The press has latched on to the unrest in areas of the Middle East to the point that you might think there was nothing else going on in the world. It creates the perception that the entire region is unstable, ready to explode in protest and possible violence. The truth is, there are large portions of the region that are safe and stable and have been for a very long time.
The media's portrayal can be particularly frustrating for a traveler who has always wanted to visit the exotic and luxurious places throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. The press, however, only tells you part of the story and ignores the areas where day-to-day life is not erupting in television-audience-gathering mayhem.
One of the key things to remember when considering travel to the Middle East is that different countries have different rules and forms of government. In fact, some of the most ancient and beautiful countries in the region are ruled by very stable, even beloved, constitutional monarchies. That means that they have a king and a royal family, but they also have a system of elected officials democratically chosen by the public. Such democracies are generally very stable and provide a tremendous amount of freedom to their people.
Morocco is a very good example. The country is located at the Western edge of North Africa, in the same proximity as countries that have been in the news recently such as Tunisia. However, you may not know that Morocco was once, a one time or another, ruled by Portugal, France and Spain. The influences of those diverse cultures still permeate the country today. You can still feel like you are in an exotic world filled with bazaars and hear the calls to prayer five times a day, but you can also eat meals influenced by French, Portuguese and Spanish cuisine.
These days the country is a constitutional monarchy. There current King of Morocco is Mohammed VI. He has brought about sweeping social changes and opened the country up to greater freedoms than ever before. In fact, Morocco is becoming a major power in the area as interest in the land grows. Morocco is an ally of the United States and U.S. Marines train the Moroccan military.
Jordan is another excellent example. The country sits just to the east of Israel and to the south of Syria. It is also becoming one of the emerging tourist destinations for the 21st century. While much of Jordan is still coming into the modern age, it is also a country of rich history reaching back into the earliest stages of man. The ancient city of Petra is located there and it is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Despite being near or adjacent to areas often disputed, Jordan has put its violent and tribal past behind it and become one of the more stable countries in the region. It is also a constitutional monarchy and the current leader is King Abdullah II. He has, since taking the throne, reaffirmed Jordan's peace with Israel and confirmed his alliance with the United States. These days, Jordan has one of the highest standards of living of any of the developing nations in the region and leads the region in democratic reforms.
We can also throw into the mix the Islamic powerhouse of Turkey, which is bordered by Iran and near Iraq. Turkey has been a Republic, with a duly elected president and representatives, for decades. Although the predominant religion is Muslim, it is also a country with a rich Christian heritage for Orthodox Catholics. In fact the Orthodox Church has been headquartered in Turkey's capital city of Istanbul since the 4th century. Officially, Turkey is a secular state and has no official religion. In fact, their constitution calls for freedom of religion.
Most importantly, Turkey is a traveler's delight. It is rich with history as well as being a Mediterranean paradise complete with resorts and beaches. It has a rich culinary history, as well, and is renowned for some of the best food anywhere in the world.
It is tempting to try to paint large sections of the world with a broad brush. However, differences can vary greatly from country to country, even when the countries in question border one another. To assume that because Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have experienced some social upheaval, that the entire region is unstable or unsafe, is a misconception.
As always, a tour operator and a travel agent can go a long way towards helping ease a traveler's concerns, no matter where you plan to vacation. They can offer excellent advice on what regions to visit and have inside knowledge of areas that might be of concern. Take the time to educate yourself and you can have that dream vacation minus the worry.
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