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Yalla! Part 2 of My Middle East Journey

Yalla!  (Arabic for let’s go.)

Six months ago I arrived back in the U.S. after Part 1 of my Middle East journey. Part 2 begins September 17, 2017 when I return to the region of the world that fascinates me most.

In my post announcing Part 1 of my journey you can read about the foundation of my interest and experience in the Middle East.

Every year I spend at least several weeks in the Middle East. My time in this region is not about traveling or sightseeing. It is about the people. I made many friends when I was living in Israel and Egypt several years ago. They opened up their worlds to me and I walked inside their lives. Many of these people are now very close friends, and I’ve integrated into their lives for the long term.

I think exposure to and integration into cultures very different from our own is the best means of developing an accurate understanding of the people of our world.  Learning what those in distant parts of the world have been taught by their schools, their families, their religions and their cultures can teach us that our own way of thinking, behaving and living is not the right way – it is just one of the ways.

Sabina Lohr - my Middle East
Trying on clothes with my Bedouin girlfriend in her sister’s arisha in Egypt

On Connect the Cultures I write about my Middle East experiences from my own perspective, to show the lives of the Middle East as someone not native to the region. I also share stories and thoughts from Middle Easterners themselves to present to the world their perspectives. And from time to time I write about art, food, drink and literature, as these are important aspects of culture as well.

Even if we never leave our own country, learning a little about how other cultures think and feel,  how they live, how they respond to people like us, can help us better understand why our world is what it is.

I read an article this week about studies conducted by INSEAD (the European Institute of Business Administration) that have shown a link between “multicultural engagement” and “integrative capacity.” In other words, intercultural experiences give people perspectives no one else is going to have and shape your thinking to more accurately understand the world.

Of course at the beginning of my time inside the cultures of the Middle East I was very surprised by a lot of what I heard, saw and experienced.  And the people I spent time with were just as surprised by me. Now we’re used to each other. We understand each other more and more as time goes on. Their world that they’ve known their whole lives has become easy and normal for me. Their world is now very much a part of my life.

During Part 2 of my Middle East visit this autumn I’ll be spending some time in Jordan as well as the two countries I know best. I’ve traveled to Jordan once previously, but I don’t know the cultures well at all.  I’m hoping to make some new friends while there. I’ll spend time in Palestine, also known as the West Bank. I’ll return to my old home of Tiberias in northern Israel. And I plan to arrive back in my old home of Dahab in Egypt for the conclusion of my trip.

The Middle East is the foundation of the world. This region is where life began. It fascinates me. I want to share my Middle East with the world. So yalla!

By:  Sabina Lohr

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Sabina Lohr is a freelance writer who shines a light on the cultures of the Middle East through non-fiction storytelling, interviews with local figures, and insightful articles. She has traveled extensively through the region for more than 15 years and has lived in Israel, Egypt and the U.A.E.

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