When considering what to include in this category I had to ask myself what countries actually comprise the Middle East? Certainly, Israel and the surrounding Arab nations, but what about Turkey?
A quick scan of Wikipedia confirms that Turkey is indeed part of the ‘Middle East’, even though a small portion of the country sits on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait, which separates Europe from Asia. The Bosphorus runs through the center of Istanbul, a city that certainly feels more European than Middle Eastern. The bulk of Turkey’s land mass, however, occupies the westernmost peninsula of Asia, what was commonly known as ‘Asia Minor.’
From this standpoint then, Turkey seems a proper fit for the Middle East so I’ve included it in this category.
The Middle East has, unfortunately, become freighted with negative associations. Terrorism, failed states, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Syrian civil war, Isis—all are facts of life in the Middle East. What’s often overlooked is that there are many places in this vast geographic region that are NOT embroiled in tumult. Turkey is one that I visited recently.
And yes, Istanbul and Ankara have had terrorist bombings, but, they are hardly a daily occurrence. Turkey’s vast interior is endlessly fascinating and quite peaceful.
Israel and Jordan share a border and are relative oases of calm in the region. Despite the current political stalemate in Israel that’s put the peace process with the Palestinians on hold, it remains one of the safest and most interesting countries in the region. In my blog I try to elaborate on why I think tourism is, in itself, an underrated element of enhancing chances for a future peace between Israelis and Palestinians.