Why Wouldn’t You Visit?
Obviously, Egypt is a popular travel destination. Between ancient architecture, rich history, vibrant cities and friendly locals it’s no wonder the country sits high atop globe trekkers’ lists of places to visit (including mine). Since protesters took to the streets a couple of weeks ago in Cairo, and through the rest of the region, everyone’s attention has been fixed on Egypt. Some people wanted out, and others wanted in, vying for a front row seat of history in the making. Here at Adventure Center, the priority was making sure all clients were accounted for and safe. As this week’s news focuses more on the intricacies of vast political change than on protests, none of us can really know what will happen until it actually does. It is an important and era-defining moment that will be fascinating to watch unfold, no matter where you are.
As the situation in Egypt started to heat up I was reading Tony Wheeler’s Bad Lands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil, an account of the Lonely Planet co-founder’s travels through countries that the Western world has dubbed repressive and dangerous, some of which are on the infamous “axis of evil.” Now, Egypt is not on the book’s itinerary, but certain of the questions Wheeler asks as he meanders through Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, North Korea, Libya, Cuba and Albania apply to what’s going on in Egypt today. In the book’s introduction he writes: “What makes a land bad? It’s got nothing to do with geography or topography. Rivers don’t invade, deserts don’t become corrupt and . . . the land itself will have had nothing to do with why a Bad Land turned to the dark side.”
I’ve long wanted to visit Iran, and perhaps I will one of these days. But my wife won’t be joining me. She’s been all over the world, and has traveled solo, even to Oaxaca a few years ago with the drug war raging in northern parts of Mexico. Iran, for her, is a place that would not be at all welcoming in her mind because she would stand out. She might be right, though she might also be wrong. We know people who have been and had amazing times, though for women it is not like visiting France or Japan. The point is that for her, Iran would make her so hypersensitive about her surroundings that she would not be able to relax and just be in the moment, which is what traveling is all about. She knows this and knows enough about herself to accept that she will probably never make that trip.
Wheeler’s adventure has its tense moments, and more importantly those moments of delight that keep travelers on the road. But it is more of a history, and descriptions of border crossings and approaching border crossings. That said, he went to some pretty hairy places, including Iraq and Afghanistan at the height of both those wars. Of Iraq and Iran, he makes the point: “There were plenty of reasons to be interested. Iran had the great anceint city of Persepolis . . . and the exquisite beauties of cities like Esfahan. Iraq had Babylon, Nineveh, Nimrud and Ur. Who wouldn’t want to go to either country?” As someone who has built a brand on wanderlust it makes sense that Wheeler’s aim is to appreciate a country for its natural beauty and history. But history can only occur through the hands of man, so separating a place from the people that run it is difficult, even if that means it isn’t fair to the country’s citizens.
The United States has always considered Hosni Mubarak an ally; in the West, he has never been cast in the same light as leaders like Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejadand, Muammar Gaddafi, or Saddam Hussein,. But regardless of how the Western world views the recent events in Egypt, Egyptians have made clear that they demand change and until that change manifests in a way that satisfies the people clamoring for it, Egypt might make some travelers want to stay clear in the same way my wife will avoid Iran.
How do you feel about traveling to Egypt now? What other countries would you avoid based on politics?