The Black Live Matter Debate From a Traveler’s Point of View

For the past weeks I have been engaged in several discussions about racism and black lives in the USA. I did discuss primarily with republicans. Here are some of the arguments I encountered and my answers to them.

Image of Rua de Banana Street. The first street built by European owned enslaved people from Africa. It made it possible for Europeans to "train" their slaves before sending them to the Americas.
This is the Rua de Banana Street. It was this street in Cape Verde that kick-started the worst chapter in human history: The colonialism. This was the first street ever built and settled by European colonizers (with help of slaves) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Racism is not the only problem

“Racism is not the number one problem we have in the world anymore. What about human trafficking? What about Palestine? What about Yemen? What about black on black violence? What about abortions? Did you know the number one threat to black peoples lives are abortions?”

Yes, there are many problems in this world besides racism. However, I would like you to research a term called “whataboutism”. Basically, when you throw a “what about” argument, the underlying motive is to run away from this particular problem by pointing out something else wrong, that you think I would not support. So yes, there are many “what abouts”, but if we for a second only focus on racism in the American system and society, you might learn something very valuable that you can use to fight other problems that are nearer to your heart.

“Fine, so let’s focus on that. Did you know the biggest threat to black lives are other black criminals way more than police?”

Before I answer you, I want you to reflect about whether this question really has anything to do with the subject of racism in the USA? Because by asking this, you are diverting the problem we are addressing from “racism being a threat to black lives” to “black lives are a threat to black lives”. So this is also under the category “whataboutism”.

However, now you brought it up: The short answer is, that black on black criminality is just as common as white on white criminality proportionally. When you get angry about the high crime rate in the black community, you should relate that to their social circumstances rather than their skin color. Their social circumstances are dictated by the systemic racism in the USA. More on this later. If you take one thing out of this subject is, do not argue with “what about”.

I believe a decent human being can empathize with more than just one cause. Sure, you might have spent years fighting human trafficking or apartheid in Palestine or famine in Yemen, but I hope you wont be so much into only one injustice, that you cannot see another.

When is it time for other causes to get attention?

“I understand whataboutism, but I still wonder when is it time to talk about Yemen or Palestine? When can we create just as much awareness as the BLM-movement has had? Shouldn’t we tackle the more urgent problems first?”

There are some subjects that get more traction than others. They become more mainstream than others. And it is not always the most urgent ones. We have all been travelling and seen extreme poverty in other parts of the world than in the USA. But let me tell you this:

Now, we are lucky to have started a huge movement, which rarely happens for any of the “righteous” issues we like to fight for. So instead of refusing to be part of it, because Yemen or Palestine is more urgent, we should partake. Why?

The BLM is mostly focused on racism in the USA. The USA is also the most powerful nation on earth, and it’s policies (even the internal ones) have direct influence on the rest of the world, even on a personal level. The USA is involved in all larger problems in the world including Palestine and Yemen.

I believe, when the bottom line is lifted in the USA, when racism is just a little bit less, it will also have a positive effect on other more urgent topics.

The statistics are not so bad

“Here is a statistic saying 370 white people were shot by the police last year versus 235 black people”

Without even checking your source, I can already see that the killing of black people is way higher than the population percentage suggest it should be (13%). In fact, it should be only around 66 black people killed, if it had to correspond to the population percentage of black people.

“Oh, well if you compare to the crime rate in the black community, it should make sense then.”

So even here, you are not right. It is hard to make an estimate of how much crime every race makes, because not all crimes are reported or investigated, and most white crimes are financial fraud by mostly white Americans that never get caught. The very thing we are opposing; is that police are harsher on black people than white people. And the police are the ones making those statistics.

But let us play your game:

According to the OJJDP black people count for 26,5% of the arrests in the USA, while white people count for 69,7%. Let us for a second ignore the fact that cops are prone to arrest black people more than white people, and apply those numbers to your above killing statistics:

(370/69.7*100)*0.265 = 140,7 people

So even if you compare the crime rate in the black community, only 140 people should statistically get killed by police, not 235 people. That is 95 human lives statistically unjustifiably killed by the police every year.

So yes, there are a lot of statistics supporting the claim of police brutality against black lives. In all this, we have not taken into considerations the following:

  1. Police under-counts the number of police killings in official reports (sources: The New York Times).
  2. White crimes are often of another type, namely financial, which is rarely investigated, rarely exposed, and rarely put to justice
  3. One thing is police brutality, another is sentences black people get for a crime are much higher than for white people.
  4. The numbers do not reflect whether the victims of police killing were armed or not, or under what circumstances they got shot. There are many reports of unnecessary killings, when it comes to black lives.
    • Unarmed black people are more than 4 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white people (sources: The Washington Post).

You should fight from within the system

“We have built an amazing country, although not perfect. This country will allow you to fight injustice from within the system. Going the legal way. That is the only way I will support a movement to deal with racism. I am against any kind of rioting.”
could be talking about the USA or another majority white country.

While I sympathize a lot with this argument, I do not believe it is always true. And definitely not the only way. While some might work for the cause in silence, let others speak up.

If you are not white:
Basically, you are trying to infiltrate a system that in the same time is trying to hold you back as it favors white people. If you are very skilled and capable, you might succeed of course. However, the impact you can do for the cause personally will not be significant, in best case incremental, in most cases very local.

Obama became the president of the United States, and even he could not change the system. There are two things, that will hold you back:

  1. You will have to compromise your integrity and belief system to reach that high, when you are not white. This is because you will have to appeal to the average white person who is unaware of their racial biases.
  2. You will start to care more about being a role model for the non-white kids than doing an actual change.

So yes, accumulated talent working for the cause will work in the end, but it is a very very slow approach that will take ages to achieve. On the other hand, the BLM movement can accelerate all of this. 40 years worth of work could be achieved in a few months. Do not put your own career before your values, even if it feels hampering to your career to speak up.

If you are white:
You can certainly use your position and white privilege to fight racism, do work from within. No one is keeping an eye on you as much as they are on non-white people. However, do not stay silent. We have a momentum now to enforce systemic changes, and that we should take advantage of.

“But if I speak up now, it might hurt my chances to get to a better position, where I can make an even larger impact”

Again, there is no certainty you will. If this is about your own career, then do not use your career as an excuse for your silence. However, if you work to achieve a better world, you should know that it is more valuable to speak up now, loud and clear. We need as many white voices to normalize anti-racism.

Indeed, all this is of course my own opinion. I really think we need people to speak up and not be afraid.

I don’t agree with removing my Africa pictures

“I do not agree that my pictures of smiling children I took in Africa is portraying racism. These were pictures from real life, and I did not just take random pictures of poverty, I actually had a special connection with those kids I met and asked for permission to take their pictures. It is a valuable memory of my visit and a personal experience, and I know very well I am no savior to them, even if I volunteered.”

First of all, you are not a bad person for taking those pictures. If you absolutely want them on your Instagram or Facebook profile, then most people would not even notice. And those who do, would not judge you based on only that.

The problem with the pictures is, that they portray a continent in desperate need of your help to save them. In desperate need of tourists and volunteers and your old clothes. If you have been to Africa, you would know there is much more progress in the continent, and we should rather promote this narrative to flourish it even more.

So if those pictures mean so much to you, you can keep them in your private photo album. It is not enough, that you do know you are a savior. We do not need others to think that you are.

To someone who has never heard about this debate:

There are many morally questionable aspects of taking pictures of and with poor smiling African kids. You can read about it on those links:

Expat Panda: Stop Using Black And Brown Children as Photo Props

Sacred Footsteps: Orientalist Travel Photography: ‘Creating’ the Native

No more white guilt!

“Why do I have to feel bad for something I did not even do? No one agrees with slavery anymore, we would never want that back. But I do not want to live my life in guilt for something that happened hundreds of years ago.”

I agree, you should not live in guilt for what happened back then. If you feel guilty for that, I am truly sorry, I really do not see why you should feel guilty. I hope it goes away.

I understand it, because I feel the same thing about terrorism and wars fought in the Middle East, being from there myself. It is not my fault, but I found myself in constant blame by spectators.

So I also understand, that this feeling of guilt is magnified when you hear about how slavery has had a direct impact on black people’s lives today. History is not told and documented for anyone to feel guilty, it is told and documented for two reasons:

  1. Learning from it and not repeating mistakes.
  2. To understand why the world is how it is today. We are a result of what has happened in the past.

It is not your fault, that things are like this. You were born into a world of injustice. Try to turn this guilty feeling into a driving force to fight racism. You can even use this feeling to easier sense and distinguish racism. I have certainly used this, whenever I encounter an extremist.

As a rule of thumb, anytime you feel guilted as a white person, you can turn it into an understanding of white privilege.

I really really hope that you will not use your guilty feeling as an excuse to stop fighting racism and speaking up against inequality.

Equal opportunities, not equal outcome

“We live in a country with equal opportunities, and I feel black people are complaining because the outcome did not turn out to be as equal, which is none of our fault.”

I do believe that if there truly was equal opportunities for everyone, the outcome would also be equal within statistical uncertainty. However, it is a theory that is hard to prove. The question is rather: Why do you think the outcome would not be equal? Is there something inherently different about black people’s capabilities?

What you perceive as the right to equal opportunities is actually the right to claim equal opportunities. There is no guarantee you will get it. And especially not in the private sector. Especially in the USA, where education and healthcare has to be paid out of own pocket, it is hard to claim that there are equal opportunities. I can advise you to research systemic racism, red lining and even statutory racism in your own country.

There is a strong white bias all over the world. Everyone (non-whites included) prefer to do business with white people solely because of the prestige and reputation. White people favor each other at job interviews and as business partners.

Even in the schools, there is a huge bias. I have felt this on my own skin in elementary school, high-school and universities. The stories are so emotional, I cannot write about them.

I am sure any non-white person, will tell you that they had to work extra hard to achieve half as much as a white person. And when I say “all,” I actually do mean it. Even the ones supporting Trump, I believe would agree although they would add “but stop whining.”

Whining or not, there is no equal opportunity, there is no equal treatment.

“But you can see that Asian immigrants for example are doing very well in society compared to black people, so I believe if they wanted they could have achieved better, but they would rather complain.”

You cannot draw parallel between Asian immigrants and black people. Black people are not recent immigrants. They were brought to the Americas as enslaved people by the white immigrants from Europe who today rule the USA. All those years have developed an inherent bias that hurts black people more than Asians.

Asians came mostly to the USA because they were needed as a work force in recent years. They came to the country with skills and promised job opportunities. Black people have been refused to enter “white schools” until 1964, and they have since been kept in an economical gap by Redlining that prevented them from succeeding. When one black person despite all odds succeeds, he is discriminated against on the job market.

In fact, Asian people do not have it easy either. They are in constant struggle to overcome the stereotypes that white people hold against them.

As with everything, you need to study the history to understand why the world is as it is today. If you just look at a snapshot, you will fool yourself.

The looting must stop

“How does it even help their cause, when they start looting and destroying local businesses. Those businesses are struggling too and not even white. They are just repelling people who would have supported them.”

I do not agree with the looting either. But we must not use it as an excuse to be against the movement. Historically, all revolutions and protests have been exploited by some individuals or even large groups of people for their own benefit. There is no 100% pure and violent free revolution.

So instead of saying_

“It is sad that a black man got killed, but the looting must stop.”

Try to say:

“It is horrible that property is being looted, but killing black people must stop.”

There is also another argument, that has been roaming around since Trevor Noah made a video talking about it, arguing that the social contract that make up society is broken in the USA, making the looting irrelevant. I would really encourage you to watch it.

Unfortunately, peaceful protests have never led to any major change in this world. Modern history books will always pull out Gandhi and Martin Luther King as the two examples for peaceful protests, but the truth is much more complex and much different. As always, history is written by the victorious. In this case, the victorious are using those examples as to uphold the status quo.

The fact is that the media will show more attention when there is some kind of vandalism, which is find very sad.

Black people are naturally more violent

“Look at what is happening in Africa, in countries like the Congo and compare to what is happening in other former colonies who live in peace, in particularly Asia.”

It is not true that Africa is more violent than other former colonies. You can easily look to India and Burma, where you find plenty of violence. You can also look to the Middle East and find the same. Even in countries like Indonesia, there have been genocides, although it is peaceful today.

You have to understand colonial history very well to understand why some regions today are suffering with violence. When the Europeans left Africa, the Middle East and India, they divided the territories without any deeper understanding of the people who actually lived there. Then then went on to support one tribe over the other in different ways to create hate and envy between locals. It was a divide and conquer game that is still played to this day.

There is absolutely no historical and no contemporary evidence that says black people are more violent. In fact, if you look at it historically, Europe have been savages while the Middle East, Asia and Africa flourished with richness, art, science and great architecture.

It is hard to trust what Muslims say

Their own books are filled with hate and violence, so I will not believe them when they say their religion is about peace. Just look at what is happening in the Middle East”

It is so sad that you deny a person the right to tell his own truth. The truth is, an average Muslim person did not grow up with books that promote hate and violence. In fact, these books you are talking about are probably a niche. You can find Christian books that promote hate and violence as well, that does not mean that all Christians are hateful.

Please, allow someone to explain his own beliefs himself, and do not impose your prejudice on them, even if you have read all the “bad” books yourself. If he tells you, he does not believe in something written in those books, he most certainly does not believe it.

The violence happening in The Middle East has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with the colonial past. What is happening in the Middle East is also happening in Christian parts of Africa and Buddhist parts of Asia.

In addition, you cannot justify racism against Muslims in particular. Why are we even discussing this topic? Did you give up on justifying racism as a whole so you are focusing on justifying your Islamophobia?

Do not judge too quickly

The cop who killed George Floyd might not have been racist. He might have been just a very bad man. Do not assume anything, and leave the judging to God”

Millions of people worldwide have seen the video and have not been in doubt that the killing is racial related. Normally, I hate to use pathos in my argumentation, but when you refuse to see racism in a situation that is so obviously racist to millions of people, it says something about your lack of empathy and understanding of the majority of black peoples lives.

So let me explain this without any pathos: If you asked Derek Chauvin (the cop who killed George Floyd) if he is racist, he will say no. Almost no one would claim to be racist, and yet we have racism everywhere. It is the subconscious racism that is the problem. The subconscious racism that makes it more natural for Chauvin to be without mercy when he handles a black man versus a white man.

The question is, what do you want to achieve by arguing that Chauvin is not racist?

Is it that there is no racism in the police or justice system in the USA? All statistics are against you.

Is it that police brutality is not linked to race? Again, all statistics are against you, but even if you are right, it is still a problem. Police brutality is a problem no matter what.

I do not believe the protests will matter

“I do not think any of this will be fruitful. There will always be racism even a 100 year from now.”

It has already mattered. If it was not for the protests, Derek Chauvin would still be harassing people as a police officer. There has already been some reforms to some police departments and more is on the way. More people than ever now have a basic understanding of white privilege, white supremacy and systemic racism.

People have learned history, they were never taught in school. How many of the following topics did you learn about just since George Floyd’s death:

  • Smaller European nations part in colonization
  • Juneteenth
  • Tulsa Massacre
  • Redlining
  • Malcolm X
  • Whataboutism
  • Seneca Village and Central Park
  • Compensation to slave owners
  • The Red Summer of 1919
  • The crimes and racism of Winston Churchill

Imagine how many years until we get those topics in the curriculum. So maybe there will still be racism 100 years from now, but just in a few weeks the end of racism has come nearer than ever.

Small towns with incredible history

Here is a list of 7 small towns in Europe with incredible history. Towns that definitely is worth travelling for. Small towns that have been former capitals at some point. As always, I only write about places that I have visited myself, so these seven towns get my warmest recommendation.

1. Cetinje, Montenegro

Cetinje is a small town of around 14,000 people, but it is the very heart of Montenegrin culture and identity. All Montenegrins will tell you “a real Montenegrin” comes from Cetinje. Walking down it’s streets and sitting at it’s cafes, discussing culture, history and the country’s future, will give you the very essence of what Montenegro is.

It is the former capital, and here you find royal graves, monasteries, a palace, Ottoman ruins and so much more. The history of the Montenegrin kings is long and eventful. Because Montenegrin are a very proud people, you will start to learn how 700 year old events still have an influence on the culture and mentality to this day.

This is my favorite town in Europe.

2. Jelling, Denmark

In the outskirts of the city of Vejle, you find the small town of Jelling with only 3500 inhabitants. This is no ordinary small Danish town though. This is the former viking capital, and the home of king Harald Bluetooth, the old Danish viking king, who was the first to embrace Christianity.

In this town you will see the Jelling Stones, where he declares the new state religion. There is also a very interesting free museum, where you can learn about his motives for converting to Christianity. How he wanted to modernize Denmark, and how his name became synonymous with a new widespread technology, we all use every day.

3. Bayeux, France

With only 13,000 people, the town of Bayeux is not so big, however it sees a lot of visitors. It once was the capital of one of the Celtic tribes living in the area during the Roman Empire, however, it’s importance today comes from the Bayeux Tapestry that depicts the Norman invasion of England. The province of Normandy, where Bayeux is located, has a very tumultuous history with viking invasions, Frankish and Celtic wars, and wars with England. Having the story told by an audio guide while you slowly walk around the tapestry, taking in the history picture for picture, is one of the most educational and entertaining experiences a museum can give. You definitely will feel like part of the story.

Besides the tapestry, the town is beautiful with a cathedral in the city center. The city of Caen is not far from there either and is definitely also a place worth visiting.

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4. Gniezno, Poland

Going a little bigger with 68,000 inhabitants, Gniezno is one of those rarely visited towns in Poland despite it being the very foundation of the country.

Legend has it, that a long long time ago in a distant land, 3 brothers went travelling in unknown land. They were 3 princes: Lech, Czech and Rus, all descendant from Janus, the grand grandson of Noah. After a while the three brothers decided to split up. Rus went East, Czech travelled West, and the eldest of them, Lech, travelled North.

Rus founded Russia. Czech founded Czechia, and Lech founded Poland. It is said, that he was hunting for food in an area guarded by a big white eagle. Lech found this bird magnificent, he therefore attempted to steal one of it’s eggs to train it himself. The prince tried to scare the mother eagle away, but nothing worked and it all turned into a bloody fight between the two. After seeing the eagle protecting her eggs despite her white feathers being stained with blood, Lech felt shame and pulled back.

He made the white eagle the symbol of Poland, for it’s bravery and fight for freedom. And just near this nest, he founded the city of Gniezno and made it his capital.

5. Krujë, Albania

Kruje is one of the most beautiful towns in Europe with cobbled streets with different historical symbols and in the Albanian colors. It was the former capital of the Kingdom of Albania. The main attractions is the Skanderbeg museum, which is a beautiful castle that depict the history of Albania when it was fighting the Ottomans. Besides the castle and the beautiful streets, the town also has a an interesting Bazar, a mosque and plenty of medieval architecture.

The are is quite mountainous and offer some beautiful landscapes getting in and out of the town. The town houses 59,000 inhabitants.

6. Toledo, Spain

Toledo is the largest of these towns with 84,000 people. However, it is also the one with most history. It has been the capital of many eras. It was a Muslim capital during the Toledo Taifa kingdom, then a center piece in the conquest of Spain by the kingdom of Leon and Castille. Today, remains of both eras can be seen and even a Jewish quarter has survived after the genocide against Jews and Muslims during the Inquisition. The town also houses the very most impressive catholic cathedral in my opinion.

It is a true throwback in time to visit this town, and best thing is: It is just a small day trip from Madrid.

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7. Kalmar, Sweden

While this one has not really been a true capital, the city of Kalmar was the place where it was decided that Denmark, Norway and Sweden (with Finland, Iceland and Greenland under the same rule), should unite into one major political power. It was the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe I, who made this possible. For a short period in history, she was the most powerful woman in Europe ruling an empire that was half the size of the rest of Europe.

The unification happened in the Castle of Kalmar, which is a beautiful sight in the city center. The city has other attractions, a beautiful town, churches, lakes and a city hall. With a population of 36,000 people, this might be one of the most interesting towns in Sweden.

 

My journey to the Pyramids of Sudan (part II)

This is part 2 of the story of my journey to the Pyramids of Sudan. In Part 1, I visited the Jebel Barkal pyamids and the Nuri Pyramids. For part one click here.

I was back in the capital Khartoum and I had planned with Musab, my driver and now friend, to go to the Bejrawiya pyramids the day after. The Bejrawiya is the arabic name of the pyramid site, that Google called Meroe. That day I was visiting the national museum in Khartoum and checking out some markets. I also had to call the airport to check up on the missing bag.

Going to the museum allowed me to see some of the treasures and mummies found inside the tombs I had just visited in Barkal and Nuri

Upon arrival to Khartoum I did not receive my luggage so I of course reported it and convinced the lady working there to give me her personal Whatsapp in order to contact her, as I did not have a Sudanese phone.

The luggage had arrived and was stored in the airport, but the problem was, that it was not possible to pick it up until the next day at 8 AM. Because it was also my last day in Sudan, it was my last chance to pick it up.

Airport first and then we are off to the Pyramids

It ruined my plans a little, because I was intending to go to Bejrawiya early morning to be able to make it back in time for the Mawlid celebrations that was going to happen in Omdurman later that day.

At 7:50 I was with Musab at the airport asking for my luggage back. As expected everything took lots of time to sort out, but 45 minutes later we were heading towards Bejrawiya.

The first bribe

On the way there are many checkpoints awaiting you. As soon as they see me they of course ask for identification. It should not be a problem, but they keep complicating it by saying we need some permit or that the car needs to be searched. Musab could feel the bribe vibe and gave a handshake with some money between his fingers. We were off again.

The distance to the Pyramids were 230 km, but we havent even completed 50 km before we got pulled over again.

Another bribe or a speed ticket?

This time a police officer pulled us over for a speed ticket. He wanted 200 sudanese pounds for exceeding the speed limit. That is the equivalent to 1 dollar at that time. Musab got off and talked to him for few minutes and when he came back, he told me that he negotiated the price down to 100 pounds. I could not help myself laughing, but it was great for him.

Third bribe, Musab got cocky

So third time we were stopped on our way there, and this time the officer wanted to know if we had a tourism permit to go see the pyramids. If you have read part one of the story, this was a huge issue when we went to Jabal Barkal.

This time Musab was getting confident and he said with conviction:

“No we don’t need a permit, our honored leader has announced it is open for everybody now”

To put this in context, this happened just few weeks before the uprising of the Sudanese people, that resulted a successful (and still ongoing) revolution, where they got rid of their dictator Omar El-Bashir, who had been ruling the country for 30 years. It was El-Bashir Musab was refering to here.

I honestly was surprised by his courage, and the officer was obviously confused as well. After a little pause, the officer said: “Yes yes, I know he did, but if there is a permit we still like to see it.”

Eventually he let us continue.

From 40 dollars to a fraction of a dollar

So we finally made it to the Bejrawiya, or Meroe, as it was signed in English. We parked by the entrance as the only car and only guests there. There were few kids trying to sell us souvenirs already and a small entrance office.

I was wearing a T-shirt saying “TOKYO” and my fancy sunglasses. I walk in and greet the lady at the counter. She looks at me for 3 seconds and says in English:

“40 dollars!” 

I take my sunglasses off to expose my dark Arabic eyes and smile to her. I answer her in perfect Arabic: “What would you take from a local?” 

I don’t know if she is disappointed in my ethnicity, but she says:

“Fine, of course as long as you are Arabic, we will treat you like one of our own. 300 (Sudanese) pounds please”

I say: “Really? Do you take 300 from Sudanese?”

Her: “Okay, just 50” 

And that is how it is done!

The sight

The sight of these pyramids though are like nothing I have ever seen. It is not just 3-5 pyramids on a row like the Pyramids of Giza or the Pyramids of Jabal Barkal. No.. here is tens of pyramids all very close together. How many Pyramids where there at the Meroe site? Somewhere around 60-70 pyramids, in addition tens of ruins that may have been pyramids at some point.

Where else can you touch two ancient pyramids at the same time? The answer is: In the Sudan only! 

The craziest car ride ends up with an accident

The way back was very hectic. We were trying to get back in time for the Mawlid celebration in Omdurman in Khartum, but it looked like we were gonna be late. Musab was driving fast on this two-sided bumpy road. When he slowed down, others would overtake him, and one van did smash into Musab’s side mirror.

Of course this is the Sudan, so you do not stop op and exchange ensurance information, the van driver slowed down to let Musab overtake him again and while he did that he put his hands out the window and apologized.

But the craziness did not stop there. A huge truck was fallen sideways on the road and that lead to a massive line of cars. So do we wait in line, or do we drive on the opposite side of the road?

You guessed right, we drove on the opposite side of what is supposed to be “the highway”. Now.. it is a one lane each way road. So of course cars came at us, and Musab was forced down the sandy sideway. There were few Jeeps following Musab’s example but in general this was not good for the car.

The good news is though, that we made it to experience the end of the Mawlid celemony which was so amazing! But that is for another post!

My journey to the Pyramids of Sudan (part I)

Sudan is the country in the world with most pyramids and visiting those are one of the most fascinating experiences the country offers. It was one of the reasons why I a late November night landed in Khartoum Airport.

After a Nile boat ride, where I sailed where the Blue and the White Nile met, I jumped into a Tirhal Taxi (the Sudanese version of Uber). He took me to Jabal Aulia. We became good friends on this short trip and I asked him if he could take me to the Pyramids of Meroe the next day. We agreed on a price, which was equal to 150 dollars. On Google Maps I could see that the pyramids were 230 km away.

Where are we going? 

The next morning we were on the road. He told me he needed to make few stops first just to make sure the car was fit for the journey. He stopped at some pit stops to buy oil for the engine, taking away a little air from the tires and changing the oil. He also made one more stop, that I only later discovered what was about.

It took an hour or so before we again were on the road. However, not the right road according to Google Maps. I thought… Google is an old clever friend, I can trust him. So I discussed it a bit with the driver, who was sure his way was the right one. We asked around a bit and he made some phone calls to friends who had done this trip before and everyone told him that he was right. I wasn’t convinced, but I thought.. fair, let us do it your way – at least it will be an adventure.

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Musab (the driver) fixing his car

The drugs in the car

After 70-80 km we did pass a rare sign on the road saying this was the way to Meroe in Arabic. This calmed me down, but the car did not. We kept stopping to add oil to the engine that consumed concerning amount of oil. Musab (his name) also used these breaks to smoke his cigarettes which I asked him kindly not to do in the car, as the smell annoys me. After having driven 250 km we still had no signs of Meroe. We kept driving trying not to take many breaks to make it there before the sunset. I was also wondering why he not once had to fuel his car.

We had now passed 300 km and still no sign. I noticed Musab started to take something green from a small bag and put it beneath his upper lip, just to spit it out later. It turns out this is some kind of drug (I assume it was Qat). That was the last thing he went to buy, before we headed out. Specially when not smoking he needed it to calm down.

He was a very chill guy already, but I told him he could smoke. The distance was much longer than any of us anticipated and I would rather he was comfortable.

Taken to the police station 

After 450 km there was a check point. The officer looked at me and asked me if I am Syrian (Sudan has many Syrian refugees and I look Arabic). I said no, I said I was Arabic but from another country. He asked for my ID and after a long wait, he told us we need permission to continue. Tourists are not allowed in this area without a permission. Musab and I tried to talk sense to him, saying I am not a real tourist. I was his friend visiting him personally and staying at his family’s place.

While the officer was making some calls, Musab told me all of his family’s names so I could answer if they asked more into our relationship. In the end, they told us to go to the police station and get a permit. Another officer offered to go with us there both to show us the way to the police station.

So we drove to a little village and I could see the signs saying Police district of Meroe. The building was very small and with a tiny office, a TV and a back garden with a small mosque. There was only one guy sitting there who took my ID again, asked few questions and then told me to wait. After waiting for a while, I asked what was going on. Apparently, they were only waiting for the chief officer to arrive so he could give the final permission.

The wait was long, and I honestly started to get scared. They had my ID, I could not go anywhere, we had lied to them and Musab still had his drugs in the car. It was already late afternoon and they invited me to pray with them in the mosque in their backyard. So we prayed and I was trying to make as little notice of myself as possible.

The white man arrived

Finally a big car arrived. There was no doubt this was the chief officer arriving here. Out came all the other policemen and they opened the car door for him. And out came, surprisingly, a white man (not european white but middle eastern-like white). For some reason, I was not in doubt that he was actual Sudanese though. He gave us all a strong handshake, looked for 2 seconds at the paper work and told me, that I was a dear guest and this is as much my own country. And we were free to go.

However, the officer that showed us the way here offered to come with us and show us the way to the Pyramids. They were near. We couldn’t say no.

The Pyramids of Jabal Barkal

The feeling of relieve was exceptional when I first laid my eyes on the Pyramids.  I was seriously feeling an accomplishment. Not only had we driven across the Sahara, we had overcome lots of issues, we forgot even to eat and the best part: We had the whole site for ourselves.

Musab had to drive on the sand to get all the way to the pyramids. We parked and we could run to them. Climb them (after kindly asking the officer). Musab even carved his fiance’s name on the pyramid, which I got really mad at him about.

There was a holy mountain there, Jabal Barkal. This mountain was sacred to the Farao’s and inside was a temple cave. And from the outside, from a certain angle, a cliff was naturally shaped like a cobra.

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The car sank into the sand

Is is never a good idea to park your old front wheel driven car in the Sahara. We had to dig some sand away from the sunk car and push. I managed to lose my glasses in this process so out was my vision as well. But eventually we pushed the car free and off we went to the next site.

The Pyramids of Nuri

The officer (Ahmad was his name), told us about another site with pyramids only 20 km from this place. He took us there too.. and this place was at least as impressive. It was during the sunset, so the photos I got from this place were incredible. But the first thing I noticed was the skeletons of dead goats around the area. The next thing was the large amount of pyramids there. And the third thing, unfortunately, was how many of those pyramids were destroyed do  to western treasure hunters.

Again we had the place for ourselves. Later, I visited the national museum where I learned, that this place was were they found Taharqa, the most famous of the Sudanese Pharos.

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Did we finally run out of Gasoline?

Before going back, the car’s alarm sensors asked for a change of oil. Musab found a place near a gas station and started to work. I had the chance to sit with Ahmad and talk about everything from life to politics to the differences between arabs and africans, colonization, hopes and dreams. I have to say, as much as I was scared at the police station, as much he and everyone else in Sudan were kind. Musab had troubles with his car, so I went to help him fixing it. And at the end the gas station closed down but Ahmad made them open it up again for us to fuel as the last costumers. I noticed how thirsty the car was, and I assume he had the gas tank enlarged. I have never seen a car running as long without needing fuel.

Peeing in a hole and eating by a dead rat

We drove Ahmad back to work and head home. We stopped few times. One to use the toilets which were basically just a hole in the desert. Musab prefered to walk a distance and do it in nature. There was a small house there with open doors and few men sitting outside watching TV. They offered us to sleep with them and head out in the morning. We declined politely.

The second stop was to eat.. there were a stop for truck drivers were they could have something to eat. It was also outside and dirty. We sat on plastic chairs and table, but had to move them after I discovered a dead rat just besides me.

We had some of their food. We hadn’t eaten all day so I did not care what it was. We talked about how amazing Sudan was and where else we should see next time I visit. I understood that there is two places named Meroe. One is the one we went to, and the other one is the one on google which Sudanese call Bejrawiya. We made plans to go there together 2 days later.

The car broke down a couple of times on the road. My family back home was worried as well as we arrived back at 2 am.

What happened at the Bajrawiya? That is gonna be for the part 2 of this tale.

The Erased Heritage of Palestine: A traveller’s itinerary

By Homeintheair (Instagram: @Homeintheair)

During my 10 hours visit to Jerusalem I got a mild form of the famous Jerusalem Syndrome. I was so amazed by all the holy and historical sites. It is truly the most culturally dense city in the world. But Palestine is much more than just Jerusalem. The country is filled with historical sites.

However, during the Nakba the Israeli’s initiated a military program to erase as much non-jewish heritage from the country as possible. This meant the demolishing of some of the most holy sites in Islam and Christianity. Of course the Islamic sites has been hit the hardest, due to the Pope’s intervention which saved some Christian sites and made it possible for hundred thousands of the Christian Palestinians to return after being expelled in the first place.

Nonetheless countless of mosques and churches were either destroyed completely or turned into synagogues, warehousing, horse stables, nightclubs or the like. The exact number is of course disputed but both sides agrees that at least 570 villages were completely destroyed by the Israelis where each one had probably 1-2 mosques. On top of that comes the bigger towns and cities that were destroyed and the many muslim neighborhoods in Jerusalem. You can do the math.

So finally, I have a huge interest in discovering lost places. I seriously should have been an archaeologist! Some of these places I discovered while doing research for my itinerary for my next visit to Palestine. My researcher gene took over and I listed those 10 significant holy sites that were destroyed by Israel during the Nakba and until today. Number in parenthesis is the year of destruction.

1. Nabi Rubin (Reuben son of Jacob) (1948)
Nabi Rubin was one of the most popular sites in Palestine before 1948. The mosque housed Reuben’s grave and every year one of the largest festivals in Palestine would take place here. The festival included singing, dancing the Dabke, distribution of colorful candy, sufi prayers, horse races and magic shows. The festival was so exciting, that Palestinian women from afar would tell their husbands: “Either you take me to Nabi Rubin or you divorce me!”. In 1947 the last festival was held. The next year the city was razed by the Israelis and the mosque destroyed. 
Today, Jews are trying to claim the ruins of the shrine to be one of their own, but their plans has been facing difficulty since Jewish tradition place the grave of Reuben somewhere very different.

Nabi Rubin Festival
The Nabi Rubin Festival before 1948

 

2. Nabi Yamin (Prophet Benjamin) (1948) 
This mosque was not destroyed but converted into a synagoge and prohibited muslim entrance even though the place in the first place was holy to muslims only. Before 1948 the place was not considered holy by the original Palestinian Jews (the Yishuv Jews), nor was it considered the true burial place of Benjamin. 

Nabi-Yamin-50
Nabi Yamin mosqye turned into a Synagoge

 

3. Nabi Shuayb and Mosque of Hittin (1948)
Hittin was a very special city to muslims. Here Saladdin won the battle against the crusaders that lead to the reconquest of the holy land. He built the city and the mosque in this place where the tomb of Nabi Shuayb happened to be. Nabi Shuayb has always been important to the Druze population of Palestine. Muslims and Druze shared this mosque until Hittin was destroyed by Israel in 1948. The mosque of Hittin was completely destroyed and ruins can still be visited while they gave the mosque of Nabi Shuayb exclusively to the Druze as a payment for them to join the Israeli forces.

PikiWiki_Israel_48150_Nabi_Shuayb
Nabi Shuayb still looking like a mosque from the inside

 

4. Nabi Samt (Judge Samson) (1948)
This shrine contained both the tomb of Samson and his father Manoah. It was destroyed with the city of Sar’a (Zorah). After it was proven that the tomb actually belonged to the two holy people, the ruins of the city has been taken over by Israel as an important archeological site.

5. Al-Nabi Yusha’ (Joshua) (1948)
This was the name of a small village that also housed the tomb of Joshua. The village was under French control during the colonization and therefore, officially, a part of Lebanon. However, the French decided to leave the village to the British who were colonizing Palestine. The British gave Palestine to the Jews which included this originally Lebanese village. And yes, they destroyed it all including the tomb. Ruins can still be found but are rarely visited.

Al_Nabi_Yusha_Mosque
What is left of Nabi Yusha Shrine

 

6. Al-Hussein mosque, Ashkalon (1950)
This site was the holiest to muslims outside of Jerusalem. Here the head of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was buried. The shrine was said to be the most magnificent building in Ashkalon at the time. This having absolutely no value for Jews, it was the most important mosque for zionists to erase. Today a medical center has been built on the grave.

Sey'd_Hussein_ashkelon
Pilgrims going to the Al-Hussein Shrine in 1943

 

7. Sheikh Eid mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
The destruction of this mosque is part of the story of the destruction of one of the most historical areas in Jerusalem, the Moroccan Quarter. This quarter of Jerusalem dates back to Saladdin’s era and the Sheikh Eid Mosque was the biggest and most prominent in this quarter. The whole quarter was destroyed in order to make room for a big square where 200.000 Jews could stand in front of the Buraq Wall (Wailing wall). The residence got 15 minutes warning to leave their houses before the demolishing. Those who did not leave, were killed by the bulldozers wrecking their walls down. 

Moroccan quarter
The Moroccan quarter. I cannot believe I actually stood there just right there not knowing what thriving life has been here once.

 

8. Al Buraq mosque, Jerusalem (1967)
This mosque was also destroyed during the raze on the Moroccan Quarter. This mosque however, was the second most holy to muslims in Jerusalem. It was built where muslims believe that prophet Muhammad tied his divinely sent horse (the Buraq). One of the leaders behind this demolition said “”Why shouldn’t the mosque be sent to Heaven, just as the magic horse did?”. The basement of the mosque, I believe, is still accessible today. 

9. Al-Khadra Mosque, Nablus (2002)
The Nakba never really ended. So I have included a very historical mosque that was destroyed not long time ago. This mosque was built on the holy site where Prophet Jacob cried after believing Joseph had been killed. The mosque is also named “Sadness of our Lord Jacob”.

Nablus is a large city belonging to the Palestinians on the West Bank. In 2002, Israel razed the city and their bulldozers destroyed countless UNESCO heritage sites including this mosque and Abd Al-Hadi Palace.

10. Siksik Mosque, Jaffa (1948)
This mosque is one of the examples of how they used mosques to other purposes after conquering land. This mosque was first turned into a Bulgarian restaurant, then a nightclub and then a warehouse for a plastic factory. And this is the fate of many mosques and churches as well in the bigger cities.

Maybe at some point I will research the churches and do a blog post about those too. And of course, there are countless more holy sites I did not include. There are also palaces, archeological sites, hamams and historical city centers that were completely destroyed that I did not include here. Long story short: thousand years of heritage was destroyed in this country, but ruins remain for us to go and explore which I would love to have the chance to do.

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Top 10 Christian festivals to experience

We are approaching Christmas very fast but unfortunately this beautiful tradition has become more of a celebration of capitalism than actual Christianity. However, there are places and festivals around the world that gets to the inner core of the beautiful religion of Christianity and I thought I would share some of my favorite must experience Christian festivals around the world:

  1. Christmas tree lighting
    Place to be: Bethlehem, Palestine
    Time to be next year: December 24, 2019
    What is a better place to witness the celebration of the birthday of Jesus rather than in his very own birth city? The lightning of the Christmas tree is a huge event where the Christian Palestinians count down in the Arabic language for midnight to light up the tree.
    H
  2. Semana Santa
    Place to be: Granada, Spain
    Time to be next year: April 14, 2019 (easter week)
    I have witnessed this festival myself. Large parades with people dressed like something coming from the Ku Klux Klan or the inquisition. However, this ceremony is held to repent for the sins you have forsaken the last year and to acknowledge the sacrifice of Jesus. Many people would exhaust themselves and walk it every day bare footed. The festival is best celebrated in Granada, but most Spanish and specially Andalucian cities will have it as well.

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    Semana Santa parade in Spain
  3. Crusifixation
    Place to be: San Fernando, Philippines
    Time to be next year: April 19, 2019 (easter)
    On the same track as Semana Santa people come here to recall the passion of the christ and experience a similar hardship. Men and women come here voluntarily to be crucified for real. It’s so admirable how much love and passion they have to actually letting nails go through their palms and hang there for hours.
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  4. Mescal Festival
    Place to be: Adis Ababa, Ethiopia
    Time to be next year: September 27, 2019
    This is a very unique celebration of the supposed finding of the “true cross”. It is said to be given to an emperor of Ethiopia and thus this is a huge celebration there.
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  5. Day of the Dead
    Place to be: Janitzio Island, Mexico
    Time to be next year: November 2, 2019
    This is actually a very interesting festival mixing Christianity with native Indian religion. It is celebrated in most places in Mexico but should be most original on the above mentioned island.
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  6. Santa Claus Village
    Place to be: Rovaniemi, Finland
    Time to be next year: December, 2019
    This is not exactly a festival but every year this park opens for visitors and I can imagine it really will feel like Santa Claus’s toolshop up there in the cold north.
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  7. White smoke
    Place to be: The Vatican City
    Time to be: Unknown
    This even does not need an introduction. We all know how a pope is chosen and watching white smoke from the Sistine Chapel is just historical!
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  8. Race of the Candles
    Place to be: Gubbio, Italy
    Time to be next year: May 15, 2019
    I do not know much about this festival other than celebrating some saints, but it does sound fun!
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  9. Salto del Colacho
    Place to be: Burgos, Spain
    Time to be next year: June 23, 2019
    Another south European festival. It is hard to understand where all those ideas come from but this one is probably about cleansing babies of sins and ensure them protection. Someone will play the devil and jump over new born babies. This might even be a dying tradition due to criticism from the Vatican saying only baptism can cleanse the sins.
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  10. Mardi Gras
    Place to be: Binche, Belgium
    Time to be next year: March 3, 2019
    Before the fasting period for the Christians starts, the Belgian Christians go out celebrating the last day with an enormous feast and a very fun parade in the city of Binche.
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In addition, there are many many other festivals to be mentioned. However, I tried not to include some of those ruined by capitalism already like Saint Patricks day. However, I have not been to all of the above yet, so I am yet to be surprised 🙂

Also remember, no matter what religion you have or none at all these traditions are fascinating to witness. The same goes for any other religion out there, and I might do a similar list for Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism very soon. Would it interest you?

List of all pyramids in the world

As some of you guys probably know I have spent the past 2 weeks travelling in Sudan and Egypt. Two countries that are very famous for their ancient pyramids and Pharaos. Egypt of course more than Sudan, but how many pyramids are in Egypt? It will surprise you to know, that Sudan has the highest amount of Pyramids in the world.

Of course my trips did not stop with the famous Pyramids of Giza. The countries contain so many interesting pyramids very few have ever heard about. I started hunting.

I had such a great pleasure hunting pyramids that I wanted to know where to hunt next. I was surprised to see that there is no complete list of all pyramids in the world anywhere on the internet. Even Wikipedia does not list them all.

One of the reasons might be that it is hard to distinguish between an actual pyramid and an ancient temple. What is the definition of a Pyramid? Another reason is, that many natural rock and mountain formations that looks like pyramids are either included or excluded, and if excluded there might be (conspiracy) theories out there saying it is a man made pyramid. Basically there are many conspiracy theories about pyramids everywhere, which I find fascinating!

Long story short my research gene took over and I started to make a list of my own. I was so surprised to find so many interesting pyramids many of them just recently discovered. In my list below, I included both ancient pyramids, destroyed pyramids and modern pyramids.

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Pyramids at Jabal Barkal, Sudan

So what is the definition of a pyramid?

Basically, my definition of a pyramid is that it vaguely has to resemble the appearance of the geometric pyramid shape consisting of a base connected to an apex. Now this can be done the regular way with 4 triangular walls leaning on each other, but it can also be other amount of triangles. It can also be that the apex is not centered and I have also included pyramids with the top cut off, called frustum. Of course most non Egyptian pyramids do not have an apex and you will be surprised with how creative, the shape of a pyramid can be manipulated.

Enjoy the list, it is one of a kind on the internet! Maybe your own country has a pyramid you did not know about!

The list of all pyramid sites of the world:

Pyramids of Albania

  • Pyramid of Tirana

Pyramids of Belize

  • Altun Ha
  • Caracol
  • Lubaantun
  • Lamanai
  • Nim Li Punit
  • Xunantunich

Pyramids of Bolivia

  • Tiwanaku – Akapana

Pyramids of Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • Visoko

Pyramids of Cambodia

  • Angkor Wat

Pyramids of China

  • Pyramids of Xian
  • The great white pyramid (lost)
  • Zangkunchong

Pyramids of Cuba

  • Cuban Underwater City (under water)

Pyramids of Egypt 

  • Giza
  • Saqqara
  • Dahshur
  • Abu Sir
  • Meidum
  • El-lahun
  • Hawara
  • Deir el-Medina
  • Abydos
  • Zawyet Elaryan
  • Abu Rawash
  • Dara
  • Lisht
  • Mazghuna
  • Abydos
  • Edfu
  • The Seila Pyramid
  • The Zawiyet el-Meiyitin Pyramid
  • The Sinki Pyramid
  • The Naqada Pyramid
  • The Kula Pyramid
  • The Elephantine Pyramid

Pyramids of El Salvador

  • San Andres
  • Tazumal

Pyramids of Eritrea

  • Asmara

Pyramids of France

  • Loyasse Cemetary
  • Louvre

Pyramids of Greece

  • Hellenikon
  • Lygourio

Pyramids of Guatemala

  • Tikal
  • Aguateca
  • Mixco Viejo
  • Kaminaljuyu
  • Yaxha
  • El Mirador

Pyramids of Honduras

  • Copan

Pyramids of India

  • Konark
  • Brihadisvara Temple

Pyramids of Indonesia

  • Gunung Padang Pyramid
  • Purbakala Pugung Raharjo
  • Candi Sukuh

Pyramids of Italy

  • Cestius

Pyramids of Iran

  • Tchogha Zanbil
  • Tepe Sialk
  • Iranian Parliament building

Pyramids of Iraq

  • Ziggurat of Ur
  • Dur-Kurigalzu

Pyramids of Japan

  • Nima Sand Museum
  • Yonaguni monyment (under water)

Pyramids of Kazakhstan

  • Shet
  • Pyramid of Peace, Astana

Pyramids of Libya

  • Fezzan

Pyramids of Mexico

  • Uxmal
  • Palenque
  • Teotihuacan
  • Chichen Itza
  • Tulum
  • Bonampak
  • Calakmul
  • Comalcalco
  • El Tajin
  • La venta
  • Mayapan
  • Moral Reforma
  • Coba
  • Yaxchilan
  • Monte Alban
  • Tenochtitlan
  • Tenayuca
  • Cholula
  • Tenayuca
  • Santa Cecilia Acatitlan
  • Tula Hidalgo
  • Xochicalco

Pyramids of North Korea

  • Ryugyong Hotel

Pyramids of Peru

  • Huaca de la Luna
  • Huallamarca
  • Tucume
  • Pachacamac
  • Chavin de Huantar

Pyramids of Russia

  • Moscow Pyramid

Pyramids of Spain

  • Guimar

Pyramids of Sudan

  • Jabal Barkal
  • Nuri
  • Bejrawiya
  • El-Kurru

Pyramids of USA

  • Memphis Pyramid
  • Luxor Hotel
  • Hollywood cemetery

Pyramids of Uzbekistan

  • Kashkadarya (Newly found)

Pyramids of Antarctica

  • Pyramid of Antarctica

 

Basically, this list is for myself feeding into places I want to visit in this world. That is why I have only included sites that actually is interesting for me. This includes all man made pyramids and few natural formations which have some kind of claim or conspiracy theory out there attached to it saying it is a man made pyramid.

Green ones are those I have already visited.
Red ones are heavily damaged pyramids, so that it is hard to recognize it as a pyramid anymore. If you go to a red one you have to be very interested in archaeology, I think!

Do you think I missed any? Let me know in the comments! Thank you 🙂

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An example of a modern pyramid, The Pyramid of Tirana

My Iranian Dream Route

As you guys already know, Iran was one of my favorite travel destinations. Why? I have explained it in the Top Visited Destinations page, check it out.

But I have not been everywhere, and I certainly want to go back and visit the rest. The country is wonderfully big. That is why I have planned a route that I will do in Iran at some point. The route of my dreams:

Map_iran_nonames

Lets start from the green dot: Tehran

Tehran

The cheapest place to fly to is Tehran, so the first place will be here. You gotta visit the capital and one of the largest cities of the world. But what is there to see here? Palaces, mosques, bazars, the photogenic Azadi Tower and the real life. A must for me is to walk around the old Rey city within Tehran. It is one of the oldest cities in the region and contains endless historical monuments and tales.
Duration: 4 days at least.

Badab Surt

Travelling east, first stop is Badab Soort which is an incredible natural phenomenon you will not see anywhere else in the world. I think the picture speaks for itself.
Duration: 6 hours for the journey and the stay there in total.

Badab-e_Surt_Samaee

Khalidnabi

Same day I would travel even further east to the very secluded place of Khalidnabi. It is basically a small mosque containing the tomb of a prophet named Khalid. I don’t know much about him, but the quite graveyard and the little prophetic mosque looks stunning on pictures. First time I saw this place I thought I have to come here!
Duration: 4 hours inclusive travel time

khalidnabi

Mashhad

Heading same day further east to Mashhad I would probably arrive at night and try to find a place to sleep. Luckily Mashhad is a city that never sleeps. Being the most holy city in Iran this is a must see for everyone. And it is pretty famous for having one of the most beautiful and largest mosques, the Imam Reza mosque. Here ceremonies are held every day and the city and mosque and museums takes days to absorb. Also interesting cities like Neyshabur, the Kang Village and others are close by. Ideally, I would go to Turkmenistan from there but Turkmenistan is very hard to get into so I will leave it out from this blog post.
Duration: 5 days

WP_20160324_19_51_00_Pro

Yazd

From Mashhad I would continue south to Yazd to enjoy the extremely iconic architecture. The skyline of this city gives purpose to the lives of photographers. Not to mention the beauty of the Amir Chakhmaq Complex.
Duration: 3 days

Yazd

Shiraz

South west is the next stop. Shiraz stands out with its gardens. Here the Eram Garden is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world and I definitely wanna see it. But the best reason to come here is to visit Naqsh-e Rustam and Persepolis. Some of the most ancient archaeological finds in the world. This is where Iran really shows it’s rich history.
Duration: 4 days

Naqsh rustam

Susa

Okay, now the trip really starts to get interesting. Travelling north west I will get through some really culturally interesting places like the Ahwaz, but my destination is the city of Susa where the tomb of Prophet Daniel lies in a holy mosque. This is no ordinary mosque, and even sharing a “google” picture hurts my heart. I just wanna see it myself.
Duration: 1 day

Karmenshah

Here is more super ancient history. The site of Taq Bostan displays rock reliefs that I want to study.
Duration: 1 day

Isfahan

Do I need to say more? Of course everyone wants to come here to experience the incredible mosques and architecture.
Duration: 3 days

Kashan

Okay here I have a lot of things to do. The most important one is buying a real handmade Persian rug. Kashan is the best place to do that. If you know anything about Persian rugs you have for sure heard about the Kashan. But there is more: Other than being just as pretty as Isfahan here lies the ancient underground city of Nushabad. This place is just mind blowing to read about. Imagine an ancient time where humans actually lived beneath earth, sheltering themselves from the sunlight. It is a mystery why. These ancient underground cities are being discovered all over the world and no one has yet understood why.
Duration: 4 days

Nushabad

Visadar

Okay, now I would probably wanna go Qom to see the most religious city in Iran or to Tabriz to see the stone houses, but I will probably be exhausted and my time is running up. I will probably go north to Visadar to relax at the waterfalls for a day before heading back to Tehran Airport to get back home.
Duration: 1 day

Complete route:

Iranmapnames2

Total Duration: 27 days

I will never have that long vacation again 😥

So what do you think guys? Are all the places worth it? What wouldn’t you do? And what did I leave out that I definitely should go see? If you are an expert on Iran or lives there let me know your opinion please! 🙂

Seven modern wonders of the world

In my last post I called the CERN facilities in Switzerland “our times Wonder of the world”. It made me think what else out there could be categorized as such and I made a list of 7 wonders of the modern world.

The originals

Do you remember the original Seven Wonders of the World? The ancient ones are all destroyed except the Pyramids of Giza. Later few architects agreed upon naming a new list with structures that still are standing today. This is maybe the more famous one featuring well known landmarks like: Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, Petra and Colosseum amongst others.

Here are the very original 7, and the New 7:

Ancient and new

My modern 7 wonders

In my list I have tried to choose wonders that have the most significant impact on the world we know in 2018. I imagine that nothing will ever beat the Ancient 7 Wonders, because they have simply outperformed anything in their time. In our modern world new technology makes it easier to break records. Therefore, the candidates for this list has been chosen through following criteria:

  1. The level of impact it has had on our self awareness as humans
  2. Shown an outstanding achievement in our ability to create.
  3. Is memorable and iconic.
  4. Is going to be well preserved for centuries.
  5. Has an actual function rather than just made to show off.

I was trying to think what they will remember us for 3000 years away from now. Which landmarks will be visited by tourists 3000 years from now? What has transformed into museums?

Here is the list: The Seven Wonders of the Modern World

Modern

A little bit about every one and the reason

  1. Large Hadron Collider, CERN, Switzerland
    I have mentioned the importance of this facility many times before. Basically it has been the reason for many important discoveries and helped us understand the universe better. If you wanna read a little bit more about it, check my blog post here.
  2. Panama Channel, Panama
    Besides being one of the longest and hardest engineering projects in the history and killing more than 25000 people in the making,  the Panama Channel has even today a huge impact on the history. It is basically the number one reason behind USA’s success and super power status today. The importance of maritime force and trade is way more than you imagine. Destroy the Panama Channel, and you will see the decline of the US power pretty quickly. This is also the main reason why I chose the Panama Channel above the Suez Channel which is longer and just as impressive engineering wise.
  3. ISS, Outer Space
    Need I say more? The International Space Station of course is a wonder. Not only the whole world is collaborating, but it is collaborating to reach out into space. In 3000 years when the Earth is only visited for tourism they will visit this station and say.. here it all started!
  4. The Palm, United Arab Emirates
    The Palm is so iconic that it doesn’t need introduction. The reason why it made it to the list is, that it shows a whole new era of narcissism. We have build islands before, but never in a shape to impress people from the air. In addition, this could be the start of a new era of creating land instead of conquering it.
  5. NEEMO, Aquarius, USA
    This facility is maybe the least known on the list. NEEMO is an underwater laboratory ran by NASA. They basically send their astronauts here to live underwater in 3 weeks to prepare them for the harsh space environment. Again, this place had a huge impact on making us understand our own capabilities as human beings and therefore it made it to the list. As a teen I dreamt about being sent there and finally to space.
  6. Burj Khalifa, United Arab Emirates
    Now this one I was a bit in doubt about. It is the tallest building in the world, the skyscraber of skyscrabers. But the record will soon be overthrown by another tower in Saudi Arabia. However, I decided to include it because this really kickstarted the race to the skies. In addition, being located in the desert, this building has a very important function of keeping the whole city of Dubai together. Everything in Dubai is done indoors and the need for huge a building is therefore legit.
  7. Dìxià Chéng, China
    This is another less known facility. Can you imagine that beneath the capital city of Beijing is a nuclear shelter large enough to house the whole population of 6 million people of Beijing? Well this is the name of this shelter. Just the thought of it makes you get goosebumps. Hopefully, no one would ever nuke China and it will stand as a memory of the time when humans were so afraid of killing themselves, that they spent billions on structures like this.

Other structures in scope that did not make it to the list: 

  • Transit siberiean railway, Russia
  • Atacama large milimetee array, Chile
  • Hubble telescope, Outer space
  • Three Gorges Dam, China
  • Cheyenne mountain bunker, USA
  • Tokyo train and metro, Japan
  • Shanghai metro, China
  • Hashima Island, Japan
  • Boeing Everett Factory, USA
  • Ski Dubai, UAE
  • Rungrado May Day stadium, North Korea
  • Suez Channel, Egypt
  • Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, China

Take a look at the candidates. Did I miss any important? Do you think something else deserve to be on the list? Let me know in the comments!

Top one place to visit in Switzerland

What if you had the chance to visit Switzerland for 1 day only – what is the one experience you should visit? There are many amazing places in Switzerland but the one I would recommend is the only one I consider an actual Wonder of the World: The CERN campus!

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Me arriving at the reception in CERN. If I look tired it is because I woke up at 3 am to drive from Bern to Geneve to make it to the early morning guided tour. 

 

What is CERN?

I think most people know CERN by now, but if not then here is a little background:

CERN is the most advances scientific research center in the world. The density of knowledge and great minds in this campus is not seen anywhere else in the world. Also they have the most advanced and the biggest machinery to perform their experiments. The engineering work of this is what I consider the Wonder of the World!

Here they try to answer the most fundamental questions of the universe by experimenting with nuclear particles. This helps us to understand how the world actually were created and unveiling some of the most complex questions about our reality. How does the world work? Why are we here? Can God possibly exist?

Oh yeah.. and they also invented the World Wide Web!

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The worlds very first Large Particle Accelerator. This one is now retired, but they have build even better ones. The Large Hadron Collider is the most famous and biggest – 27 km in diameter.

But it doesn’t seem like something for me?

Maybe you aren’t interested in science but when I say people should come here it is because you will learn a life lesson here. I think every well rounded adult should have at least some basic understanding of what this place does. How are we gonna answer our children’s silly questions if we haven’t even looked into science?

What will you answer if a 5 year old asks you how come we exist? Why we believe in God? Why we don’t believe in God? What is the universe made of? Why can’t I fly? What other universes can you imagine and who is right and who is wrong?

No matter who you are or what you believe in, you should look into this! Bring your brain and come here. Don’t think you know anything about science before you visit this place.

Even if you believe in whatever conclusion you hear the scientist say. You need to come here to understand that this is our times philosophy hub. Answers are never clear even if some people would try to convince you they are.

Everything is free there. Go there and take the guided tour (book in advance). Even if you only grasp 2% of what they are telling you, it will be worth it!

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Me philosophizing at CERN xD

What did they find out so far?

I consider myself somewhat a man of science but even I only grasped like half of what the Pakistani scientist told us on the tour. However, the basics is this:

They have built the Large Hadron Collider which is the essence of the Wonder. This is basically a big circular tube under high pressure and low temperature buried 100 meter beneath the Swiss/French border. They use this machine to accelerate beams of particles and make them hit each other right where they have built enormous sensors to detect all data from the explosion, process the data and send the most interesting and newest discoveries to scientists all over the world to analyze.

Discoveries could be new unseen particles, antimatter or bosons. Antimatter is basically the exact opposite of matter.. of everything we know. In theory everything has an opposing counterpart: Night and day, hot and cold, love and hate, matter and antimatter. But for some reason antimatter just disappeared when the world was created. With this machine scientists have been able to recreate it.

Another important discovery was the Higgs Boson that you might have heard about. In simple form the boson is a particle that gives gravity to everything. Gravity is not just something that exist out of nothing, it is an actual particle that gives it. Meaning everything in the world has been in touch with this particle. This was also discovered using this wonder of a machine.

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You can actually see the scientists working on this tour! Isn’t it amazing?

I am not an expert

Okay guys, I am not an expert and I have not discovered the answered to everything. I like to learn always and of course I don’t understand the physics behind this fully. I find it interesting so the above is simplified to make it as easy to read as possible. If I am mistaken please enlighten me!

For me this was a true wonder to see and experience. Just as impressive to be there as it was to visit the Pyramids of Egypt or the Great Wall of China.

Is it unique?

Someone asked the Pakistani scientist if there was any other thing similar. He answered that there are particle accelerators in the USA but they are linear which makes it hard to do the collisions. Also he said that China is doing it as well. I think they are building one just as impressive. But will it be the same wonder? I doubt it.

Not because I don’t trust Chinese science. Not at all! But because CERN is actually international. While Chinese and American like to do everything themselves CERN is open to the world. First of all CERN is totally independent from the industry and military. This is ONLY about science – not war or economy. In my honest opinion peace and science works better together. Only when all the world’s brightest minds work together we can create amazing things – have anyone read the Babylon story of the Bible? Once we get divided by nations and languages we loose everything.

Well in CERN more than 100 nationalities have united their greatest scientists only to enlighten the world in a peaceful manner. You cant feel anything but humbled walking around it’s streets and laboratories. This is a strength not seen anywhere in the world not anywhere in history since the Babel Tower was built!

After walking the tour an old Dutch gentleman asked the scientist: “Amazing.. where do you start?” And the scientist responded: “9 o’clock in the morning”.

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You can’t feel anything but humbled walking around in this place were geniuses have worked their whole life to unveil the mysteries of the universe.