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.

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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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.

20181106_150633
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!

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?

IMG_20180708_032210_e
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 🙂

 

 

A thought from the Colosseum and today’s violent media

 

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Did it not occur to anyone in the audience that getting entertained by seeing slaves get eaten by beasts is madness? That it is not okay to get entertained by seeing other struggle to death? Or did no one question it because everyone thought this is normal? It was just the custom. And everyone was happily entertained so who would ever question it?

Do we do anything today that is wrong but never  questioned because that’s what everyone is doing? Any behavior or daily thing they in the future might think is crazy? Are we even better than they were back then? Did we only stop this madness and replaced it by wars so we can get entertained in the news instead of in the arena? Is it wrong to get entertained by action, war and horror movies? Maybe the characters aren’t real but we still get entertained by seeing others suffer and struggle.

In the future,  will they think we are bad people for watching the news and movies? Do we fool ourselves thinking its informative and educational while in reality it’s nothing but entertainment?

Probably not..  But who knows what future people might think about us. The point is, I am not sure we are better humans than the romans. Maybe on the individual level we are  but as a generation as an era or an age we are probably not.

It is just beyond my understanding how people can do to each other what we see in the news today. But anyway, sorry for the depressing thoughts. But history is often cruel – luckily it is in the past and we can actually learn if we study it, travel to it and think about it. Always search for history when you visit a new place! 😉

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