Destination: Iraq

The World Hum Travel Zeitgeist: From Baghdad to Tom Sawyer Island

The Zeitgeist spans the globe this week, as travelers consider daredevil skiing, the world’s most dangerous city and changes to an old-media island.

Most E-Mailed Travel Story
New York Times (current)
For Daredevil Skiing, the Season Is Now
* It’s slush-time at Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire

Best Tourists in the World
Expedia Survey of European Hoteliers (current)
Japanese tourists
* And the worst: French tourists

Most Popular Travel Story
Netscape (this week)
One Day in the World’s Most Dangerous City
* A snapshot of a day in Baghdad from Spiegel Online

Most Viewed Travel Story
Los Angeles Times (current)
Landing of Airbus A380 jet at LAX should be huge
* Seriously? Talk about old news.

Most Read Weblog Post
World Hum (this week)
Disney’s Tom Sawyer Island: Too Old Media for 2007

Most E-Mailed Travel Story
USA Today (current)
Five hidden, affordable beach destinations
* No, Mexico City’s faux playa didn’t make the list

Most Popular Page Tagged Travel (recent)
* Promising “free and accurate airfare predictions”

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The Critics: ‘Bad Lands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil’

It’s not a new idea, visiting the countries U.S. President George W. Bush dubbed the “Axis of Evil.” Ben Anderson, for instance, did it several years ago, and the BBC broadcast several programs based on his travels. Now Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler has written “Bad Lands: A Tourist on the Axis of Evil,” in which he chronicles his travels through Bush’s original three “axis” countries—Iran, Iraq and North Korea—plus Afghanistan, Albania, Burma, Cuba, Libya and Saudi Arabia.

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The World Hum Travel Zeitgeist: The Explorers

Travelers appear top of mind this week, not destinations. The journeys of Daisann McLane, Bill Bryson, Paulina Porizkova, Martin Sargent, celebrity watchers and Dora the Explorer lead off the Zeitgeist.

Most Read Weblog Post
World Hum (this week)
Daisann McLane: ‘Learning Cantonese’ in Hong Kong

Most Popular Travel Podcast
iTunes (current)
Travel Song Medley by Dora the Explorer

Most Read Story
World Hum (this week)
Paulina Porizkova: A Model Traveler

Most Read Travel Story
USA Today (current)
Oscars Tourism: Celebrity Sightings and a Hotel Within Gawking Distance of the Red Carpet

Best Selling Travel Book (current)
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
* We like this book.

Most Popular Travel Story
Netscape (current) Launches

Most Popular Page Tagged Travel (recent)

Top Travel and Adventure Audiobook
iTunes (current)
A Walk in the Woods

Most Dugg Travel Podcast
Digg (current)
Martin Sargent: Web Drifter

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Iraq Kurdistan to Tourists: Don’t Confuse Us with the Rest of Iraq

I’m accustomed to seeing TV commercials promoting vacations in places like New Zealand and Canada. So when I saw the commercial on CNN the other day touting travel to Kurdistan, I thought, of course, Kurdistan? Today, the AP explains the commercial’s origins. It turns out a California firm helped make the commercial for the Kurdistan Development Corp.

Tags: Middle East, Iraq

‘We Will Not Be Silent’ T-Shirt Causes Stir at JFK*

Raed Jarrar says he was forced to remove a T-shirt with the words “We will not be silent” in both Arabic and English before boarding a Jet Blue flight from New York to California earlier this month. According to a BBC report, Jarrar was told “a number of passengers had complained about his T-shirt—apparently concerned at what the Arabic phrase meant—and asked him to remove it.” Jarrar first refused, then, according to his blog post about the incident, he wore a grey T-shirt with the words “New York” bought for him by a Jet Blue representative.

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Rory Stewart’s “The Prince of the Marshes”: Excerpts on Slate

All this week Slate is featuring excerpts from Rory Stewart’s new book The Prince of the Marshes, which focuses on his experiences as the Governor of Maysan province in southern Iraq. Stewart is also the author of the acclaimed The Places in Between, a chronicle of his walk across Afghanistan in 2002.

No. 26: “Baghdad Without a Map” by Tony Horwitz

To mark our five-year anniversary, we’re counting down the top 30 travel books of all time, adding a new title each day this month.
Published: 1991
Territory covered: The Middle East
The Middle East is a region that is constantly in the news, though amidst all the headlines and analysis coming from the area, it is rare that we ever learn about the lives of the people who dwell there. Published shortly after the beginning (and rapid end) of the first Gulf War, Baghdad Without a Map collects Horwitz’s dispatches from places like Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Sudan to paint a multi-faceted human face on a region that is too often obscured by crisis-driven news stories. Indeed, the reader can’t help but consider the contradictions of the Middle East when Horwitz chats with an Iranian protester who—in-between chants of “Death to America!”—claims that his dream has always been to visit Disneyland and “take my children on the tea-cup ride.”  Serious, funny and empathetic at the same time, Horwitz uses simple tales (shopping for a popular stimulant in Yemen, for instance, or attending a belly-dancing gig in Egypt) to introduce us to hospitable people whose lives are being shaped by old social forces (religion, politics, poverty) as well as new ones (modernity, media, globalization).

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Where’s Iraq?

Although we Americans are famously lacking in world geography knowledge, there has always been one surefire way we could learn a country’s place on the map: by attacking it, or at least intervening in its affairs. When that happens, our newspapers feature little regional maps with the country colored black, and our TV news shows offer up little glowing maps in the right-hand corner of our television screens. But now, sadly, even this extreme educational method is failing. Reports CNN: “After more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map, a study released Tuesday showed.”

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Tags: Middle East, Iraq

Tony Wheeler Goes to Iraq

While the Lonely Planet co-founder says one would “have to be crazy” to visit much of the country, he offers tips for visitors on his blog.

Tags: Middle East, Iraq

Dear Farris Hassan…

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ralph De La Cruz writes an open letter to the 16-year-old American journalism student who made headlines with his trip to Iraq last month. “I admire your spunk and can-do spirit,” De La Cruz writes. “Appreciate how eloquently you’ve spoken about the sacrifices the armed forces are making in Iraq, and about how guilty you feel diverting precious resources and putting people’s lives in danger on your lark. But I’m concerned you haven’t expressed the same respect for the profession that supposedly inspired you to take the trip.” (Via Romenesko.)

We’re Back, and So is Farris Hassan

Welcome back, Farris. The 16-year-old high school student, who had taken $1,800 his parents gave him to invest in the stock market and embarked on a solo trip to Iraq, returned home to Fort Lauderdale, Florida last night. It ended one of the most fascinating odysseys of 2005. Hassan took off for the Middle East on December 11, reportedly to research a school journalism project.

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Iraq: Danger Zone or Ideal Spot for a “Seven and a Half Star” Tourist Hotel?

Should Robert Young Pelton revise his list of no-go travel zones? Central Iraq, which he recently cited as the top spot on the planet to avoid visiting, has actually seen a rise in travelers, according to Kim Sengupta’s story in The Independent.

Steven Vincent RIP

It’s hard to imagine just how many writers—journalists, travel writers, poets—have been inspired by Jack Kerouac. It turns out that Steven Vincent, the 49-year-old American freelance journalist shot to death in Iraq on Tuesday, was one of them. The Boston Globe has published a touching AP story about the writer, who was apparently at work on a book about the port city of Basra when he was kidnapped and killed. According to the Globe, Vincent graduated from Berkeley with a bachelor’s degree in English. Afterward, in 1980, he hitchhiked to New York, “heeding the siren call of the big city—and my dream to become the next Jack Kerouac,” he once wrote in a bio.

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Fear and Lodging in Iraq

William Langewiesche writes about the Baghdad hotel where he is staying in the May issue of the Atlantic Monthly. The Ritz-Carlton it’s not. “The [neighborhood] guards come under fire from traffic on the boulevard, but this is considered to be minor stuff, which they answer by enthusiastically firing back,” he writes. “I can mention such details without concern for the consequences, because nearly everyone in Baghdad knows about this place already. Mortar rounds fly overhead destined for the fortified Green Zone, about a half mile away across the Tigris River, and several car bombs have exploded nearby (one recently with the force to blow out windows here), but so far no building in the compound has suffered a direct rocket attack.” A portion of the article is available online.

Saddam Hussein: Armchair Traveler?

Actually, his 10-foot-by-13-foot cell may not be furnished with an armchair, but deposed Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein does have access to a number of travel books, according to an Associated Press report published today. Saddam apparently spends much of his time in solitary confinement writing poetry and reading the Quran, but he has 145 books available to him—“mostly travel and novels—donated by the Red Cross,” according to the report. There’s no word on whether he is reading the travel books. But in case he is wondering which titles to crack, I thought I would offer some suggestions. 

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