Beautiful photos from the Middle East and musings on the future of travel

This photo of an abandoned plane in the Abu Dhabi desert feels a bit too close to home at the moment…

Screenshot 2020-04-02 at 13.29.47Instagram: @like_a_free

We’ve been umming and ahing about whether we should continue to content focused on travel in the Middle East and North Africa right now what with everything going on in the world. It feels out of touch somehow to be sharing pictures of beautiful places that no one can visit, particularly when people are dealing with something so scary and confusing. But after a lot of thought we decided that people still need reminding of what a beautiful place the world is, and of what’s waiting for us beyond our front doors when this is all over.

What we will try and do, though, over the coming months, is try and use this platform to encourage us all to reflect on what makes travel not only important to our own personal journeys, but also a tool for making the world a more connected, tolerant and peaceful place. During these strange times when we’re being forced to look inwards, I hope we’ll all be able to take the time to consider how we can continue to explore the world with greater consciousness and awareness of the impact – both positive and negative – that we have on the places we visit.

As usual, we’ll be sharing images of the stunning natural beauty of the Middle East, but with a greater focus on how we can and should protect and preserve it. We’ll be sharing aspects of the rich cultures of the region as a reminder of the responsibility we have to respect and learn about local traditions and customs when we visit a place. And of course, we’ll be sharing lots of inspiration – from recipes to books to home décor – to keep you feeling positive, inspired and creative during your time at home.

Below are a few of our favourite photos from the region this month, along with some musings on the issues currently facing the world and reflections on coping with isolation, the future of travel in the post-Corona era, sustainability, and how we can use the time to heal ourselves and the world.

And we’d love to hear from you! Has the current situation changed the way you think about travel? Does it make you want to explore more of the world, or stay at home with your loved ones? And how do you think travel and tourism will change after this is over? Leave a comment and share your thoughts on this fascinating, world-changing period we’re living through!

Strawberry Season – Marrakech

Strawberry season in MarrakechInstagram: @soukandco

This gorgeous photo was taken just a few weeks ago on the streets of Marrakech, celebrating the beginning of strawberry season. How quickly things have changed…

One positive development I’ve noticed as a result of the pandemic is that people seem to be buying a lot more local produce than before due to the empty supermarket shelves and the need to shop closer to home. This inevitably also means people are shopping seasonally as well, getting creative with what’s on offer from their local farmer or grocer in lieu of Mexican avocados and Peruvian blueberries.

It would be wonderful to see this continue in the post-corona era, as more and more people discover the joys of local shopping, conscious eating and creative cooking…

Agricultural Terraces – Southern Saudi Arabia

agriculture terraces, Saudi ArabiaInstagram: @sarhaniy

If you could visit one place in the world after Covid-19 is all over, where would it be? 🌍

For me, it would be southern Saudi Arabia. When I’m not writing for Pink Jinn, I’m working on my PhD, researching the Yemeni diaspora in the Arabian Peninsula. The southern-most provinces of Saudi share a lot of similarities with Yemen due to their geographical proximity, from the customs and culture of the local people to the spoken Arabic dialect and the topography of the land.

This photo shows the glorious green agricultural terraces that make parts of Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia perfect spots for agricultural production.

Coronavirus Cat – Fars, Iran

street cat iranInstagram: @m.rezaghaffari

Just chilling, walking the streets, admiring the street art, climbing walls, catching up with friends, chasing my tail in the middle of the road… Anybody else jealous of all the cats out there enjoying their freedom?

Frankincense

Omani frankincense wellness properties

FRANKINCENSE comes from the sap of the Boswellia tree, found mostly in Yemen and Oman ✨🌙

There are soooo many reasons to love this little resin, from its musky scent to its anti-ageing benefits and immune-boosting properties. It is also known to reduce stress and anxiety – which is why one of my favourite ways to use it at the moment is to diffuse the essential oil or pour a few drops into a hot bath.

I’m finding it’s the perfect antidote to the negative news cycles and cabin fever doing the rounds at the moment!

Sea Turtle – Som Bay, Egypt

sea turtle, Soma BayInstagram: @by_the_pear_tree

How gorgeous is this guy?! Spotted in Soma Bay, Egypt 🐢 It’s been amazing to read some of the stories in the news recently about the effects that social distancing and lockdowns are having on the environment, including huge drops in air pollution and CO2 emissions. It’s incredible to see something we thought was impossible just a few weeks ago happening so fast.

As tragic as the current situation is, it seems to be breathing new life into our natural environment. It’s encouraging me to look critically at my lifestyle and habits, and to think about the changes I can make going forward to help sustain this positive trajectory. I’m planning to do the following:

🍎 Buy more fresh, local, seasonal produce and less imported (and plastic-covered) food, and even try and grow some of my own!

🏠 Stay at home more… Ok, this might sound crazy right now, but the pandemic has shown many of us that we CAN do significant parts of our jobs from home – not to mention, I love working in my yoga leggings with a cosy cup of tea. And imagine the money we’d save on petrol and train tickets!

✈️ Travel less (I never thought I’d say that!) and more consciously. Like many of you adventurous souls, I can’t wait to get back to exploring far flung corners of the earth when this is over. However, I plan to take fewer trips and become even more aware of my impact on nature and local communities. Where possible, I’ll take longer trips to fewer places so I can better understand a country and its culture, making conscious choices to spend money on things that will benefit local people and the environment.

How has the pandemic made you reflect on your lifestyle and habits? What changes will you make going forward? Leave a comment and let us know. As sad as the current situation is, it’s wonderful that its sparking conversations like this about how we can be more responsible global citizens. 🌍

Our Lady of Lebanon – Harissa, Lebanon

our lady of lebanonInstagram: @ramirizk

Our Lady of Lebanon looking out over the still city of Jounieh, Lebanon. I wonder if she’s secretly enjoying the peace and quiet…

Moroccan Interiors Heaven

Moroccan interiors Instagram: @thesoukguide

What a blissful way to spend the day – atay (Moroccan tea), travel mag, slippers and a cosy Moroccan carpet. What are you doing to create your own zen while at home? I’m drinking tea and reading (currently an old issue of Architectural Digest Middle East, which is giving me serious Moroccan interiors inspo) ✨

Arabic Coffee – Salt, Jordan

Arabic coffee, JordanInstagram: @rawandaas

✨ SOCIAL DISTANCING ✨

As someone who works from home normally and lives in the middle of nowhere, in a way social distancing has actually made me MORE sociable than I was before Corona… It’s given me a reason to schedule virtual catch ups with friends, particularly those in different cities and countries who I haven’t seen in forever. Has anyone else found this? I’m loving this new ritual of calling a friend for a catch up over a cup of tea (or a glass of wine!) – and I don’t even have to put on makeup or leave my sofa! The hermit in me is so happy right now…

How are you guys dealing with being away from friends? Have you found it easy to keep in touch with people?

Wadi Dayqah, Oman

Wadi Dayqah, OmanInstagram: @simplytraveltales

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” – Rumi

✨ Stillness ✨ Despite everything going on at the moment, I love the idea that by staying home and slowing down, we’re giving the earth a chance to breathe and heal.

Books for days – Downtown Amman

books downtown AmmanInstagram: @MalloryBarney

This is what my living room currently looks like with all the books I was planning to read during #socialdistancing. What are you guys doing with the extra time at home? Do you have a quarantine reading list on the go?!

One of my favourite things to do is ask our community for reading recommendations (one of the reasons why my to-read pile is always so unrealistically high 🙈 because you ALWAYS come back with such great suggestions!!)… Comment below what you’re currently reading! 📚

House plants, Morocco

Cacti MoroccoInstagram: @soukandco

Whose house plants are keeping them happy and busy at the moment?! 🌵🌵🌵

I have always been USELESS at keeping plants alive, but I’m missing the beautiful colours and big fat cacti of Marrakech right now, so I’m thinking of bringing the Moroccan vibes back home and trying my luck with succulents… If you have any suggestions, please let us all know! I think we could all do with some happy house plants in our lives and homes right now. 🌻

Umm Kulthum, Dubai

Um Kulthum art DubaiInstagram: @mohammedalmaidoor

The Queen herself, Umm Kulthum, looking regal in this gorgeous pop art mural. Umm Kulthum was an Egyptian singer who mesmerised the region with her beautiful voice for decades. She’s an icon in Egypt and her musical legacy continues to live strong across the Middle East and North Africa.

What music are you listening to at home at the moment? I find music makes such a huge difference to my mood, so a few good playlists have really been getting me through these strange times. One of my favourites is a playlist called ‘Arabic Coffee’ on Spotify, which features many of the classics like Umm Kulthum and Fairuz.

If you want more Arabic music playlist recommendations, check out our list of 7 Arabic music playlists for every occasion!

Petra, Jordan

The Siq, Petra, JordanInstagram: @justkay

I always find it amazing to see pictures of places like Petra with only one person in them… It makes me think, how early did you have to get up, or how long did you have to wait for the crowds to disperse to get that shot?! Having said that though, this gorgeous picture accurately conveys the sense of wonder you feel when approaching the entrance to the magical Pink City.

Places like this, usually packed full of tourists, must be eerily quiet right now. I can’t help but think about the local tour guides, security guards, souvenir salesmen, coffee shop owners and hospitality workers who are totally dependent on the tourism industry for their livelihoods.

I can only hope that this downtime will give sites like Petra a chance to breathe. A chance for the ancient and environmental wonders of our world to rest, grow and flourish without people getting in the way. A chance for us all to reflect on their beauty and importance so we can ensure that, when this is all over, they are preserved and protected for future generations.

Date season – Socotra, Yemen

date season, Socotra, YemenInstagram: @amiraalsharif6618

The Yemeni island of Socotra is famous for being home to a number of unique and exotic plants and creatures. Yet aside from its array of natural curiosities, not a lot of fruits and vegetables are grown on the island to feed local people. Dates are one of the few exceptions.

Kayaking, Oman

kayaking omanInstagram: @nerii_xx

I can’t wait to get back to Oman’s jagged mountains and perfect, still waters. I feel like we’ll all appreciate our freedom so much more when this is all over – although I hope we’ll all appreciate home more too!

Jebel Shams, Oman

sunset Jebel Shams, OmanInstagram: @loewe7

Breath-taking sunset at the top of Jebel Shams, Oman. 🌙✨

As the world has ground to a halt because of the pandemic, many Muslims will be missing out on some of the more social and celebratory aspects of the upcoming Holy Month of Ramadan as countries remain on lockdown and families in isolation. But Ramadan is not just about big iftars and celebrations – at its core, Ramadan is a month of spirituality and reflection. And there’s something quite beautiful about the idea that so many of us around the world, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, are simultaneously engaging in this right now.

Whatever your religion, whether you celebrate Ramadan or not, what are you doing to get quiet at the moment? I always find taking a digital detox is one of the best things for me when I need get clear on my priorities and more connected to my sense of purpose. Even when we’re home alone with nothing much to do, if we’re constantly checking the news and social media, there’s still so much noise in our minds and it can be hard to find that stillness. I highly recommend trying a day (or more if you can) away from your phone, or from all technology if possible!

Knafeh

Palestine on a Plate knafehInstagram: @palestineonaplate

✨ COMFORT FOOD ✨

Everybody has their own Covid-19 coping mechanisms – Netflix, wine, chocolate, TikTok… Mine is definitely dessert.

At the heart of Palestinian cuisine is this beautiful gem of culinary mastery. The mother of all desserts – kunafeh. It’s one of the many things I’m missing about the Middle East at the moment. Has anybody tried making kunafeh at home?! Is it easy…? My cooking skills are definitively average, and I would never usually dare to experiment with something as sacred as kunafeh, but desperate times call for desperate measures…

(More) Moroccan Interiors

Moroccan interiorsInstagram: @elramlahamranl

✨ HOME is where the Berber carpets are… ✨

Beautiful Moroccan interiors for a little bit of home inspiration. I don’t know about you guys, but this is literally my dream living room! I am ALL about the quirky, colourful interiors that reflect my personality, travels, and experiences.

I hope you’re managing to enjoy your time at home and finding little ways to infuse your living space with comfort and life. ✨

Atay – Todra Gorge, Morocco

Moroccan tea, Todra GorgeInstagram: @annapurnauna

Atay (tea) stop in Todra Gorge, Morocco.

I’ve never visited this part of Morocco, but I have had similar tea at a Western Saharan friend’s house in the UK. She poured the strong, sweet tea from cup to cup over and over again until there was a thick froth on the top. Only then were we allowed to drink it.

I love the ritual of tea, which – although slightly different in every country I’ve visited – is something that seems to be constant across so much of the world. In the UK, I love how a strong cup of builders tea is seen as the cure for everything. In the Middle East and North Africa, tea is a cultural institution that’s at the core of social interactions. It’s something we can all share and appreciate across cultures.

Community Iftar – Manama, Bahrain

community iftar, Manama, BahrainInstagram: @mustafaa7

A Bahraini man preparing a community iftar (the meal eaten at sunset to break the fast) last Ramadan. It’s common for mosques and community centres in the Middle East to provide iftar for their communities, and particularly for poorer people who may not be able to afford the feasts that grace many tables across the region during the Holy Month. I wonder how these people are coping this year, as mosques remain closed and cities remain locked down due to the virus.

Whether or not you’re celebrating Ramadan this month, why not think about how you can help someone in your community, perhaps with a food delivery or just a friendly phone conversation with someone who’s on their own. Sometimes the smallest contributions can make the biggest difference – including to our own mental health and happiness when we help others!

 

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3 thoughts on “Beautiful photos from the Middle East and musings on the future of travel

  1. Shubham says:

    Wow, after reading this article, I am feeling in love with the culture and these beautiful places. I hope I could taste the Arabic coffee and could attend community iftar in Bahrain very soon this year.

    Liked by 1 person

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