Zizagging Arab geography
If I was a foreign tourist and wanted to go to the Arab world, I would zigzag my way on the geography of the place. The region is full of tradition, it is not as modern as we think. Here is where history has been made, religions arose and where international rivalry interplayed from ancient times till now.
I would start with Cairo, that city of mystique, a city so rich in past traditions, it would be nice to dwell in its aura. I am told many people thousands, nay millions visit Egypt each year and do a magical tour of the country. In 2012, 14 million tourists visited the country and by the end of 2013, the figure is expected to stand at 13 million.
Next it must be Beirut, the once dubbed the Paris of the Arab world for its beauty and elegance. Once tattered by the country’s civil war it is now plush and exciting even dazzling, going beyond its fratricidal political system, with people living a particularly carefree life.
There is something about Beirut that can’t but stand as a must-see place as Beirut has became a link between West and East. Not quite resembling, the French Riviera, it has a place of culture and modern living. Mark Twin, the famous American writer came here in the 19th century and today, it’s a myriad to great many intellectuals. Robert Fisk, the well-known journalist writing for the London-based Independent newspaper, went there in the late 1970s and never left the place. Beirut continues to be relatively safe.
Next, it must be Jerusalem, the cradles, of religions and historiography for it is here where it started, the home of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is a city revered by everyone. Bethlehem must come next as a city that exists in the hearts and minds of everyone, going to the heart of their very soul.
Damascus must be another city to be visited—although not for the time being—but here is, potentially one of the oldest capitals in the Arab world, existing, like Jericho, since time-immemorial.
Amman is a nice relatively modern city is next, though its structure goes back to the Greeks and the Roman and the Byzantine age, and as evidenced by its theaters, amphitheaters, and Nympheum. What’s nice about this city its top-notch modernity that exists with its past traditions.
Off course, the next stop, has to be Baghdad, a sad city that has witnessed war and UN sanctions, and American occupation now for more than two decades, still stands struggling as it tries to get up amidst bombs and killings.
Next, it is the razzmatazz of oil. It is here where money talks. Two cities must be visited: Riyadh and Dubai. Riyadh represents a Saudi Kingdom with all its power in regional politics. Its distinctiveness lies in its museums and libraries, but it will be wrong to outcast its malls. Riyadh, traditional from the Arabic rawda, meaning a small garden, is built horizontally, rather than vertically.
Although many gulf cities have been built on oil, the most exciting has got to be Dubai. It’s got be seen as the “jewel of the gulf” for its extensive development, for it is here that the groove exists.
You have to see it to believe it, for this is the showcase of oil, though it got to be said that Dubai has not made its fortunes on oil, for it has very little of it. However, its architectural landscape and alluring skyscrapers make it something out of a coffee-table book.
Yemen has to be visited as well because of its historical stay. Little changes appear in the architecture in such cities as Sanaa’. A German friend of mine once told me Aden is enigmatically beautiful with its deep-rooted and indigenous architecture.
A man who taught music in a convent in Egypt in the 1970s and early 1980s but who couldn’t get away, he told me his girl students used to laugh when he used to say he was taking his family on holiday to Yemen! Yemen, the girls giggled "we thought you were going to see Switzerland.
The final stop in a schematic tour of the region wound appropriately conclude with a visit to Tunisia, that beady little country which started the ball moving for regime change and political reform in the Arab world.
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