Tourism’s effect on global politics in the 2020’s

(Notice: These predictions were written in the end of 2019, before the attack on General Suleymani or the occurrence of the 2020 pandemic)

In 1945 the United States of America had decided to use their first nuclear bomb on Japan, and thus compiled a list of potential targets. On top of that list was the historical city of Kyoto, Japan’s previous capital. Kyoto was the ideal target strategic wise, size wise and symbolically. Much of Japan’s identity lies in Kyoto, and back then that was a driving factor for it’s choice. Considerations towards world cultural heritage was non-existent at that time, specially for Japan, as the anti-Japanese sentiment and propaganda was on it’s highest in USA. Official slogans like: “Kill japs, kill japs, kill more japs!” made 13 % of the American population in favor of a complete genocide on the Japanese people in that year.

One person did not share this idea though. Henry L. Stimson was appointed Secretary of War, and he was in charge of choosing two cities to throw the nuclear bombs at. Luckily for the people of Kyoto, Stimson had traveled there as young and even brought his wife on a honeymoon to this city. He enjoyed it so much and made such a strong connection with the locals, that he could not bear the idea of wiping it all out. Even though he supported nuking Japan, he ordered Kyoto removed from the list of potential targets with a series of official arguments, that only makes sense to a traveler.

This story shows, how much travelling and tourism can change the course of history and even save entire nations. This will be the focus point of this article, where I try to predict coming events of the decade of 2020 based on my experience travelling around the world, specifically to places in conflict zones or places that, by the western world, is seen as “off the beaten path”. It is also based on tonnes of travel blogs and travel magazines that I read continuously while having a watchful eye on political news stories. 

So why read a prediction by a travel nerd? Well, last decade I predicted the war in Syria and the french invasion of Mali. And I was just a kid back then.

Everything will depend on the enemy

Every beginning of a decade we are presented with one enemy, and every end of a decade we are presented with a victory on that same enemy – lately in the form of a dead body. In the 00’s it was Al-Qaeda and the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. In the 10’s it was ISIS and the death of their leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, in 2019.

The 90’s was kind of exception, as the decade started with the fall of the Berlin wall and communism, and the 10 years was used to see if capitalism could stand it’s own without an opponent. Maybe the only thing we had to enemize in the 90’s was Saddam Hussein after the Second Gulf War to prepare for an invasion of Iraq in the following decade.

The 80’s had several East European communist dictators as enemy as well as Ayatollah Khomeini. The 70’s had many far-left militant organizations and individuals like Red Armee Fraktion and Carlos the Jackal. The 1960’s had the Soviet Union and the Cuba Crisis and so on and so on.

So who is going to run away with the title of Enemy of the Decade in the 2020’s? Everything will depend on it. One possibility could be an entity of the Iranian military called the Basij. In case of war in Iran, get ready to learn this new group, that will be labelled as the terror organization of the decade, that we all must learn to hate.

(UPDATE: As the 2020 has progressed, we saw two confirmed assassination attacks on top Iranian leaders carried out by USA. One killed several top military generals, including General Qasim Suleymani , the other killed top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Meanwhile the world has been busy with the actual new enemy: Corona-virus, which I did not see coming. Is it a coincidence that the decade started like that? The occurrence of the virus has put a stopper for tourism, a vital problem towards world safety in my opinion. Meanwhile, what we in 2019 saw as far fetched is surprising no one in 2020. This means that world leaders can allow themselves to take drastic actions to change the world situation. Nothing is far fetched anymore. And with Trumpism: Nothing needs sane arguments to be carried out. This suddenly makes my predictions a little more plausible than I thought in the end of 2019.)

1. A nuclear attack on Iran

Okay, I admit it, the likelihood of this bold prediction might be very small as I write this. And let us hope it never happens, but there is a serious risk of this being the event, that will divide the 20’s from the 30’s. So here is why I think this is a risk:

What most people do not know about Iran is, that it is one of the safest countries in the region although it is portrayed as a closed country, it is actually very accessible and easy to travel in. While the vast majority of people would be scared to visit it, the travelling influencers have visited it for many years, recognizing how safe and welcoming it is, while it can boost any travel blog’s reputation for daring to go “off the beaten path”.

The truth is, the streets of Isfahan, Tehran and Shiraz have been beaten down by western male and female traveler’s boots during the late 00’s and 10’s. Not to mention the streets of the holy city Mashhad, that draws religious tourists from all over the rest of the world and European and American Muslims.

Back in time, all these influencers had one thing in common: They portrayed a strongly positive view on Iran. Iran has now made it even easier for western tourists to visit, by giving visa on arrival to most European tourists and in addition ensuring a removable visa, so they won’t be affected by Trump’s Muslim ban.

I have noticed in the last year, that the positivism has changed a lot. Many so called influencers have increasingly been using their travels to Iran as an opportunity to criticize the government. Some of this criticism is even sponsored by foreign powers like Saudi Arabia or Israel.

State sponsoring propaganda from travel influencers has become a real trend in the late 10’s. This has been seen in countless of example by many countries in the Middle East.

Many influencers, who have collected a large number of Iranian followers specially, have turned against the Iranian government and played a role in several attempts on creating an uprising against the government.

So all this propaganda, might finally lead to an opening for USA to finally invade. You can speculate, that the hope was to create a massive uprising, that would be met with massive violence, and thus giving an excuse for an American intervention, as it happened in Syria. This has not materialized, however a decision to invade the country might still be on the agenda, as it has been on the agenda of several prominent leader’s in the Republican party since before Trump came to power.

1.1 From an invasion to a nuclear attack

Russia and USA are currently working hard on developing a new type of weapon, that will make the Fat Man launched on Nagazaki in 1945 look like New Year’s fireworks. This new nuclear weapon will be able to travel 27 times the speed of sound by utilizing the nuclear energy for thrust as well as detonation. This means, a country like Russia can hit any target in the world with a nuclear missile after less than one second after the push of a button. This is simply unstoppable.

Now, the technicality of this technology is much more detailed, but once either country succeed in producing a maneuverable missile of this caliber, it most likely got to be showed off and tested in action. If USA decide to show off, as they did in 1945, meanwhile being at war with Iran, they might want to use it on a city named Qom.

Qom was were the Islamic Revolution of 1979 started. It houses one of the largest islamic universities that has produced many prominent Ayatollahs (a title given to highest rank of Shia muslim scholars), many of whom work for the government of Iran. The city is not a major tourist hub for western tourists, but attracts millions of muslim pilgrims to the tomb of a holy saint there.

If this becomes the last stronghold of the Basij, it might be portrayed in the media as the cradle of terrorism, and thus justifying wiping it out with assurance on trying to keep the holy site intact. Strategic wise, the bomb will have epicenter around 10-20 km away from the city center of Qom. In this way, arguments will be made that it intended to spare civilians and holy sites, well knowing that even the smallest A-bomb from this distance will wipe out most of the city. In the same time, it will be along the Qom River to ensure contamination and dysfunction. In a war, it is important that the civilian locals are dependent on the invading troops. 

Qom map

I predict, that this will happen in the end of the 2020’s or beginning of the 2030’s. 

2. Russian-Chinese conflict

First let us start in the neighboring region: Central Asia. The Uzbek and Kazakh authorities have made it exceptionally easy for travelers to enter their countries, now with visa free access for most Western countries and some Asian countries as well. This has created a huge boom in tourism in a region, that no one dared to visit in the 00’s. I myself visited Uzbekistan in 2019, and I have to say, that the country will be a tourist magnet very soon.

But why is it coming now? While tourism strengthens the economy, it is also a dangerous game for a dictatorship. Both countries have carefully prepared for tourism in the past 10 years, and both have now changed their president and revived their industries. For example, Uzbekistan went from exporting half of the world’s cotton production to only produce 3% of the world demand today. The production was no longer lucrative, as travellers discovered the inhumane slave-like conditions for the Uzbek people.

Tourism turned out to be more lucrative. Kazakhstan however, might be facing a problem due to this. The country has a large Russian minority from the Soviet time, and they have been marginalized (relatively), while the country is (and continuously will be) flooded with refugees with Kazakh background, fleeing the genocide of Muslims in China.

Kazakhstan has got along with Russia by being a strong ally politically and economically. With the rise of tourism 2 things will happen: More Russian’s will visit and hear the word of discriminated Russians in Kazakhstan, and their story of how Kazakhstan got a much larger piece of land after the fall of the Soviet Union, than they were entitled to.

The second thing that will happen is the westernization of the general public. Already now, the country is changing it’s alphabet from the Russian Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet we use in English.

Futhermore, economically, Kazakhstan is getting more and more independent from Russia and allowing neighboring China to invest, make projects and buy land in Kazakhstan.

Seen in the light of USA’s rivalry with both Russia and China, a conflict between the two countries over Kazakhstan might be very welcomed.

3. Russian victory in Syria

You can claim, that this has already happened. Russia has by far been more successful than USA in Syria, supporting Bashar Al Assad. Ten years back, Assad was supposed to be the “villain of the decade”, but Russia was not on board with this plan. Thus ISIS was conveniently introduced, but let us not dwell in the past.

In latest years, parts of Syria has been stabile enough to see a rise in tourism. Specially Damascus receives plenty of Arabic tourists from the Gulf, but also western tourists have been fascinated by this broken country. Many have realized, that Assad is not the large dictator, that he was portrayed as in the beginning of the decade. Sure, many travelers in Syria have been posting pictures of huge Syrian flags indicating regime propaganda, but very few of them have spoken directly against Assad. Furthermore, all interviews with locals have been more towards rebuilding the country.

An international demand for rebuilding Syria will lead to USA retreating from it. They will hand it over to Russia and Assad, while focusing on their more important wars in Iran and Iraq. Syria will also lose it’s strategic importance, as long as the alliance between Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran can be broken somewhere else.

4. The Kurds will fall into a trap (again)

There is one problem with leaving Syria: The Kurdish people, who have allied themselves with USA were betrayed in 2019, where American troops retreated to allow a Turkish invasion of their area.

Leaving the country to Russia and Assad, will make an end to the dream they had of creating their own country in the area. This is a necessity, because there is no way Turkey will allow a Kurdish state at it’s borders.

Turkey has been a tourist magnet the past 25 years, and they know very well how to deal with Europeans and even Americans. President Erdogan is probably the smartest politician in this century. Never has anyone played his cards better. He owns the immigration politics of Europe, he owns the nationalistic Turks, he owns the religious Turks, and he even owns the westernized Turks, whom he has granted freedom in the European side of Istanbul to pursue whatever lifestyle they want. In addition, he owns social media. He is the only leader of a Muslim majority country, who is seen addressing popular topics like the genocide in Burma and China and even criticizing Israel. Of course followed by absolutely no action, but he already won the hearts of the Muslims worldwide. If not by social media, then by the various pro-Turkey TV-shows like Ertuğrul that has become popular in the muslim world.

Another area which surprisingly has become a tourist magnet in recent years is Northern Iraq, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan. This region has more or less been acting like it’s own country, and issuing visa-on-arrival for western tourists, despite the rest of Iraq being almost impossible to enter. This has made the city of Irbil a huge magnet for travel bloggers on their quest to visit every official country in the world.

In many cases, these bloggers have been directly invited and sponsored by the Kurdish authorities. In addition, anyone who goes there will be meeting a Kurd, who will present the country to them as Kurdistan, and insist on using this name instead of Iraq when blogging on Instagram or making a YouTube video.

If you search for videos on YouTube, you will easily see how the videos from the early part of the previous decade had “Iraq” as the main title, then became “Iraqi Kurdistan”, and finally now any title will say “Kurdistan (Iraq)”, with emphasis on the parenthesis.

USA might persuade the Kurdish forces in Iraq to enter Iran and “liberate” the Kurdish part of Iran. For helping USA, they will be promised an independent country once the war is over.

5. Qatar will rise from the ashes and the fall of the Saudi regime

2022 will be the year of Qatar. The world cut it’s tie to Qatar after Saudi Arabia banished them from the Arabic family. Since then Qatar has been holding a low profile, but this is to be changed after the World Cup Tournament will be held in Qatar in 2022. After this very prestigious event, Qatar will start to seek power once again.

Like the UAE, Qatar’s royal family is immensely popular in the country, also among westerners. They also hold the famous TV News channel Aljazeera, where most people get their news from. Saudi Arabia has forced all neighboring countries to stop dealing with Qatar because of political disagreements.

Saudi Arabia, however, has been reported to run out of money in the end of the 20’s due to the low demand on oil. They of course have known this for a while, and they have been trying to diversify their industries away from oil production. One of which is tourism.

Saudi Arabia came way too late into the tourism game. First they had to come up with a bunch of positive stories to frame their country for western tourists. One was making it legal for women to drive, which most likely only had tourists in mind. Now Bahraini women can drive over the bridge themselves on a visit, and western female travelers will be able to rent a car, and post a picture in it with a caption like: “Progression for women in Saudi Arabia!” or “I am surprised, women can walk without a scarf here unlike in Iran!”.

Because of the late entry into the game, the Saudis have been trying to boost tourism by allowing online visa applications and making professional video production on social media to promote their historical places and desert. Often with an oriental styled white woman posing without a scarf in front of a monument like the one in Madain Saleh.

If they got involved in a war with Iran however, it will be even sooner that they will lose this investment. They have spent 10 years buying military equipment from USA, who will be using these exact weapons on the same target: Iran. It is a huge waste of money for them, as they basically have financed the whole war.

Saudi Arabia’s power comes from Mecca. Being the protector of the holy city has given them power over the Muslim world, but few events in the past years have created distrust between them and the Muslim world: Their destruction of Islamic heritage to build huge buildings, their ill handling of the pilgrimage, their war on Yemen, the killing of Khashoggi, and their continues support of Israel. 

Not to mention all the conservative Muslims, who do not want Saudi Arabia to modernize and allow it to become a tourist hub. In addition, the poor countries of the Arabic world (specifically in North Africa), have seen an undeniable increase in Saudi sex-tourism. A habit so obvious on the streets of for example Marrakesh, that it has made many North Africans despise Saudi Arabians in general. 

All in all, Saudi Arabia’s dominance will not survive. This will open up for Qatari dominance. A country that has transported Westerners all over the world with Qatari Airlines for decades.

6. Pakistan: A new superpower

Anyone who have been slightly interested in travel blogging will know, that the biggest hot topic of the past 3 years has been Pakistan. Every professional travel blogger have already been here. Either on his own or on state sponsored trips. And the positive reviews can never end.

The hospitality of the people. The warmth of their welcoming. The taste of their food. The views of their mountains. The vibe of their cities. It is a new undiscovered ground for westerners, who have been going to India for ages and ages, but never dared to visit the Muslim counterpart.

While India is becoming a more and more problematic country with lots of bad stories about rape, racism, killing, discrimination of Kashmiris and worst of all: Litter everywhere. Pakistan has got a new “true” democratic president, who is very popular not just at home, but all over the world.

The two countries might get into confrontation, but Pakistan needs time to prepare. India has already been provoking with the deployment of 1 million soldiers in Kashmir and a discriminating citizenship law against muslims. Air strikes have been conducted between the two nuclear powers already.

It is indeed a larger threat to world peace, even though no one is talking about it. Pakistan will try to delay any confrontation to get time to prepare its infrastructure and open more up for the world. Invite more tourists who will spread the good word of the country.

For them, a much better strategy is to support the “muslim” side of an uprising, if things get out of hand for India.

7. Many new members of the EU

While many might believe, that EU needs to hold low profile until the dust has set from Brexit, they also need to show the world, that the idea of  EU is still strong and attractive.

Whether you like it or not, Europeans have become one family. More than three out of five EU residents made tourism trips in 2017. With low budget airlines like Ryanair, EasyJet, Wizz Air and many many others, it has never been more attractive to visit the classics like Paris, London or Prague. Tourism is flourishing like never before, and for every trip one make, the European feeling strengthens.

7.1 Scotland

Scotland might very well get their independence soon. Specially if a nuclear war is pressing, as Scotland unwillingly has stored large number of the UK’s nuclear arsenal. Most political analysts agree, that Scotland will be going independent sooner or later. It might be tactical to allow them to vote sooner, specially if a Brexit turns out to be successful. I believe they will want independence, and afterwards join the EU easily

7.2 North Macedonia

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) recently changed it’s name to North Macedonia after a long dispute about the name with Greece. Finally both countries are happy. Macedonia is an interesting experiment for the EU. It’s population is small and very mixed religiously and ethnically. It will be the perfect country to include in the European family to learn a little about how to integrate the rest of the Orthodox and Muslim-majority Balkan countries in the future. 

7.3 Another Norwegian referendum

Norway is changing. From Europe’s most oil-producing country to one of the worlds pioneers in sustainability. It is said, that Statoil has more or less pumped up all the oil there is in the North Sea and stored it during the 10’s. In the 20’s they will sell it and spend the money to transform their business to sustainable energy by building offshore wind farms. The oil-production (although many Norwegians might disagree) were a large reason why they have not joined the EU yet. Meanwhile EU has specific climate targets it needs to live up to. Persuading Norway to join the family will both help it reach it’s goal, be beneficial for Norwegians (now that their oil-production is over) and send a strong signal to the world, that the EU is very much alive. Whether Norwegians will vote yes, I am not sure about. 

8. Colonial confrontations causing economical crisis in France and the USA

In 2019 I visited the beautiful country of Cape Verde after being on a small vacation in the Canary Islands. Here the ultimate prove of the cruelty of the early Spanish and Portuguese colonizers were right in your face. In the same time, when you walk down the streets of Praia, you can’t help but noticing the various art decos around the city calling for African unity. The symbols can be found all over Africa. 

Africa unite

Previously, Africa has been held in poverty and every time a governmental change happens, that might threaten the interests of the colonial countries like France, USA the UK and so on, a military coup is sponsored or in worst case, direct war is initiated to uphold status quo. While most western colonial countries try to do this under the table, France in particular have been very visible in controlling its former colonies.

Luckily, this is very apparent to travellers in the African continent. While during the 00’s tourism in Africa was mostly restricted to large tour groups arranging safari expeditions, now more and more travellers and descendents of African immigrants in the Western World has been visible in their promotion of the continent and in exposing the truth about those neo-colonial policies that keep Africa in poverty, and how this poverty is funding the wealth and welfare of the Western World.

The more travellers, historians and progressive immigrants and politicians expose, the more likely things will change. The Africans are more educated now and in particularly they are more aware of how the world is exploiting them. The fact that at least 14 African nations still pay colonial tax to France in one way or the other is going to be well known in the 20’s, and a fact that will cause a shit-storm on particular France, but also USA’s direct and indirect involvement in the continent. A political demand for decolonization of Africa will be negotiated between the African Union and colonial powers. The question is, how much Africa will sell out for an official apology for slavery.

In the same time, we have China that is investing in (and also exploting) Africa in large quantities. There is a big chance, that the western colonial powers will lose their grip on Africa, and that will cause big problems in the industry of natural resources in Europe and USA. The dollar might lose value, specially considered that it is mostly backed up by oil, which has seen decreasing demands and decreasing prices due to a worldwide green transition.

Conclusion

These were 8 predictions of the 2020’s. I have more predictions that I did not get to write down before the decade began. I might follow up on this article when new events occur. These predictions are based on an analysis of the travel- and tourism industry’s effect on global politics and public opinion. Although tourism have played a larger and larger role in global politics, it is of course not the only factor that world leaders base their decisions upon. It is still undeniably true, that tourism has a strong political effect on bilateral relations. It is also undeniable, that tourism and travel-blogging has a strong effect on normal people’s opinion on each other. This view should have an effect on the countries politics in a democracy. 

Finally, it is undeniably important for a traveller to have an eye out for peoples political views and feelings and opinions when travelling. If you feel safe, you can ask locals directly about certain hot topics concerning their country. But have in mind, this is only one side of the story. If you inquire about domestic policy issues from one group, make sure that you meet locals from the opposing group as well to really understand the topic. Eventually, our travels are meant to teach us, not confirm us in what we already believe.

3 practical travel advice no one else will tell you

You always hear the same general travel advice in every travel blog out there. Here are 3 specific and very simple travel advices for what to when travelling, that I have learned and applied personally, that has enriched my travel experience significantly. So without further ado, here you have 3 advices you won’t hear from anyone else:

  1. Visit universities
    Have you ever been in a city a little longer than it took to do all the sightseeing you could find in your travel handbook? I can most certainly tell you, that there is always more to see in every city. Even the most detailed travel blog or handbook won’t capture it all. But how would you know coming as a foreigner, not knowing much about the ins and outs of the city?What I often do, when I find myself in such situation, is to visit a university. Universities are the most underrated tourist attractions at all. I have personally visited several universities in more than 10 countries, from Sudan to Uzbekistan to Hong Kong.

    Here are reasons why it is always worth visiting a university in the country you are in:

    1. You will get a better understanding of the future of the country, watching the youth interact with each other, studying hard or even partying. Ear drop on conversations, specially if you find the campus of the political sciences. Or walk around inside the buildings reading the scientific posters that the students have hung up. If you have a scientific background yourself, you might understand the level of education, the level of innovation and what kind of ideas will shape the future.
    2. There is always someone who speaks English there. Specially if you are in a country where you understand almost nothing because of the language barrier, the chances of meeting someone who speaks your language here is much higher. If not local students, then foreign students or exchange students. You will also find people from all faiths and continents in most universities. Maybe even someone from your own country, who lives there.
    3. There is ALWAYS a very affordable cafeteria there, that you might benefit from.
    4. You can always blend in. It doesn’t matter your age. You can be a undergrad student, you could be doing a PhD or even be a professor. You just walk around in confidence there,  and merge in the atmosphere as were you a local.

      IMG_2126~2
      A university in Tokyo, Japan
  2. Read local memes
    This is a funny way to way to learn the deep and complex structures of a country and it’s relation to their neighbors. Or even their view on other countries. You can read all the news articles and essays about a country as you want, but the true mechanisms of the local’s mentality is more apparent in something as simple as a meme, rather than a 5 page analysis of the cultural aspects of a country.It is also a much more fun and quick way to learn some things, that you won’t be able to find in analysis reports or news, because of the political correctness that those have to adhere to. Good memes are rarely politically correct. Sometimes they even can be insulting or completely racists, but they will tell you the true mentality of some of the people there.

    So go online, on Facebook or Instagram and search for a country specific meme page. It might take you a bit long to find. Prepare yourself to even opening google translate, to translate some of the memes. You will get more insight by those memes that are not translated to English.

    Finally, if you know a local from the area, you might ask him or her to explain the memes that you do not understand or do not find funny. Yes – it might develop into a proper scientific research about memes, but believe me you will laugh most of the time. I can specially recommend memes from the Balkan region, those are clearly the most hilarious.

    tenor
    One gif-meme from the Balkans
  3. Book a room for 2 people, even if you travel alone
    I often travel alone, and I have found out that hotels lately uses environmental concerns as an excuse to give a worse service regarding cleaning. Today, many hotels do not change the towels every day, even if you throw them on the floor.When you travel alone and book a room, you are often left with the option to book a room for 2 people anyway, as hotels rarely have a single room. The price is the same – you do not pay more if you were 2 people travelling together for the same room. So when I book such a room, I put down 2 guests to ensure that they prepare the room with twice as many towels.

    There is a problem with this approach, as some cities will impose taxes that has to be paid per person. So when you show up, you have to tell the hotel, that you are only 1 person coming to stay there to avoid paying double taxes.

So that was all for now, I hope you can use and benefit from those advice as I do! Remember, travelling is all about learning and understanding the world. Not just what fits into your own world view, so dig deep into it and get fascinated by it, even if it is far from your own believe system or values. But always, keep your integrity while travelling!

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!

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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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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Guide for travelling to dictatorships

One of the largest reasons for people not to travel is fear. Specially when it comes to countries with bad reputation or with systems that is very different from the one of your own country. I thought I would share my experience travelling to some of those countries and 10 tips about how to prepare and how to behave 🙂

1. Freedom of thought does exist even in dictatorships

First of all, let me just state that there is no definite way of defining a dictatorship and even if you pointed at a country you think is a stereotype dictatorship, there will be millions telling you it is not. But this exact thing is actually the essence of the first thing you have to understand before even researching the country you want to visit.

Just like there are people of all different convictions and political opinions in your country, there is different convictions and political opinions even in the strongest dictatorships. And this is not just another “political correct” statement, this is an actual reality that you will encounter while travelling in dictatorships. You will actually get to meet people with opposite beliefs, but I will get back to that.

2. Do your research!

This is of course a given. But to relax your nerves I will tell you this: Dictatorships are often more safe to visit than democracies because law is strictly enforced, meaning no much space for thieves, rapists, scammers and the like. Some of the most safe countries in the world are what most people would call dictatorships. Just look at the Gulf or even Central Asia.

3. Check comments online

Another important piece of information is knowing the extend of the strictness of the dictatorship. The word dictatorship is thrown around very easily, even in democracies where a large minority just don’t like any of the options in an election. So it ranges from  dictatorships that probably are not a dictatorship at all, to dictatorships where you can be hanged for saying an opinion different from the ruler’s.

So here is a piece of advice you can’t just get from researching the country: Go into different social medias and find a random political topic that people has commented on from that country. Read the comment’s closely and note these questions:

  1. Are there anyone from this country that expresses the opposite opinion of his government or openly talks bad about them? (Make sure they are actually living in that country)
    • If there are many, probably the “dictatorship” is not that strict. So go there and relax but keep your opinions to yourself when meeting officials or total strangers.
    • If people comment but agreeing with the government even on insane matter’s, you will know that the country is very strict, however the population might love their “king”. But you will have to know, that there is always someone of the opposite opinion and if none of them express their opinion openly it is because they are scared for their lives. You can go there, but under no circumstances should you talk against the government while you are there (unless you are a political activist, then I wish you luck from all my heart).
  2. Do people easily fight in the comments?
    • Be aware of the topics they discuss and avoid talking about your own opinions with the wrong persons. Do some research to know in which part of the country or city that those opinions are dominating. Do NOT be afraid of talking to people from both sides. People on the internet are way more aggressive than in real life. When meeting people from the opposite opinion than your own then ask lots of open questions instead of discussing your personal opinion. Maybe you will even learn something new.

4. Passport renewal and visa

Some dictatorships and questionable democracies do not allow you to enter the country if you have been visiting one of the “enemy” countries. If you are going to several countries and you know that the second country do not like the first one, you can sometimes ask for a removable visa. It is basically a normal visa, but instead of gluing it to the passport, they just put a paper clip so you can remove it.

Another idea is to renew your passport before you leave. Be careful that they would not be able to find out where you have been e.g. if you have visited before with the old passport or if you have lots of pictures online from that country. If so, do not lie if you are asked.

5. Take precautions before landing

Some dictatorships will interrogate you upon landing, specially if you come from a country they do not like or if you are known for your political statements on the internet. I would advice you to delete your Twitter app and log off from most of the websites and apps you normally use to express your opinions. Delete sensitive messages. Some dictatorships looks intensively in your phone and make you unlock it for them to read your messages.

They can be very insisting, even if you do not have anything to hide. For example: If you say “I don’t have Facebook”, they will insist they don’t believe you.

If you are going to China or another country who block’s common western websites, then make sure to install a proxy and WeChat before going. A proxy might be illegal in some countries so prepare yourself before going. For China I would recommend installing the proxy beforehand because they are not nosy with your phone at arrival, but keep a low profile. Do not walk around with Google showing on your screen or you can be facing a large fine.

Remember, this is not only for China. WhatsApp and Skype might be blocked in many countries, at least the calling service of it. Here WeChat or Telegram might be handy to use instead, but make sure those at home also have it.

6. Keep it cool at interrogations but do not lose your integrity!

If they want to talk to you at the airport, do not freak out. This happens probably a lot and in the worst case they will just send you back. Do not state any political opinion, just say that you do not care about politics and only interested in seeing culture and nature. But do not compromise your integrity either. Do not admit to an opinion that you do not have – but do not tell them your real opinion if it is against their system. Just keep avoiding the question – either they get tired of you and let you in or they get tired of you and send you back. There is nothing worth losing your integrity over, specially if you only want to do tourism.

My best advice, is keep an open mind, stay out of political discussions and treat them with a sweet behavior.

7. Do not express yourself openly

Keep your opinion to yourself publicly. Watch your mouth for things you say. I have done this mistake before where I just say something without thinking about where I am. Always be conscious about what you are saying and where. Most importantly: Do not question the ruler’s authority, right or opinion.

8. Adapt to the culture  

You are out to experience a new culture, so adapt! It will also keep you safer. Again, do not lose your integrity, but do not do anything that is culturally not accepted or shameful in this country you are visiting.

9. Be careful with photography

Some dictatorships will ban you from photographing government controlled buildings or border crossings. I did the mistake once to have my GoPro video camera up at the border crossing between two dictatorships but I luckily got away with it after assuring them it was not filming. If photography is legal, then still be careful not to pose in a disrespectful way.

10. Meet different people

Remember the whole reason why you travel. It is not to confirm your own ideas about the world but to actually learn about the world. If you only hang out with people of the same political conviction as your own you will have wasted a whole trip convincing only yourself. Instead engage with everyone, do not be afraid and be understanding when someone expresses something differently. If you travel right, you cant avoid meeting people on both sides or even hearing opinions you never heard before. This is the best thing about travelling, so enjoy it with an open mind!

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The Palace of one of the most terrifying dictators in human history

The good and the bad travel blogger

Forgive the slight negativity in this post, but I have to address certain things I’ve started to witness on different travel blogs and social medias.

I’ve seen so many traveler’s travel the world and end up with just the same type of people not even realizing that this type might not be the majority of the place he is visiting.

Traveling should not just be for selfish reasons. It’s not about you visiting all countries in the world crossed off a map and hanged on your wall as a trophy. This kind of travel is endlessly provocative and in such a bad taste.

Instead cross off the countries you have actually understood and done a real connection with. Not just with the one type of people you met. But with the different groups. The different view points and those who taught you something that you didn’t expect them to. Even if you are superior to them in intellect, in richness and education. You can still learn from the old lady living on the street, the kid begging you for money, the police officer at the border and the priest at the temple that does or does not belong to your own faith.

It saddens me when a person had traveled to more than 150 countries and end up talking bad about one certain kind of people there, just because they do not fit his  vision of the country, or his twisted idea about how this country is (because he only hang out with one certain kind of people).

And when he comes back home he only talks about the freedom of traveling and how boring everyone else is instead of actually encouraging the others to travel more, see more, learn more, and most importantly not get afraid of places the media talks bad about.

Basically this is just an appeal to my fellow travel bloggers, Instagram photographers and youtube vloggers: spread positivity and accept people of the different opinion. Engage in a discussion. That is the only way to learn from each other.

If not I simply don’t enjoy following these bloggers.

And even if you have explored so much you think you can judge. DON’T!

Because all countries have people of all spectra of any scale you can think of. So don’t just assume you can judge.

  • I have traveled more than 12 times to Egypt: No I do not know everything about egyptians and their culture.
  • I have lived in Japan studying: No I do not know everything about Japanese people and their culture.
  • Even my own country(s): I do not know everything. I still meet people who I never knew existed in this country. Not just travelers or immigrants but even ethnically and culturally local people who just belong to such a different subculture within this country.

Remember: You do not simply become a better, more knowledgeable, more tolerant gentleman by traveling the world. You become all that by actually trying to understand and accept different viewpoints. By showing interest in people who are on the other spectrum of yourself. And by seeing the world as what it could have been and not what it has become.

Or maybe I am wrong? Let me know your opinion in the comments, specially if you disagree. I want to strive to be a better traveler and my blog is always open for anyone!

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Traveling is not only about freedom. It is about widening your horizon.

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.

The prejudice about Albanians and my experience traveling there

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InsThe Albanian Flag – picture taken by me 

When I told my colleagues back home that I will be traveling to Albania their reaction was a surprised face with the words: “Albania? I have heard they are a bunch of thieves over there!” and then the jokes started about stolen Mercedes’s and terrorism.

To be honest, the reaction disappointed me a lot but did not surprise me. Albania is one of these many countries with a bad reputation for absolutely no good reason. Actually no reason at all.

Where does the prejudice come from?

I will not attempt to explain this because there is never an excuse to have prejudice. So the answer is that it comes from narrow minded people. Any person who thinks bad about another entire population or ethnicity is either stupid or consciously evil which is worse.

That said, Albania has large disputes with other countries about territories – thus many neighboring countries have a large Albanian minority and as you guys know, minorities are always picked on. Again – because of stupidity.

Another answer is the media! I have heard specially bad things about the Italian media portraying Albanians as criminals and drug dealers. Again – not an excuse to actually believing in it.

What is the deal with Kosovo?

You might have heard that 3 Swiss football players made the Albanian eagle sign after scoring against Serbia in the FIFA World Cup 2018. The players have roots in Kosovo, so why the Albanian eagle?

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The Eagle sign by Shaqiri (Picture belongs to Yahoo Sports).

Here is the quick story:
There once was a country named Yugoslavia that consisted of many different people: amongst others; Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Albanians. Albania was not a part of Yugoslavia though. The Albanians living in Yugoslavia were from a region close to Albania but on the Yugoslavian side called Kosovo.

At some point the country split up (after a long bloody war). The Serbians tried to keep the country together under their rule but no one else wanted that. Eventually they agreed upon borders and everyone settled with their own country – except Kosovo. Because Albania existed, they were seen as immigrants by the Serbs and the right to have their own country was not recognized. Of course they could not just merge with Albania, because that would have been seen as an “invasion”.

Long story short – after a long struggle Kosovo is now recognized by most countries as an independent country. Not Albania, not Serbia – just Kosovo.

So how is Albania actually?

Mind blowing! It is certainly the most underrated country in Europe. Surely, you have already heard about the beauty of Belgrade, the famous bridge of Mostar and the amazing waterfalls of Plitvica. All those are well known tourist attractions in Balkan, while Albania is almost empty for tourists despites it’s unique history and beauty.

The people are very friendly and are actually good English speakers. I did not encounter any even slightly suspicious behavior from anyone. The country is very diverse religiously and everyone seem to respect the other’s way of living.

Albania has had a very dark history and was one of the last countries to recognize the end of the cold war, and that is very pronounced when you visit. You see it in the museums and the architecture of Tirana.

The Albanians are also very honest about their history, and they are not shy to talk about it and explain it to you. Because of that, their museums are very interesting. If you have been to Berlin, you would maybe think their museums were interesting but also a bit depressing. Tirana’s museums will not depress you but terrify you. And while Berlins museums are kinda apologizing for the horror, Tirana’s are just pure honest which makes them so much more interesting!

I will soon be doing another blog post about the history of Albania and what you can expect and learn from that country. If you are interested in knowing more let me know 🙂