There are plenty of reasons to visit this fascinating part of the world — but where “we” are concerned, these regions have issues.
As a traveler, a history nut, and a Christian wanting to better understand Islam, I definitely want to see the Middle East and North Africa — but this week, I was reminded why I’m in no hurry to do so.
It starts in Lebanon, the de facto vacation capital of the Arab world. At first glance, Lebanon appears custom-made for travelers — natural beauty, archeological treasures, dynamic nightlife, all packed into a country smaller than the state of Connecticut.
Depending on the season, you can ski in Laklouk in the morning, sun yourself on a Beirut beach in the afternoon and party in Sidon until the break of dawn — all on the same day.
You can find unforgettable destinations like this throughout the Arab-speaking world. Are you kidding? Who wouldn’t want to go?
That’s when your Web wanderings take you to something straight out of 1950s Alabama.
Looking further, you come to the observations of blogger Jane Rubio:
“…if you’re sitting on the bus, people will solicit you to come to their house and clean…if you’re walking with your white friend, and she’s carrying her bag or her baby or her groceries, you will get yelled at for not doing your job…you will be called ugly and ‘slave’ to your face.”
Read Rubio’s full entry here.
Nor is this limited to Lebanon, or the Middle East, as you’ll see here.
Moses Ebe Ochonu is an African scholar teaching history at Vanderbilt University, who writes on his site, the Nigerian Village Square. According to him, similar attitudes exist across the Arab-speaking world:
“Till this day, the generic word or for a black person is the preface “abd,” which translates as ‘slave.’ “
Don’t forget that Palestinian editorial cartoon back in George W. Bush’s day, the one depicting Condoleezza Rice as being pregnant…with a monkey.
Professor Ochonu again:
“…throughout much of the Arab world, the only ticket to social visibility for blacks is soccer. Becoming a soccer star gives a black person access to coveted corridors of society and enables them to ‘marry up,’ racially speaking.”
Replace “soccer” with “the NFL” or “the NBA” and this unfamiliar part of the world begins to sound very familiar. According to the professor, ethnicity also plays a role in the Darfur tragedy:
“…until the Janjaweed and their racist and murderous Sudanese government backers gave a bad name to the art of hating, marginalizing, and murdering blacks, Arabs never quite saw the raiding of black villages for slaves and cattle, especially in Southern and Western Sudan, as a crime.”
Read Professor’s Ochonu’s full text here.
Is this 2010 or 1510? When I hear things like this, it makes me question my calendar. It also makes me want to re-draw my travel map.
What is going on here?
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