would be. I guess it would be best summed up as another society where things are merging with Western styles of life. No longer the flowing robes are the mainstay, now days jeans and a dress shirt are more of what you will see. In the end, my tally for chai (tea) was 100 given to me and 2 bought by me for someone else. Nice.

Some random CRAP:

TV.

Favorite action shows: NCIS, CSI, Lost
Favorite comedies: King of Queens, Scrubs
Favorite talk shows: The View, Tyra, Oprah
Favorite News: CNN (they had better specials than BBC)
Favorite odd show: House of Tiny Terrors

Most of these were old re-run shows, but as I haven’t really had a chance to watch tv for the last three years, they were all new to me.

CRAP 1

A while ago there was that guy that went on a McDonalds diet for a few months and he made a documentary about it (I do not believe any of it and truly believe it is some sort of Al Qaida propaganda coming from deep within Iran. McDonalds rules.) Well, I can attest that if you watch tv 16 hours a day and your diet consists of pizza, fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, schwarmas, french fries, cole slaw, potato chips, snickers, chocolate donuts, all washed down with Pepsi or Coke, it will wreak havoc on your digestive system. I went from being really regular (eat something, poo out the last meal) to constipated and pooping this really thick and sticky unbaked fudgy substance that really stunk (yes my previous poops were minimally aromatic, but this new stuff was egads.) I can imagine that if I did keep up this diet I would probably end up on Tyra.

CRAP 2

I’ve given up on toilet paper. Pretty scary, but I am talking using a bidet set-up not hand scraping. In the Middle East and I guess Asia as well, heck it was that way in Africa as well, the usual practice is to use your left hand to wipe yourself clean and then use the horse tap to wash your hands. What I have converted to is the little hose that you use to squirt yourself clean as a fancy dancy separate bidet isn’t going to happen. Basically, most places have the horse pipe outlet with a little garden hose attached. Once you’ve done your business you hose yourself off and presto, spick and span. All without having to deal with all that pesky paper. At first, I thought that you would end up with soggy pants, but once you master it, you can do it with minimal over spray and what is left dries rather quickly. I think when I go home I will implement the system in whatever place I end up.

Genius or Idiot?
As I really haven’t been motivated to do much, I spent a lot of time laying around doing nothing. I guess if I really manipulated the facts, I could say that I was meditating. One of these times as I was in this serious state of vegetativeness, I found that I have this super human capability of being able to forget stuff. Yea, Steve, real super human stuff. Everybody forgets stuff, every day. Well, I don’t mean forgetting stuff because you’re an idiot or because it is not important, but I mean I can make myself forget about something right then when I am thinking about it, on purpose. Okay, your leaning towards Idiot, let me see if I can sway you a bit. My best forgetting powers are when I am laying in bed (not during the 16 hours that I am laying in bed watching tv, but the other few hours when I am laying in bed trying to close my eyes and fall asleep after the 16 hours of watching tv.) It is kind of like when you dream something but when you wake up you forget what you were dreaming. At a similar stage like that, when I can think about it and then remember what I had dreamt or thought, I am able to back track to the point that I forget what it was that I had dreamt or thought. Incredible huh. Kind of awe-inspiring. Okay, on face value it doesn’t seem like much, but I am pretty sure it is something that what, maybe 1 in 3 persons is able to do. Incredible.

That’s about it. Not too much to write about since I was on vacation and I WATCHED TV 16 HOURS A DAY. Tv isn’t conducive to much incredibly important subjects for a travel blog.

And with that, stick a fork in it, the Middle East is done.



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4 responses to “Middle East…Done.”

  1. snarkyinla says:

    Now that you’ve converted to a paperless toilet system the wedding is definitely off!

    Good luck wherever you go next…

    -Snarky

  2. Benny says:

    Hello Steve
    I wish you a happy new year!
    Where are you heading now? I’ll spend the next month in Sofia/Bulgaria, am I going to meet you ;)?
    Keep on writing, I would like to read a bit more about the people you meet (not the travellers)..questions you think about while travelling..
    All the best, greetings from Carinthia (Austria)!
    Benny

  3. Lucy Cole says:

    Hey, I was just doing a google search for Tupiza as I was there not long ago and the photo of you and your horse Espirit came up, so I started reading your blog… It is really really interesting! I had a 1and1 website when I went traveling to South America last spring but never seemed to write anything that made any sort of sense to anyone other than me – people at home must have thought I was going mad.

    What made me think about leaving a reply, other than to say you blog is rather awesome is to ask how travelling on your own is? I am obsessed with going travelling for a year, maybe longer when I finish university in a couple of years but didn’t know if it was really scary or not? Also when i did go to South America (with my backpack and two friends from school) I met LOADS of Israelis (seems like you have met quite a few too) and they have suggested going to Israel, apart from the fact mum is really not happy about sending her only daughter off on her own to a war country I don’t want to waste my time going if it really isn’t all that great… is TV really the only good thing about it? Even then, unless you’ve been travelling sufficiently long enough to apreciate the luxury of TV I can’t say I am about to buy a plane ticket to watch tele in Israel when I could to that here… I was planning on going to Tel Aviv, however if this is not good I was going to head off to some island somewhere and lie in the sun.

    Anyway I hope that where ever in the world you are at the moment that you are having an awesome time. I can tell you now England is freeeeezing cold and uni really isn’t that exciting so I definately will be wondering about the adventures of Steve and how lost she is in my next deathly boring lecture!!

    Lucy, England

  4. j says:

    you really should go to the castle next time, and to crac des chevaliers too. we found a taxi driver in lattakia who took us for free!

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