On May 5, 2008, I, and my heterolife partner, Lindsay, set off on an epic (ok, maybe not epic, but definitely exciting) trip through various countries of North Africa and the Middle East with nothing but a few guidebooks, a couple of rucksacks, and some advice from friends. (Oh yeah we had a little bit of cash and passports and whatnot).
Now, Lindsay and I met the summer preceding my junior and her sophomore year of high school on the first day of tennis camp. We were those two, you know, the ones who were on the team but were sadly the suckiest players there. But we got along, found ourselves ridiculously funny, are both completely socially awkward, and thus have become good friends… even if we spoke to each other maybe once every six months and saw each other only when Lindsay came to my house for Thanksgiving. Or when I needed a ride to the airport.
Ten years later… we decided to embark on this two month trip that would take us through Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait–otherwise known as “the safe countries” of the Middle East. So what will make this trip more amazing than other trips of this nature? We’re going to couchsurf (nearly) the entire way! What is CouchSurfing? No, we don’t use living room furniture as a means of conveyance across bodies of water; we sleep on people’s couches, beds, floors, whatever they are willing to offer, in return for good company, and possibly a come cooked meal. So at this point, we’ve only got hostels booked in Spain, and that’s it. The rest, we’re playing by ear. And by emails via the CouchSurfing website.
Before we set off on this trip, however, and even while on it, the one question we kept getting was, “Why are you going to the Middle East?” So here were my reasons for going on this trip, cause sometimes people didn’t really like the answer “Um… cause I felt like it?”
- I’d been promising my friend Deena for about two years that I’d visit her in Kuwait…
- If I was going to go to Kuwait, I had to visit some surrounding countries, cause damn, flights are expensive!
- “Morocco” just sounds cool.
- Penny Lane leaves for Morocco at the end of Almost Famous
And my more diplomatic answer: Since my knowledge of the Middle East is limited to what I’ve learned in literature and film (in translation mostly) and Arabic language classes (which is still kind of expansive compared to what many Americans are exposed to–thanks to our lovely politicians and media sources), I am embarking on a journey to expand my understanding of this often exoticized and maligned culture.
Anne’s Questions for When She’s Traveling
- What is the status of women in these countries? Are women really second-class citizens? Or are they protected? What’s up? How does everyone feel about the queen of Jordan?
- How do they view Americans? If they hate us, why does my friend Mohammed, a CouchSurfer in Morocco, want an American flag?
- How will having lived through hot, hot Temecula summers prepare me for the 100+ degree heat of the Middle East?
- How worse can my allergies get with those crazy sandstorms in Kuwait?
- How do people REALLY feel about Nawa El Sadawi’s “Woman at Point Zero” in Egypt now? Is she really public enemy number one for very western her feminist views?
- Do headscarves come in cooler colors and patterns than just black?
- Does Bath & Body Works Moonlight Path really ward off mosquitoes? Or is Lindsay on crack? Will I just be wandering the Middle East smelling like an old lady while scratching my mosquito bites?
Lindsay’s Questions for When She’s Traveling
- What does the term “Africa Hot” really mean?
- Does the phrase “BFE” (Butt Fucking Egypt) hold any truth?
- Will re-enacting lines from Casablanca as we fly out be as cheesy as the movie? (“Here’s looking at you kid”).
- Do they sell Air Jordan shoes in Jordan?
- Could I sweat any more from any other part of my body?
- Do you think this food cart has a restaurant grade posted somewhere?
- Can I part the Red Sea like my man Moses?
- Will SPF 50 save me from skin cancer? (may not be able to report back on for a few decades)
- Can I out drink a camel at a water drinking contest?
- What is the going rate for a private island in Dubai? Can the purchase be charged to a credit card or cash only or travelers check?
- What is the going rate for a gallon of 87,89, and 91 octane in Kuwait?
- What’s the big deal about West Nile virus? Are those mosquito bites or are you the extremely rare person that gets chicken pox twice in life?
After reading my questions my friend Denise also contributed a few of her own:
- Will gas be cheaper in Kuwait? It’s closer to the source of the oil, right?
- Are you in denial when you are on deNile?
- Is The Office just as funny in Arabic as it is in English?
So, with all that settled (sort of)… there was only thing left to do, set off!
Now for any of you who missed me, and want to know what I’m experiencing on my trip, here are a few music videos that will make you all jealous with how glamorous and sexy my life will be in the Middle East over the next nine weeks… And which are not at all representative of how life is in the Middle East. Except maybe in Lebanon. Or maybe Jordan. Or the UAE…