Years ago, I was asked to go to one of the most dangerous places in the world…or what many thought. They thought I was crazy to visit the Middle East and my first stop being Kuwait because it is right next to Iraq. At that time, Iraq was still going through turmoil. I went to Kuwait and countries around it and survived. When I got back, people said, “So how was it?…Being in such dangerous places.” I shared with people that it was very dangerous to be there and I had to be very careful. They inquired if I saw any terrorism, heard gun fire or experienced any explosions. My response was no, but it was very dangerous to cross the road. People stood perplexed because they were not expecting that answer. When they inquired further what I meant by, ‘it was dangerous crossing the roads’, I had to explain that road safety is a huge issue in many of those countries and one would have to be very cautious because it is dangerous. What is dangerous is making assumptions or perceptions from your couch while watching TV or from behind your desk while reading a social media post.
What people had gathered from the news and social media had created this impression of the region and when I got back, I shattered that perception. Travelling to many of the countries in the region, I was not met with bullets, guns and explosions but rather kindhearted, friendly people and amazing cultural experiences. You can sit there and make judgements on people and the world or experience it yourself. I have gone back many times more and not once have I experienced any danger. Now some might think that it might be that I fit in and that is why. No, even my Canadian friends have said the same. Of course you don’t walk around at home with money streaming out of your pockets or travel and blatantly break country’s cultural rules (just like if someone was to visit your home country). If one is respectful, friendly and open minded, you will experience some amazing people and places.
I have sat across people who have made a statement, “I will never travel to a Muslim country”. This was out of fear and fueled by misunderstandings. Now the people in the region are likely not going to be too concerned or upset that this person did not visit but by making a statement like that, you are missing some of the best hospitality, history and cultural experiences. I have been to a Bedouin camp in the remote desert and sat around a campfire and oil lamps, been to the pyramids of Egypt and went inside through the chambers of one the greatest of human engineering, stood in front of the Exchange in Petra at what was carved out of a mountain side…and enjoyed a Bahraini and Jordanian home cooked meal. Caution! what is dangerous about the region is if you sit across from the mother of the house and eat fast because she will keep feeding you! That is dangerous!
All I am sharing is that you need to be open minded. Sure, if you are traveling to another place, there is always a level of caution and decorum that one must exercise for safety but don’t create your impressions of another place or people based on second hand information. If you do this, you might be missing out on rich experiences and friendships. Travel, explore and appreciate what is before you. Once Covid is over, I am looking forward to the richness the world and people can offer.
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