The Middle East & North Africa Lockdown Diaries: Turkey – Lauren Keith

With Covid-19 causing chaos throughout the world, we decided to conduct a series of interviews with people across the Middle East and North Africa to try to understand how the effects are being felt across the region.

We’ve spoken to people across various countries and industries from journalism, education and tourism to digital marketing, social entrepreneurship, wellness and arts. Here are their reflections on this ground-breaking time for the region and the world.


Lauren Keith – Travel Writer & Digital Nomad

Lauren Keith is a freelance travel writer, guidebook author and digital nomad from the US who regularly contributes to various publications including Lonely Planet, the Independent and Culture Trip. Her work as Middle East editor for Lonely Planet saw her traverse the region, from the southernmost tip of Spain where the traces of the Islamic empire are still visible to the stunning mosques of Isfahan in the east. Lauren is currently locked down in Istanbul.

Middle East travel writer

Whereabouts in the world are you, and what’s changed about your life and work as a result of Coronavirus?

I’m currently stuck in Istanbul, Turkey, where I’ve been side-lined for almost two months. I’m a freelance travel writer who specialises in the Middle East and North Africa, and I’m also a digital nomad, so I’ve been roaming around the world since September, but the coronavirus has stopped me in my tracks both personally and professionally. Work has completely dried up for the moment, so the days have been slow, blurred together and challenging. I’m looking at returning to London soon, which was home before I sold everything and said goodbye just eight months ago.

How is the pandemic playing out in Turkey?

It’s been strange to be in Turkey right now as an outsider, as someone who doesn’t live or work here. Turkey currently has the 8th highest number of confirmed cases in the world, and the country has taken some interesting measures that I haven’t heard happening elsewhere.

Coronavirus Turkey Istanbul lockdownDisinfecting Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (image: Al Jazeera)

For several weeks, those under 20 and over 65 have not been allowed to leave their homes. A complete weekend lockdown was implemented – the first weekend with just an hour’s notice so fights broke out in supermarkets are people rushed to get supplies for the days ahead – meaning that no one can leave home on Saturdays and Sundays, and some weeks this has been extended from Thursday to Sunday. We just heard yesterday that restrictions will begin to ease from Monday: hair salons, shopping malls and some shops will reopen, and those in the restricted age groups will be allowed outside for four hours, one day per week.

How are you spending your time in lockdown? Are you working on anything in particular you’d like people to know about?

I’m used to constantly being on the go, always looking for the next project and the next adventure. Now I’m forced to slow down, sit and think. It’s tough. I’ve tried to mentally rebel against it for weeks, with thoughts of ‘I’m not being productive!’ clouding my mind. I’m slowly – very slowly! – learning to sit still, be quiet, listen and understand.

Saudi Arabia travel writer

What knowledge or wisdom do you hope people will take away from this time?

We’ve seen just how interconnected the world is, in both good ways and bad, and I hope we keep in mind the effect that we have on each other and our planet going forward.

What 3 words best describe your personal experience of the pandemic?

Where is home?

To follow Lauren’s lockdown experience (and when this is all over, her adventures around the world), follow her on Instagram!


How has your life changed as a result of the lockdown? We’d love to hear your reflections on the situation where you are. Leave a comment and share your experience of this strange time that’s simultaneously keeping us apart and bringing us closer together.


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