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Pity the Travel Writer By: Julia Gorin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, December 28, 2006


Imagine the challenges of travel writing today. How tough it must be to entice people to visit regions that are better left to their own.

Three travel articles recently caught my attention, leading me to wonder whether the travel industry might exist in a vacuum, untouched by world affairs. Conde Nast Traveler's August issue had a piece titled "Arabian Nights;" which profiled Abu Dhabi, Syria and Egypt. The highlighted quotes read:

"The Emirates Palace mingles new technology with images out of an Arabian fairy tale";

"Egypt is a living museum for anyone curious about palaces, trade, and travel"; and "'Once there is peace, Syria will be a traveler's paradise,' one hotelier insists." (But for now, there was this caption for a  photo of a market: "Damascus's Hamadiyeh Souk [market] was restored in 2002 to its nineteenth-century Ottoman appearance. The unrepentantly pro-Syrian banner reads: 'A country ruled by Bashar al-Assad must not be treated unjustly.'")

The current issue of Outside Traveler also gives it the college try in an article about Jordan, titled "The Kingdom of Peace and Plenty." A subhead reads "Stunning Red Rock Deserts. The Lost City of Petra. And Marine Life that will Knock Your Fins Off. Welcome to Jordan, a Safe Oasis in the Troubled Middle East."

Here the writer's approach is a little more honest than Conde Nast's, opening with "The M42 armored anti-aircraft vehicle in front of me has seen better days," and including gems like "Despite being the falafel in a security-nightmare pita, Jordan itself is peaceful;" and "while the idea of a holiday in this part of the world may at first sound like playing a game of Hacky Sack with a hand grenade.a trip here is far less explosive than your might think."

But then writer Ed Douglas slides into duty mode: "Since I discovered Jordan a few years ago, I've been itching to return as often as I can.And it happens to be an outstanding destination for adventurous travelers, with hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and horseback riding in some of the finest and most expansive desert scenery on the planet."

"Adventurous" is certainly the word. If the November 2005 triple hotel bombings in Amman were any indication, add to the list of mountain biking and horseback riding: shrapnel-ducking.

The writer of the Conde Nast Traveler article-Susan Hack--opens by regarding with some skepticism an Abu Dhabi brochure for the new Emirates Palace, which reads: "Arabian culture and tradition are synonymous with generosity, hospitality, and all-around warmth."

The article's surprising subhead read "Travel to the Middle East is rising eighteen percent  a year--fueling a resurgence in the palace-style hotels that first pampered kings, aristocrats, and early package tourists more than a century ago..both hospitality and the hotel as we know it have their roots in the troubled region."

There's that mention of Arabian hospitality again. As people continue to rhapsodize about this legendary hospitality, one starts to wonder if they're not actually talking about hospitals, since that's where too many visitors to the Middle East end up. Recall the third of Hack's destination subjects-Egypt-in 2005, when the resort town Sharm-el-Sheikh suffered three explosions, killing 65 people and injuring 200 just a couple weeks after the London Tube explosions. A fair percentage of the victims were Brits who were "on holiday" to escape and recover from the trauma of the London bombings. The most confounding question that faced investigators at Sharm-el-Sheikh: Why the heck are Westerners vacationing in the Middle East? Isn't that like a Jew vacationing in Hamburg during World War II? (The Germans weren't all like that.)

One tries to imagine a Brit's thought process leading to this choice of destination: "Dahling, let us get away from this madness! Let us find some place peaceful and relaxing. How about the Middle East?"

That must have been the thinking of the two British women, the Dutchman, the Australian woman and the New Zealand woman who were injured in September when a gunman opened fire on Western tourists at some Roman ruins in a district of Amman, Jordan that's populated by observant Muslims, killing a 30 year-old British man. The shooter was a Palestinian-Jordanian from a village near the Jordanian extremist hub "Zarqa", hometown of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Fellow Westerners, Mountain doesn't have to come to Muhammad. Muhammad has already come to Mountain. You can get the Middle East experience in your own backyard.

But the Muslim countries see us going to the Middle East and sure enough, I'm seeing ads promoting Turkey and Dubai as destination choices. One billboard read, "Come to Dubai. We speak 60 different languages on our planes. Just like being in New York."

You see what's happening? The terrorists are getting lazy. Now that it's harder to get into our countries to kill Westerners, they want us to buy a ticket to go get killed. (Though I couldn't find a disclaimer or special instructions for people whose passports bear an Israeli stamp--that is, for Jews, who generally aren't allowed into Muslim countries, so I wasn't sure if the ad was meant for me.)

On the other hand, perhaps the 18 percent annual increase in travel to the Middle East-which includes "foreigners curious about Islamic culture in the wake of 9/11"--represents practical-minded folks. Subconsciously or not, Western dhimmis are clearly planning ahead, trying to familiarize themselves with the culture they'll soon have to adopt as their own; they're learning the ropes of how their own countries will soon operate.

Speaking of which, the subject of an October Continental Magazine piece was London, specifically the city's ethnic markets. Amy Syracuse writes, "I've learned that the real London is less about antiquity and more about diversity, staking its claim as not just the capital of England, but arguably, the capital of Europe-if not the world."

Of course, we know that what London is, is the capital of Eurabia, and of a country where the name Mohammed has overtaken George in popularity, according to the UK Telegraph, which "reflect[s] the diverse ethnic mix of the population." So the Western publishing dhimmis put on their plastic PC smiles and push London for its "ethnic diversity" rather than its history, now called "antiquity."

Syracuse mentions that in 1997 the area where the city's financial district is, Brick Lane, "was officially named 'Banglatown' by local authorities in honor of its many residents from Bangladesh. At that time, almost seven in 10 residents were of Bangladeshi origin."

After exploring the Brick Lane Market, Syracuse moves on to Upton Park, "home to Queen's Market, which is said to feature London's most ethnically diverse shopping.The first thing I notice is the cacophony of sounds: babies crying, vendors hawking their deal of the day, and chatter in many languages coming from all directions. Small grocery shops and halal butchers line the perimeter, prominently displaying chicken carcasses, cows' feet, and miscellaneous organs in their front windows."

Syracuse quotes Mark Jones, from Friends of Queen's Market, which campaigns against the site's redevelopment: "There may be more beautiful markets in the world, 'but nothing has its finger on the pulse of humanity like London's markets do.'"

As usual, it appears the term "diversity" is more or less as a euphemism for "Muslims." And not only is the takeover by "diversity" a good thing, but the rest of the world should get with the program. Indeed, if London's ethnic markets have their finger on the pulse of humanity, it looks like that
finger is pointing toward a caliphate.

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