Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Monday, 29 September 2008

The Middle East: Safe For Travelers?

The BBC has reported that a group of Western tourists and their guides in remote southern Egypt have been released after being kidnapped by gunmen ten days ago. They were being held for ransom until Egyptian, German, and Italian special forces attacked the kidnappers, killed several, and freed the hostages unhurt.

This sort of thing always makes people shake their heads and ask, "Why do you like traveling in the Middle East?" Well, I've never had any problems in the Middle East, unless you count the usual huckterism you get when you're a relatively wealthy visitor to a relatively poor country, or the insane driving practices of your average Egyptian cabbie. In fact, the Middle East is one of my favorite places to travel. You get fine hospitality, lots of ancient sites, beautiful architecture, cheap travel, and good food. What more could you ask for?

Of course there are dangers, and there are no-go areas. The border with Sudan and Chad, where these folks were, is one of them. People need to use their heads when they travel and understand that "Adventure" tours are not always the wisest way to go. There's nothing adventurous about going to a war zone just so you can brag to your friends.

I've been to Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, and the only place that anyone robbed me was Pakistan. One success and two attempts. No violence. That's not as bad as the time a gang of young thugs wanted to beat me up in a shopping mall in Connecticut (of all places!) until I pointed out we were in front of about a hundred people and they'd go to jail. It's also not as bad as the three times my car was broken into in Tucson. All in all, I feel safer in the Middle East. But you got to keep you wits about you, like anywhere else.

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