Movies on a ship

Movies on a ship

I never liked that whole thing of bringing your music along. It can be funny, listening to James Brown while driving through the Jordanian desert, but I always thought it was a con. You’re just giving yourself a bogus lifeline in the turmoil of travel, setting one movie in your head against another, like they’re…

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Jordan Pass – don’t pass on it

Yesterday – oddly, yesterday in the late evening, Jordan time – I spotted, by chance, this Facebook status by Adel Amin, director of marketing at the Jordan Tourism Board. It announced the Jordan Pass, a unified ticket for many of Jordan’s historical sites that is an attempt to help revive the country’s desperately struggling tourist trade. Looking…

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The churches of Dubai

The churches of Dubai

When I knew I would be stopping over in Dubai on a recent trip, I began casting around for story ideas. I wouldn’t be there long. Food? No, kind of done it. Old Dubai? Well, maybe, but what, on a short trip? I’d never yet made it to the Hindu temple which I knew stood…

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Halley. Back to the desert.

Halley. Back to the desert.

I’m going back to the desert. The cold desert. This was the tweet that started it all, one evening back in November 2013: @matthewteller Forget the cold. It'll melt your heart. — Peter Gibbs (@PeterG_Weather) November 23, 2013 I recognised Peter Gibbs from the telly – he is one of the BBC’s weather presenters – but we’d only…

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Jordan visa changes – update

A brief update to my post yesterday on Jordan’s visa changes. The Minister of Tourism, Nayef Al Fayez, tweeted me shortly after I posted to say the changes will come into effect between this month (May) and September 2015: Thank you @matthewteller some will come into effect this month and all by September. And there will…

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Jordan changes visa regulations

Jordan changes visa regulations

Yesterday (May 4th, 2015) Jordan announced it was changing regulations surrounding tourist visas and taxes. On the face of it, this is very welcome – Jordanian tourism is in a terrible state, and Jordanians are suffering because of it. However, the changes raise some questions, which as yet remain unanswered. Here is a link to the…

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To Antarctica

To Antarctica

Few journeys are truly life-changing, whatever we say. This one was. . Please click on the link below to read (PDF – 3MB download). Matthew Teller: Antarctica for High Life © Matthew Teller, as published in High Life, October 2014. . . .

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BBC stories: hot (Doha) and cold (Antarctica)

BBC stories: hot (Doha) and cold (Antarctica)

A couple of my stories went out on the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent programme this summer. First – a hot place. My story from Doha looked at how sudden extreme wealth hasn’t necessarily been a wholly positive experience for Qatar and Qataris. Radio 4 audio here starts 17’27” (a slightly edited version went out on World Service…

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Stories from Qatar

Stories from Qatar

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be in Qatar, on assignment for the British Airways inflight magazine High Life. It was for an idea I’d pitched to them, trying to give a bit of insider perspective to the way Doha is usually covered in the Western media – which tends to be either PR-driven…

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New unique tour of Jordan

I’m really delighted to announce my latest venture, a unique tour of Jordan, led by yours truly and promoted via the Daily Telegraph here in the UK. Click the links for more. It’s all pretty self-explanatory, and there is full extra detail and the complete itinerary on the Mosaic Holidays site (they are the ones handling bookings – apologies…

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Amman’s new hotel

Amman’s new hotel

This week saw the launch of what is being touted as the first new hotel in Downtown Amman since 1927 – the Art Hotel. Can that claim be true? I guess it depends how you define a hotel (as opposed, perhaps, to a hostel). The Art Hotel is calling itself three stars – which would…

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Jordan visa fees rise for 2014

I’ve had it confirmed to me from several independent sources today (March 31 2014) that Jordan’s government has decided to double the cost of a tourist visa to enter Jordan with immediate effect – from 20JD to the new price of 40JD (which equates to £35 or US$60). The new, higher rate applies from tomorrow, April…

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Travel in southern Iraq

Travel in southern Iraq

Géraldine Chatelard, a friend from Jordan, sent me a write-up of her recent visit to southern Iraq. She has kindly allowed me to reproduce parts of it here, with her own photos. Names have been removed or altered and I have skipped over some parts that could identify people who might not wish to be identified. Géraldine…

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EasyJet drops Amman, favours Tel Aviv

EasyJet drops Amman, favours Tel Aviv

EasyJet is pulling out of the Jordanian capital Amman. The route, which launched in March 2011 with flights from London Gatwick, will be withdrawn in May 2014, with the last flight departing Amman on Sunday 4th May. It was the only route easyJet maintained to Jordan. UPDATE: Venture, a Jordanian business magazine, covers the story…

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The beauty of ice

The beauty of ice

I was blind. Alone. Before I started I knew it might be bad. People were saying the buses weren’t running. When the bus drivers can’t make it, it’s bad. Petra is high. But every road out of Petra is up. To the north and to the east, you have to climb to the crest of…

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The Round Trip

The Round Trip

I’m not sure when I first read Yuval Ben-Ami‘s travel writing. It was almost certainly on a recommendation from my friend Lisa Goldman, who I met one motor-mouthed evening at a pavement café in a mildly hipster part of Tel Aviv during the pre-hipster autumn of 2009. I was there to research this story for the…

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CNN, Anthony Bourdain and me

CNN, Anthony Bourdain and me

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain launched the new series of his ‘Parts Unknown’ travel cookery show on CNN this week with an episode titled ‘Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza’. You can watch it here: It’s had pretty positive reviews. The Washington Post thought it was “so good“. The Open Zion blog called it “groundbreaking reporting“. Amer Zahr,…

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CNN’s Israel-Palestine travel intro

See backstory here. . 10 Things To Know Before Visiting Israel and Palestine (original) By Matthew Teller – my original below, CNN’s version here . The Holy Land makes for inspiring, depressing, fascinating, confusing travel. To some, the chunk of territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is all Israel. To others, it’s all…

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Airline timetables online

Airline timetables online

Inspired by this fine post on the Travel Lists blog by Alastair McKenzie, bemoaning the apparent demise of the route map on airline websites – at which point, a hat-tip to David Whitley at Grumpy Traveller for his own immortal homage to KLM’s map (click to enlarge) – here’s an extra plea. Timetables (or, if…

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Hope Floats – a cruise up the Nile

Hope Floats – a cruise up the Nile

“Hope Floats” is the title Wanderlust have given to my article about the revived ‘long cruise’ along the Nile between Cairo and Luxor, published in the current issue (July/Aug 2013). I’m posting the text below – but they’ve done a beautiful job on layout, with lots of striking images, spread over 12 pages. Here’s a…

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Discontent on the Nile

Discontent on the Nile

On the back of my recent visit to Egypt, BBC radio’s From Our Own Correspondent programme recently ran a piece I wrote from Minya, a town in Middle Egypt newly opening up to foreign tourism. Click here to listen to the audio from BBC Radio 4, or click here to download the podcast (MP3 file: 13MB),…

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New flights to Jordan (from the UK)

I know this looks like link promotion, or a hamfisted attempt at DIY SEO, but it’s really not – there have just been some recent innovations on flights to Jordan from the UK, which I thought I’d highlight. Nothing in this post earns me a penny. For years, two aspects of air travel from the…

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Watching the watchers

Watching the watchers

I just got back from a cruise up the Nile in Egypt. These have long been a common tourist fixture in the south, between Luxor and Aswan, but it’s been almost twenty years since cruise ships have been seen in Middle Egypt, between Cairo and Luxor. So when people on the banks caught sight of…

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Is Egypt safe for tourists?

Is Egypt safe for tourists?

[UPDATE – 3 July 2013: Since May, when I wrote this post, the situation in Egypt has changed for the worse. However, I’m not providing updated info on this page. Read on for a general overview of travel safety in Egypt, but also follow the news, ask travel companies and check your governmental travel advisory…

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End of the “Israeli stamps” issue?

End of the “Israeli stamps” issue?

For years, Israeli passport stamps have bedevilled “Western” tourists visiting the Middle East. It seems, though, that a new Israeli policy – apparently only just launched – could signal more freedom (for some) to move around the region. [NOTE: All of this applies only to holders of “Western” passports who are exempt from applying for…

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First hotel for Jordanian town

First hotel for Jordanian town

This overly optimistic local news piece from Jordan last December – based on this press release – seems to have been accurate. Jordan’s Arabic papers are reporting today that the lovely old Ottoman town of Salt, west of Amman, is about to get its first-ever hotel. This can only be good. Anything that draws visitors…

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Journey to the mountain

Journey to the mountain

Even now, weeks later, I’m not sure why I cried. The tears were flowing before I reached the summit: I remember looking up into the blurry blue. I also remember, further back down the trail, when the old, familiar voices started to sing to me about weakness and tiredness and failure – but even then…

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A short flight between worlds

A short flight between worlds

A travel story with pictures – shot on a veteran iPhone 3GS (sorry for the dimness). I was recently in Amman, and had to visit people in Tel Aviv. I used the bus to cross westwards but then, for complicated reasons, shelled out for the short flight back. It’s absurdly expensive – about 100km (60…

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A tourism revolution

A tourism revolution

Last weekend I was invited to speak at Destinations, an annual consumer-facing travel show in London. My subject was “Reshaping Middle East tourism” and, gratifyingly, if rather amazingly, something like 100 people came to listen – a vote of confidence in the idea of going on holiday to the Middle East, at a time when…

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“Satan stays away”

“Satan stays away”

Had a wonderful return visit to Dhofar in southern Oman a couple of months ago, on assignment for the Times, who wanted a frankincense story for their pre-Christmas travel pages. I happily obliged. Here’s the link – but it’s behind a paywall, so in case you’re not a Times subscriber I’ve pasted the text in…

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Speaking notes from #tbcamp12

Last night I spoke at TravelBlogCamp #tbcamp12 in London on the theme of ‘Back To Basics’, examining some ideas to help us all reconnect with the reasons why we write about travel. It seems I split the room, deeply annoying some people, and deeply inspiring others. For what it’s worth, here are my speaking notes, as…

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Egypt: a response to Arthur Frommer

Arthur Frommer, founder of Frommer’s Travel Guides, has posted a short blog advising US citizens not to visit Egypt, because of – for want of a better name – the embassy riots. He says “the government of Egypt’s President Mohammad Morsi has whipped up anti-American sentiments among the Egyptian population” and has been “silent” on…

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Why a rough guide is better than none

First, the campaigning political journalist Nick Cohen decided to lay into Lonely Planet for their supposedly expedient politics. So I wrote this response, explaining why Cohen is wrong. Next stop: Michael C. Moynihan for this desperately muddled libertarian froth. Jason Clampet already had a go. Wish me luck. Better still, anyone else like to step in? UPDATES (24/08/2012): UPDATE 1:…

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How to kill a brand

How to kill a brand

Google has bought Frommers. That rang a bell: an industry insider told me recently that Penguin quietly tried to sell Rough Guides to Frommers a couple of years ago, but “wanted too much” for it. Ho-hum. Travel publishing is in a really tricky place. Now I’m not an industry analyst, and I’m not in travel…

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Flag carrier

Flag carrier

A couple of months late (sorry about that), here’s news of the latest Middle East aviation start-up – or perhaps that should be restart-up. After many years of inaction, Palestinian Airlines have begun flying again – just one route for now, linking the West Bank and Gaza. However, since neither territory has a functioning airport,…

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Overguiding: notes from a gilded cage

Overguiding: notes from a gilded cage

Digital was supposed to liberate travel. Once, travel was about putting yourself out there. You went to a new place, and you figured stuff out. You got things wrong. You paid too much. Maybe you carried a guidebook – but they were sketchy at best. Hand-drawn maps. Skimpy on the detail (the 1987 Lonely Planet…

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Independent travel in Israel

Independent travel in Israel

After my piece on independent travel in Palestine, published last month in Wanderlust (UK), here is my follow-up article on Israel. You can click on each page to see a close-up version. I meant the two articles to be read in tandem, and I tried as best I could to match experiences in both places…

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Social media and the Holy City

Social media and the Holy City

In case you still think Twitter is just a bunch of narcissists discussing what they had for breakfast, a couple of months ago, while tweeting about pitching to editors, I got a public reply from Jane Knight, travel editor at the Times, asking why I never pitched to her anymore. Laziness? I um’d and ah’d…

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Independent travel in Palestine

Independent travel in Palestine

I was lucky enough, last year, to be asked by Wanderlust magazine here in the UK to write two features for them on independent travel in the Middle East – one on Palestine, the other on Israel. The Palestine one has just been published; here it is, scanned from the printed pages. The Israel one…

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Power and responsibility

Power and responsibility

There’s a firestorm over on David Whitley’s industry-leading travel blog Grumpy Traveller, where he savages bloggers involved in the ongoing Visit Jordan social media campaign that’s been running all year (2011). David’s post is here, but also read the comments – they’re a fascinating glimpse into the travel blogging mindset. After what I wrote there, Nathan…

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Gospel truth

Gospel truth

Here’s a story of David and Goliath. In 2007 and 2008, US outdoor adventure specialist David Landis and Israeli tourism entrepreneur Maoz Inon developed the Jesus Trail, a 65km walking route linking Nazareth – the town where Jesus grew up – to sites of pilgrimage around the Sea of Galilee. David and Maoz, with David’s…

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Green green grass

Green green grass

Pioneering guidebook writers Di Taylor and Tony Howard have done it again. After their amazing work over almost thirty years in the Wadi Rum deserts of southern Jordan, and their expertise trailfinding long-distance paths in Palestine – and Tony’s record-breaking conquest of the Troll Wall, Europe’s tallest rock face, back in ’65 – plus countless more achievements…

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Room at the inn

Room at the inn

A word of congratulation for the wonderful Fauzi Azar Inn, a guesthouse in the Old City of Nazareth, in northern Israel. Already lauded by every guidebook out there (Lonely Planet author pick: “One of the highlights of a stay in the region.” Bradt: “By far the best midrange option in town.” Jesus Trail: “The perfect base…Best budget…

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Tears of a stranger

Tears of a stranger

She was shaking. I thought she was cold. It was less than half an hour before sunset. I’d already snapped a picture or two of the group of girls mooching about the old Roman theatre at Sebastia. The incomparably knowledgeable and insightful George Rishmawi had been guiding non-stop since breakfast time at the other end…

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Get on the bus

Get on the bus

News via Alternative Egypt of an interesting little tourism start-up on Egypt’s south Sinai coast – the Bedouin Bus, run by a small group of community entrepreneurs who’ve clearly put their heads together, done some thinking and are ready to fulfil a need among their existing clients (both tourists and, intriguingly, locals) for decent, reliable…

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News from the edge

News from the edge

A mini-roundup of some interesting news from the fringes of Middle East tourism. Iraq An interesting story by Gulf News mentions more than a million visitors a year to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, with the authorities targeting a Dubai-style five million by 2015. My favourite line? “The recent surge in arrivals is…

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Jordan off-off the beaten track

Jordan off-off the beaten track

Here’s a conceited bit of blogging for you. I just saw this post at WorldNomads.com, written by Megan Czisz, about going “off the beaten path” (or track!) in Jordan. Megan defines this as Amman, roast chicken, the King’s Highway, Dana, Petra and Wadi Rum. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it is kinda remarkable how the…

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Syria: the only way is up

Syria: the only way is up

Journalist Tom Gara recently wrote this article (registration required) for FT Tilt – a short piece which takes info from a blog post by Syria analyst Joshua Landis, which in turn digests 2008 figures from the Syrian Central Bureau of Statistics. In summary: • Syria’s entire hotel industry employs just 11,224 people. This represents 0.05% of the Syrian population of 22.5 million. Even…

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Wadi Rum gains World Heritage status

Wadi Rum gains World Heritage status

On 25 June, UNESCO announced that Wadi Rum, a protected area of desert in southern Jordan, had been added to the list of World Heritage Sites for both its natural drama and cultural significance. For Rum background, click here, here, here and here. Few outsiders know Wadi Rum as well as British climbers Tony Howard and Di Taylor. Since their first visit 27…

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Some Riyadh visuals

Some Riyadh visuals

Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, is famous (among other things) for two skyscrapers. The best-known is the Kingdom Tower, also known as the Potato Peeler – or the Vest – for, well, obvious visual reasons. It holds offices, malls, apartments, a hotel and a fancy restaurant at the top. People like to use it…

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Last Out, First In

Last Out, First In

Five weeks since I blogged. It’s a new world. Tunisia was amazing. Egypt is astounding. Bahrain boggles the imagination. Libya is off the scale. At the time of writing, none of those 4 revolutions is resolved. And there is also Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, even – staggeringly – Syria. Of a different character, but no less…

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From Black to Red

From Black to Red

Last week the Jordan Times reported that the tourism ministers of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey were proposing a common tourist visa valid across all four countries. From the Black Sea to the Red Sea, from Istanbul to Damascus, and from Ephesus to Baalbek to Palmyra to Petra, one visa would fit all. A great…

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easyJet opens up Jordan

easyJet opens up Jordan

After last week’s news about the swingeing increases in Jordan’s visa fees for independent travellers comes the startling announcement that easyJet – Europe’s second-largest low-cost airline – is launching flights to Jordan, starting on 27 March 2011. easyJet is intending to operate three flights a week from London Gatwick to Amman’s Queen Alia airport, with…

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Jordan decides to deter individuals

Jordan decides to deter individuals

From 1st January 2011, visa fees to enter Jordan as an individual traveller will go up. At the time of writing only the Jordanian Embassy in Australia has publicly posted this information officially; no doubt more will follow. The cost of a single-entry visa is doubling to 20JD (or US$30 equivalent; roughly £19). A new…

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Oman Air: “the challenge of being first”

Oman Air: “the challenge of being first”

Oman Air is quietly working wonders. From a standing start in 2007, when Oman pulled out of the then-multicountry Gulf Air to focus on developing its own national carrier, the airline has gained a reputation for excellence, even while facing down competition from the ‘big three’ Gulf carriers, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways. Peter Hill,…

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Sixteen times round the world

Sixteen times round the world

I had the privilege last weekend to meet Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News and a legendary figure in travel journalism. I was in Jordan and he’d stopped in for a couple of days – he did outline his week at one point: it ran something like Tokyo, New York, Amman, Mexico City, Los…

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Walking the line

Walking the line

Catching up after six busy weeks – and I just wanted to write a short post, to follow up my previous posts on walking in Jordan and Turkey, to talk about the Jesus Trail, a linked series of walks through northern Israel. The walk has been developed by Anna Dintaman and David Landis – lovely…

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On the sofa

On the sofa

Plenty to blog about – no time to do it. In the meantime, make yourself a cuppa, put your feet up and have a giggle at me on the daytime TV sofa, talking about how wonderful Jordan is – David Symes of the Jordan Tourism Board in the UK recently commissioned a web TV show…

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Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions

Another bad news story out of Dubai – a British woman goes into a shopping mall wearing a low-cut top; an Emirati woman objects; in response the British woman strips down to her bikini and carries on walking through the mall; is arrested for indecency, then released, with all charges dropped. A tide of follow-up…

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Wee shall overcome

Wee shall overcome

US airline Spirit Airlines has announced it will charge passengers who want to carry bags onto its aircraft that won’t fit under the seat in front $45 for use of the overhead bins ($30 if they pay in advance). Irish airline Ryanair has announced that it is pressing ahead with its plan to remove two of…

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Please take off your glasses

Please take off your glasses

In Britain, if you renew your passport within nine months of its expiry, they’ll add that extra time onto your allotted ten-year validity. My passport was due to expire this December, so I applied for a renewal a couple of weeks ago. This is the first time I’ve had a biometric passport, i.e. one that…

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“Five-star tourism is a blip”

“Five-star tourism is a blip”

Last month I was lucky enough to hear a talk at the Destinations travel show in London by Kate Clow, creator of the Lycian Way long-distance trekking route in Turkey. It was a great presentation. Kate is very passionate about discovering and preserving these walking routes through the hills, spending thousands (from her own pocket) on…

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Crossing Qalandia

Crossing Qalandia

I was recently in Ramallah, and turned down the offer of a lift to Jerusalem in favour of taking the public bus – just to see what it was like (the luxuries of being a tourist). All traffic between Ramallah and Jerusalem has to pass through the Israeli military checkpoint at Qalandia (or Kalandiya, Qalandiya,…

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Be Beirut

Be Beirut

Really enjoyed my return visit to Beirut earlier this month. I don’t really like cities, but Beirut is always memorable. At the time I tweeted: “Beirut is a great place to try & figure out how cities self-perpetuate (and prosper) despite lacking sane central authority.” That’s what it felt like: more than any other city…

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Premium-priced Petra

Premium-priced Petra

It’s been a(nother) phenomenally busy time. After a string of writing deadlines, which filled the Christmas/New Year break, I’ve just got back from ten days in Lebanon and Jordan to discover that work lined up for Jan and Feb which would have paid almost £3,500 has fallen through – and then today I’ve also had…

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Landmark achievement

Landmark achievement

Back in June I blogged about how a tour-guide friend from Jordan, Yamaan Safady, had been shortlisted for a major award – the Paul Morrison Guide Awards 2009, run by Wanderlust magazine in the UK. I was at the awards ceremony last night, at London’s Royal Geographical Society, and I can report that Yamaan took the Silver…

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Low-cost Middle East

Low-cost Middle East

Expect a price war on flights to the Middle East this winter. On 2nd November, easyJet launches a new route from Luton to Tel Aviv, joining a host of airlines including BA, bmi, El Al, Thomson and jet2 flying between the UK and Israel. More significantly, the highly successful UAE-based low-cost carrier Air Arabia has…

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Frankincense Trail: travel notes

Frankincense Trail: travel notes

I blogged in detail here about Episode One of the BBC’s travelogue The Frankincense Trail, where Kate Humble travels across the Middle East. Episode Two was, I thought, much better – an absorbing (and probably unique) hour of prime-time terrestrial TV devoted to showcasing Saudi Arabia as a tourist destination. There was, fortunately, much less…

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The age of the train

The age of the train

After a generation of inaction – and increasingly bad traffic congestion – the six GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE) have finally started to build decent public transport systems. Dubai’s metro opens in a few days’ time. Abu Dhabi’s metro is expected within five years, alongside an urban tram network….

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Frankincense and camel-jumping

Frankincense and camel-jumping

I settled in last night to watch the BBC’s new travel series The Frankincense Trail, in which presenter Kate Humble lugs a sack of frankincense fresh from the tree in Dhofar, southern Oman, all the way along the ancient trade routes across Arabia to the Mediterranean port of Gaza (or tries to). I had high…

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Wind and spiders

It’s been a scatty week, with not much chance to think straight, let alone blog straight. I’m now back in Switzerland, on the final research trip to update my Rough Guide to Switzerland, looking out at the Baroque facade of the cathedral in Solothurn – it’s a humid summer evening and there’s an electric storm…

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Back to the land

A fine article in the Independent on Sunday by Joy Lo Dico about the resurgent interest in Lebanon in organic food, local food producers and traditional artisans – exemplified by the weekly Souk El Tayeb farmers’ market in Beirut. Slightly odd to find it in the Travel section – it feels more like a food piece,…

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River dance

A fascinating article from 7iber.com (pronounce it “hibber”) about the difficulties for travellers attempting to use the King Hussein Bridge/Allenby Bridge border crossing over the River Jordan. The author, Daoud Kuttab, is a renowned Palestinian journalist, and writes in detail about the tortuous border problems – and financial corruption involved – from a Palestinian perspective….

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Tourism 2.0

It’s the perfect venue for a revelation – St Ethelburga’s, a 15th-century church in the City of London which was partly destroyed by an IRA truck bomb in 1993 and which has now been rebuilt to serve as a centre for reconciliation and peace. I was there yesterday for a meeting about raising the profile…

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RAK rate

RAK rate

Just picked up this story about a new luxury resort in Ras Al-Khaimah, to be run by Banyan Tree. I saw it under development when I was in RAK earlier this year, on the back of a trip to Arabian Travel Market. RAK’s an odd place – but I rather liked it. It’s the most…

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Walking the walk

It’s been a few days since I had a chance to blog – not least because I’m now away updating my Rough Guide to Switzerland (writing this on the TGV from Zurich to Basel). I’ve had it in mind to put down something about this BBC story profiling a group calling themselves the Jerusalem Peacemakers…

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A little less lonely

Just picked up the new Lonely Planet Middle East book, 6th edition, May 2009. Pretty much exactly the same page-count as the previous edition (700-odd), but coverage has shrunk to the core Turkey-to-Egypt countries plus Iraq – there chiefly for the Kurdistan section. Libya and Iran have both been left out this time – quite rightly;…

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