Category: Middle East (Asian)

I observe racism even before entering the country. Approaching immigration, a security guard directs people into different lines. So far so good, but the guard does not direct people with the intention that all lines have roughly equal length but separates people like me into the “short line” and people that look like labourers from South Asia into the “long line”. Whereas only a few people are in my line, there are more than 50 in the other line. Who cares if the labourers have to wait? […]

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From Jeddah to Medina I hop on the high-speed train. The Haramain HSR links Mecca and Medina and started to operate in October 2018. A perfect way to quickly transport the millions of pilgrims between their two main destinations. Jeddah airport has a complete second terminal to handle the pious masses for the Hajj. Modernizing a country is often not hassle-free. The Spanish-built Talgo is so far only running at 200 km/h and not at the promised 320 km/h and in September 2019 Jeddah City station was destroyed by a fire, […]

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Passing through the metal detector, I enter the old village of Al Ula. There is not much old about this part of the village, the mosque is, but it has been carefully renovated. The other buildings along the newly-tarmacked street, are only styled as being old. Resembling a market, they contain small shops with clothes, souvenirs, snacks. A man demonstrates the old technique of stamping mud with his feet to produce the raw material to make and repair houses. I approach the small stage, a man in a black thobe, his head covered with a red and white keffiyeh […]

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In some ways the May 2012 visit to Eastern Turkey is complementary to the trip to Armenia two years earlier. We had always seen majestic Mount Ararat in the distance and this evoked the desire to get closer to the mountain. The trip also had a political dimension. The border between Armenia and Turkey is closed due to the twin dispute about the Armenian genocide during World War I (which Turkey wrongfully denies) and the more recent conflict concerning Nagorno-Karabakh (in which Turkey sides with Azerbaijan). From Armenia, you can often see Ararat but you can never reach it. […]

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Mad Dash Home: Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary In the autumn of 2003, I took a three-month trip travelling back to Germany from Hong Kong overland via mainland China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia. In mid-December, I had only reached Georgia and had to make a decision how to get back in […]

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I arrive at the border together with a Turkmen doctor. Iran pays better wages. She is wearing a long skirt and a traditional Turkmen headscarf that covers most of her hair, she is wearing that at home in Turkmenistan and does not have to adapt to fulfil the clothing rules of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the country on this trip I am most looking forward to. I am curious how the strict, politically controversial Iran is looking from the inside. Clothes are one thing, female hair has to be covered, these rules also apply to visitors. We cross the border without pain and soon we sit in a taxi to Mashad. Before starting the driver pulls out a small screen, attaches it to the windshield and soon we are driving through the Islamic Republic with its clothing rules and scantily clad Shakira is dancing in front of me. Every time a police car comes into view, the driver takes the little screen down. I can’t believe it. […]

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