These past travelogue entries from the Middle East have brought me to the conclusion that I am a penny pinching, incorrigible, uptight, money conscious geek and that the people of Egypt, Jordan, and Israel are money grubbing liars and cheats.
This was my experience, but my experience was greatly limited by circumstance.
For the sake of introspection, I will attempt to clean off the slate for both myself and the Middle Easterners, and bring up two key points that lead to many of the bumps in the road from Damascus to Cairo.
Point #1: I traveled through this part of the Middle East quickly.
Point #2: Because I traveled quickly, I only traveled to easy transportation hubs, which meant that I stayed on a well trod tourist path.
The faster you travel, the more problems you are going to have. It is my impression that this is a general law of traveling.
90% of the problems and annoyances that I had while traveling have occur over monetary interactions. Either someone tries to rip me off, I don’t want to pay as much as I am being charged, someone is trying to sell me something that I do not want, someone is pretending to be my friend to sucker money out of me, or some sort of misunderstanding occurs over money. This is a normal part of traveling, but the amount of times that you engage in monetary transactions daily is proportional to your speed of travel.
If you travel fast, you will engage in more daily incidents of exchanging money — and probably have more difficulties — than if you travel slowly.
Changing locations quickly means frequently taking public transportation (if you are not traveling on your own steam — by bike, foot, or personal vehicle). The bulk of the annoying situations that I have had in travel have involved public transportation — crooked taxi drivers and bus conductors. Almost all of the problems that I had in Jordan, Israel, and Egypt involved taxi drivers. If I change locations regularly, then the amount of times that I have altercations over money will increase greatly in a given span of time.
If I travel slow, then the amount of times that I need to buy something per day decreases. If I stay in each place for a week, then I only need to pay for transport once, I only need to find a place to stay once, and I will have the time to search for good and cheap places to find food. If I have a few days to a few weeks in each location that I stop at then I can get a good lay of the land, and learn how to enjoy myself.
I know that the longer I stay in a place the less problems I will have, and, often times, the more I will come to like a certain place. Moving in and setting up in a town takes work: I have to find a way to get there, find an acceptable place to stay, and find locations that will not rip me off on food. The first couple of days in a town is the trial period — I check everything out, discover the places and people to go to and the places and people to avoid, and I finish up the bulk to my big monetary deals (accommodation and transportation).
I traveled from Damascus to Cairo in a relatively condensed period of time. If I was not hemmed into making a pre-booked flight and had all the time that I wanted, I probably would have stayed at each stop for 4 or 5 days and the places that I chose to stop at probably would have been different — I would have went out in the sticks.
As I did travel through Jordan, Egypt, and Israel quickly, I only pieced together well connected transportation hubs along my route. I traveled from Damascus to Amman to Petra to Aqaba to Eilat to Cairo. All of these destinations are major draws for tourists.
The local people who work and live in tourist areas or otherwise deal with tourists cannot be taking as representations of their society as a whole. It is my impression that tourism is a mental disease of perception that makes people from different lands see each other in primal terms: as predator and prey, as proliferators of money and proliferators of goods and services — and not as real people through which a mutually beneficial friendship could potentially occur.
There are few genuine things in a tourist town.
Tourism is perhaps an euphemism for “money” . . . or, more appropriately, “give me money.”
The phrase “we want to develop this region for tourism,” just means, “we want to take people’s money here.”
I repeat: the more I find myself making monetary exchanges in travel, the more likely it is that I will not have good experiences.
I do not hold anything against the taxi drivers who tried to cheat me in Egypt, Israel, and Jordan — this is just a part of the game. If I allow myself to be cheated, then the taxi driver did his job as someone who knows how much money tourists are willing to pay. If I don’t allow myself to be cheated, then I did my job as a traveler. It is a game.
All in a day’s work.
If I avoid traveling fast and I stay clear of tourist areas, then the ratio of meeting more good people to shysters greatly increases.
I traveled through the south western stretch of the Middle East fast, and I only discovered what is like to travel quickly in this region — and not what this region is really like.
I will return to Egypt for at least a three month stay at some point, I will return to Jordan for at least the extent of my visa, and then I will have a cleaner, clearer impression of these stretches of planet earth.
Maybe my impression will change — maybe it will remain the same.
But at least I will know.
Connecting the transportation hubs of almost any region does not make for deep travel.
Connecting the transportation hubs of Jordan, Israel, and Egypt
This is Egypt – Travel Sinai Desert
Egypt Denies Travelers at Border
Israel is Expensive
Tourist Catchphrases in Petra
Tourism at Petra
Transportation in Jordan
Jordan Israel Egypt Travel Summary