Upcoming Middle East Tour
Exciting times, these are. I thought I should write an update on the things that lie ahead.
Having spent two and a half years in Yemen, I am beginning to know the culture well. I have tried to be very intentional about spending my time with Yemeni’s to learn how they think and live. Before my arrival, “I longed for a time, which I was sure was not very far away, when my horizon would be widened by looking through the eyes of another.” (Margaret Bourke–White) Indeed, it brings joy and pain to see the world through the eyes of another. But a sacred duty.
Yet through all my experiences in Yemen, a nagging sense has pervaded me. I may have a better understanding of Yemen, but can I truly say I understand the Arab society and culture? Yemen may technically be “Arab”, even the very roots of Arabia, but the reality is most of Arabia is far removed from the Yemeni way of life.
So I’ve decided to do something about that.
Next month I will begin a whirlwind tour of the Middle East. And quite incredible circumstances will begin my journey.
A couple weeks ago I met a family of five from Ireland/Aussie that have spent the last five years sailing around the world. (Nice way to homeschool, I might add!) Their boat ran aground off the coast of Yemen, and through a friend, we met up in Sana’a. We really enjoyed our time together, and in the process explained to them my love of the sea and sailing. They insisted I contact their friend, Philip Beale, who has a “boat” in Aden.
That boat is the “Phoenicia”. A replica 600BC sailing ship circumnavigating the continent of Africa. Leaving Syria last year, it has already received a bit of press, including a BBC film crew who documented part of the journey. After the expedition is completed, the ship will spend some time in the British museum in London.
So I contacted Beale. And he said “yes”.
Well, actually he said “you sound an ideal candidate to help us crew the ship up to Salalah!” Wow. Despite the fact that my sailing experience is minimal, I’m in.
I won’t be circumnavigating Africa. Rather I will sail from Aden, Yemen to Salalah, Oman. There are still a lot of details to cover, but the plan is to leave August 25 and arrive in Oman 10 or so days later. Once in Oman, I hope to visit Muscat, but I may not have time because of my next plans…getting to Sudan.
Sam sent a link to some videos of the ship's journey so far. Here they are:
- Ship Building
- Prep the Ship & Sea Trials
- Launch Ceremony
- 1st Leg - Arwad to Port Said
- 2nd Leg - Port Said to Port Berenice
- 3rd Leg - Port Berenice to Port Sudan
- 4th Leg - Port Sudan to Al Hodeidah
- Phase Two
As a member of the ADRA Yemen board, I will be traveling to Sudan for a board meeting in Juba, located in Southern Sudan. ADRA Sudan is hosting us, and I intend to arrive a little early to design some print materials. Then during my stay, I hope to have a chance to travel around a bit.
From Khartoum, Sudan, I intend to sail up the Nile river to Aswan, Egypt—a three day journey. From there I travel to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Next I travel to Hurghada where I will take a ferry across the Red Sea to the Sinai peninsula.
While in Sinai, I will stay at a monastery below Mount Sinai. I will also pass through Dahab, a cheap dive paradise. Unfortunately I won’t have time to get a dive license. And that isn’t the purpose of my trip anyway.
From the Sinai peninsula I will take another ferry to Aqaba, Jordan and make my way up to Petra. I don’t intend to spend much time in Amman, but may take a short trip to the West Bank. From there I will make my way to Damascus.
Damascus! This will be the highlight of my journey. For years I have dreamed about visiting this amazing city and see firsthand the famous Syrian hospitality. I will search for artists, calligraphers, photographers, musicians…anything related to the arts. I may even make plans to live here!
Deir Mar Musa
Just north of Damascus is another monastery called Deir Mar Musa in the desert mountains with a neat story. Their focus is interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims, and they welcome visitors!
I will also visit the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, famous for it’s sprawling souks (markets) and lively culture.
If time permits, I will make the long journey to Istanbul. At the crossroads of the arts and cultures of East and West, much has been written about this amazing city. Unfortunately it is no longer the “bargain basement” deal it once was. My meager backpacker budget won’t allow for a long stay. But we’ll see.
Sailing from Turkey back to Egypt
My friend Sam lives near Istanbul with his family. I am also trying to work out arrangements to sail across the Mediterranean to Egypt. Most sailors are traveling North–to–South this time of year, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find a boat needing a crew.
This isn’t a leisure package tour. I don’t intend to sip vege–martinis on my beachside villa. Really, when I think of a trip like this, I’m excited about the people I will meet. I might have Petra on the itinerary, but I can predict that it will mean nothing compared to the stories I will hear from people along the way. I want to learn and be enriched. I want to hear stories and be immersed. In particular I plan to meet artists and designers. There is a lot of great art being created by unknown artists around the world. I’d like to find them. I’d like to do a lot of networking and potentially find some good work partnerships involving peacemaking or bridge–building. The reality is, a trip like this deserves a year, at least. But since my funds will not allow for such a long journey, I’ll try to pack it all in by the beginning of November.
I have a big request. Help a guy out. :)
I’m sailing on a replica Phoenician ship. I’m visiting some of the most amazing places on Earth. I need to gather stock images along the way. The travesty is, the only camera I own is a point and shoot. It takes decent pictures, yes. But I need a digital SLR and a couple nice lenes. I say “need” knowingly. A LOT of you folks have your fancy DSLR cameras, and you don’t even know how to use them. :) Ok, you use them, but you take pictures of your kids swimming in the tub. Great for you. Really. But I NEED this.
The good news is someone has offered to send their camera and a nice prime lens, but the camera is broken. We intended to fix it, but there isn’t enough time for various reasons. So if you have any of the following, or something similar, would you consider loaning it to me? Your camera (and your kids in the tub) will be forever grateful. The images will be put to good use. Trust me.
A Canon SLR camera (must be digital, not film)
Lenses (need to be Canon EF not EF–S)
- 50mm fast (1.4) prime lens Check! Someone has offered this.
- Fast wide angle zoom or prime (biggest need)
- A zoom lens with image stabilization
I’ve put these things up on my Amazon wishlist too.
The main challenge with this is shipping and time! Fortunately I have someone leaving from Washington DC who is happy to bring these to me when he leaves for Yemen, but he needs to have the items no later than Friday, July 31.
Want to come along?
Finally, it would be so much more fulfilling to travel with you! If you have an interest in the Middle East, art, design, calligraphy, Arabic, and good food, why don’t you take a break and be enriched? Come for all or part of the journey. Some parts, like the sailing trip from Turkey to Egypt would be more difficult with two people, but anything is possible.