One of the main visions of the Arabian Expedition is to build a bridge of understanding between the West and the Muslim East and within the Arab countries themselves. No matter how one look upon things, this is one of the major problems that the world is facing today. There´s an enormous need for information, education and clear debate on both sides. One of our major hopes regarding this upcoming Expedition, of which 50% is Arab, Salim and Nasr, and the rest made up of me and Pamela, who is Asian-American, is to communicate via the Internet every third day, where debate will be one of the most important issues. We need to communicate. If this is possible, to create a forum for debate just like we wish, we don´t know yet.
The reason I bring this very exiting and important issue up in this report is due to this email that I received yesterday:
Know that the Bani Hasan tribe has been undertaking camel treks out of Yemen across Africa for centuries – guess that’s already been “explored” (without GPS receivers and sat-phones).
I’ve lived in Yemen for a while now and you are like every dick head tourist I’ve seen coming through here, donning local clothes and a jambiya (you know the locals laugh at foreigners doing that, right?), giving yourself a local name (priceless) and blogging about the place like you discovered it.
However, you stand apart in your unfailing ability to aggrandise yourself for doing what is otherwise standard adventure tourism. You’re no more of an explorer than the 1000th Yemeni traveling through Sweden can claim he is exploring stockholm.
Why not explore the mind of the self-important ethnocentric tourist? You’ve got a head start.
amelahodalt (this person did leave his or hers email, but no name)
During my 25 years of exploration, I have never, ever received an email as offensive and full of bitterness, jealousy and hatred as this one. I am sorry to, once again, find out that so many people feel bad in this world of ours and use so much of their joy to live to pour out their hate and bitterness for something they disagree with. I have received tons of letters, emails, phone calls throughout the years and I have been stopped in the street many times by people who disagree with what I do, who I am and how I see life. Of course, I wish everybody would love me, but that is definitely not the case! But I accept all kinds of critique. It is part of any life where you have personal opinions.
However, to be able to have a debate about anything in life, opinions have to be free and many. Within a limit. Offensive emails like this one, based on hatred, jealousy and bitterness, leads nowhere. But there are, after all no smoke without fire, and some of these issues this person highlights comes up a lot in my sphere, what is an explorer and what is true exploration, so I will start a debate by answering this persons accusations. Feel relatively free to come with opinions, but since I moderate everything, because I on and off get these type of emails, I will not allow more emails like this one, which is free of any reason, good research and thought.
About the Beni Hassan tribe, like the more well-known Beni Hilal tribe, and other Arabs who have traveled both ways, to and from Mecca, this is true, but there´s absolutely no written records that a full east to west trip has been done without a prolonged break. Especially not in modern times. However, one of the main ideas with the Expedition, is to highlight the Arabs as great travellers and their amazing journeys. One of them is the well-known Ibn Battuta. And that is why 50% of the members are Arab, so that they can become modern day Ibn Battutas and give the Arab world a voice from the exploration point.
When it comes to satellite phones and GPS, it shows that you have no idea about my past history of exploration, feel free to read this. I have never, ever used a GPS and never will. However when it comes to satellite phones, I did have it on the Siberian Expedition and will have bring one on the upcoming Expedition. This is due to the need to communicate via Internet. Plus that authorities nowadays won´t let you into the country without one. It is considered another measure of security. But, I will never, ever, use the satellite phone to call for help or assistance. It hasn´t happened and it never will.
When it comes to donning local dress, I agree fully with you. This is the first time in my life, that I have put on local dress, and I agree with your assessment. The reason is as follows: I was given it as a gift from Pamela and our two friends Mohammed and Hussein, to wear for one day. From which all photos are taken. I felt very uncomfortable, but realized that there were many in the souk who actually felt honored and liked it that I wore there local Sanaani dress. But that was the only time. But, it could well happen again in the future. Once again, I wish you would have done your home work better. This is the thing with blind hate, jealousy and bitterness, it works over reason and research. Better to do something with your own life in stead. Enjoy it. Do it in a way you think is appropriate. Write about it. Because communication is the most important issue for a stable future for the globe.
The giving of the name Ahmed Al-Hamdani was the same evening. It was Hussein and Mohammed who gave it to me. As a sign of their respect. For what I don´t know. However, many western tourists, adventure travelers and explorers have been given names whether they like it or not. Two well known ones are Wyman Bury and Wilfried Thesiger. I have been given local names, whether I like it or not, meeting other people, tribes, like the maasai. I was throughout my Expedition there called Olorogwa, which means the fiery one. Local names are always given by local people as a sign of respect and appreciation. Maybe that is why you have never experienced this.
When it comes to my love of writing, well, I will always write as I have just discovered a place! For me, I do discover all the time and for me it is a new discovery. It is about loving life. I really love life! And whether you like it or not, I have a following of readers globally who wants me to write the way I do. And its people. If you don´t like my writing, why bother reading it?
That last paragraph reeks of jealousy. I won´t even comment it.
To sum it all up, I see you love Yemen and the Yemenis, which I do as well and you have come across a lot of tourists and travelers that you don´t like. I am sorry to hear that. Why don´t you start a blog and write about your feelings? Find a solution to your anger?
Yemen was one of the highlights of my life in many ways. See the slide show from there!
Since Pamela and myself together with Salim and Nasr will face the upcoming debate together, Pamela, who is an academic look upon the email like this and will leave her comment as a comment! Start the debate!
© Copyright 2013 Explorer Mikael Strandberg | Photos and texts Copyright Explorer Mikael Strandberg