We would like to take a moment to address potential concerns about traveling to the Middle East both for the sake of each of our tour participants as well as for the sake of families who may be reacting to your upcoming tour to Jordan and Egypt with concern.
Travel can be a mind blowing, fun, and relaxing experience and while everyone can expect ups and downs, the biggest concern to everyone nowadays is that of international safety. Fear of terrorism is at an all time high with the most fearful countries to Americans being those found in the Middle East. With Jordan caught in the middle of turmoil and Egypt’s recent political troubles, it is only natural and expected for all of you to be concerned. One look on the U.S. Department of State webpage for travel advisories, and it is easy for people to grow alarmed very quickly.
But let’s turn the tables for a minute. The United Arab Emirates, the Bahamas, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Germany are among the countries who have recently announced travel advisories to the U.S. The concerns listed include danger of mass shootings (aka terrorism), police violence, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT attitudes (including xenophobia), and the Zika virus. The biggest warning given to international travelers coming to the U.S. however, is for what the world views as a lax stance on gun control and violence.
For many Europeans and Middle Easterners this is enough to deter travel to the U.S. Most of us might not think twice in traveling to New York City for a nice long weekend to catch a Broadway show and tour the museums, but New York City ranks as the most dangerous city in America according to many travel warnings put out by different countries. An example of this fear can be found in the daughter of a dear Jordanian friend of mine. The girl is terrified of ever traveling to America for fear that she will be singled out to be shot or kidnapped because she is Muslim (even though she and her family dress like Westerners and she speaks flawless English). Her parents, both who have traveled to the U.S. on multiple occasions, have tried to reassure her that this is simply not the case, but she will not be consoled – the result of letting media create a deep seated fear inside her.
In other words, it’s all about perspective and understanding. Lack of understanding usually breads fear. Our Earth is home to seven billion equally precious people in the sight of God. It’s often humbling to travel and find that other people don’t have the “American Dream” – they have their own dreams according to their own upbringing and culture. Many Jordanians and Egyptians genuinely like Americans and can separate people from politics, but most of them would not trade passports with us.
The U.S. Department of State has a website dedicated to the safety of its citizens. Go to https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html and enter a country or area to see the latest travel warnings. However, I caution you to not dwell on these warnings or allow your well-meaning family to inhabit these types of reports either as too much obsessing can paralyze one with fear and prevent what can otherwise be the trip of a lifetime. Bob and I have personally taken La Sierra University and Andrews University students to both Jordan and Egypt on multiple occasions with great success. We have also take adult groups to these areas. While there is always a risk of an isolated event, in the end you will need to make the personal decision about international travel that does have some risks, but also benefits which are overwhelmingly the norm.
We want to reassure you that on our tour we will be working with the best of guides and will have armed escorts on our buses. We will be ready to alter the itinerary and make the necessary arrangement if an emergency was to happen, just like we would if we were taking a group to Italy or anywhere else. We also are constantly monitoring the state of affairs with our friends and tour companies in each of these countries. The Jordanians and especially the Egyptians are extremely conscientious about protecting their tourists. After all, we represent a huge chunk of revenue for their respective countries. They want to leave us with a good impression and will go to great lengths to accomplish this. Middle Easterners are notoriously hospitable and if you give culture the benefit of your open mind, you will reap huge rewards!
One of our goals for this tour is to not only introduce you to the actual settings where some of the most well loved biblical stories take place, but to also open the door to a different kind of Middle East that you will never see in the news. Be sure to download the handouts on our website (www.digtheadventure.com) that are found in the Travel Tips and Forms section. The Egypt and Jordan Cultural Guide, and Helpful Travel Tips deal with cultural and travel issues as they relate to the Middle East. Please do not hesitate to email us with any questions or concerns about the upcoming tour.
We hope that you take home not only pictures and souvenirs this May, but the glimmering cultural strands of Jordan and Egyptian that you can knit into your own life experience. The world is indeed a cultural thread shop, and we want you to weave the ultimate tapestry. Come, and dig the adventure…