Monday, April 21, 2008

Dream Trips, Vol. 1: Cycling the Middle East

Ever since my recent Summer Preview post, I've been feeling the urge to focus more on the future. In that spirit, I'm starting a little series entitled "Dream Trips," which will describe some ideas I've had for epic journeys that may or may not come to pass. Here goes...

Vol. 1: Middle East Bike Tour
As time goes by, I become more and more fascinated by the Middle East. So much of human history unfolded there. I charted the following cycling route to take in as much as possible: Istanbul to Cairo.

What better place to start than Istanbul, a bridge of sorts between familiar Europe and the world beyond? And as the old seat of the Byzantine Empire, it has a lot of history to impart as well.

Turkey's size means that a full half of the trip would be spent there, curving around its robust Mediterranean coastline that's supposed to be quite lovely. I can't remember the distance as I estimated it originally, but it's something like 2000 km (1.5 - 2 months) from Istanbul to Antioch, near the Syrian border.

So, gets a pretty bad rap, if you haven't noticed. But this is one of the birthplaces of civilization. We're talking Fertile Crescent here. And everything I read stresses how friendly, generous, and hospitable the Syrian people are, regardless of their government's relationship with America's.

Damascus is on my short list of destinations. It's the oldest continuously inhabited city on Earth, and according to NPR it's become something of a mecca (no pun intended) for Westerners studying Arabic abroad. Gotta go!

I'd be tempted to take a side trip to Beirut just to check it out, but that would require some careful consideration. Moving on.

I estimate 700km and three weeks for Syria, and then on to Jordan. I don't know much about this country except that the ruins at Petra are a must-see. (It's where they filmed Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, you know.) If possible, I'd try to get in a couple days in Jerusalem as well. All in all, Jordan would hopefully take up less time than Syria.

And here's where it gets sketchy--Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. It doesn't seem to be very inhabited, and since I don't fancy dying of thirst or heatstroke on a lonely dirt road, alternate transport may be in order. This could mean a ferry across the Red Sea, which sounds pretty sweet.

However it happens, Cairo will be not too far after that, marking the end of the tour! After some quality time exploring the city and pyramids of this most ancient of ancient civilizations, it'll be time to head home.

There you have it--Dream Trip #1. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be blogging it from the road. Until then, I'll keep dreaming.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

Dream trip for you = nightmare for parents (please pick a safer part of the world for dream trip #2).