Backpacking in the Middle East; are you out of your mind?!

I always said that I wouldn’t write a blog, just because I’m usually too busy enjoying my travels. But here I am, writing a blog about my experiences during my backpacktrip in the Middle East. Partly because I want to share these amazing trips with you. And partly because I feel the need to challenge some stereotypes.
I’m not going to give a chronogical report of my trip, but will write about topics that I feel the urge to share. Nevertheless, feel free to leave a reaction if you want to know about a specific place!
Almost a month ago, I started a new backpackingtrip. I started in Morocco, followed by Istanbul and I’m currently in Israel (Jordan in a couple of days). It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out all the warnings I got before I left; ‘are you sure it is safe?’ ‘Do you really think it’s a clever idea that a blonde girl goes backpacking alone in the Middle East?’. Well, I can be very clear about that: I feel safer here than I felt when I was living in the UK. I came to realise that much of our perceptions in the West are based on stereotypes. For example, I took a 13-hour nightbus in Morocco from Essaouira to Fes. And you guys know me, I obviously took the local bus (I’m not the kind of traveller who takes tourist buses). So no one in that bus spoke English, and my French and Arabic is poor. Still, when I asked after 10 hours where we were, they knew exactly where I had to go to, and made sure I got off in the right city. Did you ever see that happening in the Netherlands? I truly believe that where ever you go, people generally have good intentions (which can of course be interpreted as negative due to cultural differences).
Okay, I have to admit that I was very cautious when I came here. Especially in Marrakesh, I expected difficulties, but this was unnecessary. Of course, there are adjustments that you have to make. In Morocco for example, I always had my legs and (almost always) arms covered. Which is stinking hot, yet avoids a lot of unwanted attention. I found Istanbul and Israel quite relaxed. These are Western countries where you can easily wear a t shirt and shorts (okay, maybe not short shorts, be sensible).

There is one trick with which you can separate a traveller from a tourist, besides dressing modestly: they put their bitchface on. Sounds extremely arrogant, but sometimes it’s better to avoid eye contact and to ignore men on the street (although I’m sometimes worried what kind of image they’re getting from all these people that ignore them). But to be honest, I only had to do this in the main cities in Morocco, like Marrakesh and Fes. Besides that, every single person I met here on my trip was extremely friendly and really went out of his/her way to make my trip as comfortable as possible. In Istanbul, for example, I’d booked an airbnb, because I arrived late at night and the airport was too far from the city. The next morning I got an amazing Turkish breakfast that was better than any breakfast I’d had in a long time! (And when I stayed there again a couple of days later, he left for work in the morning and I could just close the door behind me. Speaking of trust).
Yet, while you usually try to act like a local, here in Israel I’m trying extremely hard to look like a tourist. You probably know about the unrest that’s going on here. So far, I don’t feel in danger, because attacks are not against tourists. Therefore, I’m trying extremely hard to release my inner Dutchness (which is pretty easy when you’re tall and blonde). I heard that there’s 1 rule here: stay far away from everything that’s related to the army, because they are an easy target these days. Easy peasy, so I thought. Not realising that the army is everywhere here! If you take a local bus, there are almost always a few soldiers in it. Today I got a ride offered from Akko to Tsfat (north Israel). But guess what: the guy was in the army. For a split second I considered thanking for the ride, but I didn’t. And I had the most interesting carride in a long time (what happens if you put someone from the Israeli intelligence service in the same car with someone who studied terrorism). Great fun! Although I have to admit that being here in Israel with so much tension is weird. My hostel in Tel Aviv even advertised it’s the only hostel in the city that has a bomb shelter.

I think I’ll need to spend a whole blog on that. Great cliffhanger :p. But, bottom line, if you were not sure whether it is safe, it is! So pack your backpack and go!
This story is getting long and I know not everyoneis on a permanent holiday like I am. So I’ll stop here for now ;).


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