Heike asked me for an interview. As always, I am very interested in her sort of questionnaire. This time over, it turned out to be an awesome post. Heike put a lot of effort into this very informative, great read.
This time the subject is ‘Traveling by bicycle in Muslim countries – what to expect’.
I always said that I liked most to be in Muslim countries and without giving it too much explanation, it was simply because the people are so incredible hospitable.
Having cycled through South America I met with hospitable people too, although on a much smaller scale since the vastness is not to compare with the Middle East (for me synonym to ‘Muslim countries’). Always drawn to Islamic cultures, I chose South America for a change. It was on this continent I was strongly drawn to the Mennonite communities. Quite different from Muslims in belief, since followers of the Biblical teachings they adhere to Christianity. I went and I returned a year later.
I liked to be in the Mennonite community because life is much more normal. Life is perhaps many years back compared to, let’s say Amsterdam or London or Seattle. And that is exactly what I like.
This is the same reason why I loved to be in Muslim countries. In many Muslim countries happenings are similar to Western society, but behind close doors, underground and unseen. I always felt safe, accepted and flowing with a normal stream of society. Not a frustrated, not a fighting, not stretching the limits against prudish behavior or trying to be as liberal as possible. Muslim countries are not over tolerant and have stricter rules. Many inhabitants of Muslim countries are against things which have become normal in the West.
Not that I am free of unblemished behavior. Naturally, I am a wrongdoer as well. Yet ever since entering Muslim countries, I liked the style of living. Not that I wished to be born in an Islamic country, yet I came to see very rapidly that I truly appreciate separation of genders for example. Also I like the clearness about what a wife ought to do and what a husband means to her. I noticed in those countries that I am not so emancipated as how my culture taught me to be.
Ever since India I am on the search for ‘the Truth’. I met Geo, a follower of Yeshua, in the heart of the Mennonite community. I have gone into the direction of YHWY too. Besides reading the Bible and quite a few other books on Evangelism, I concluded together with Geo that why I like Muslim countries so much is because they still live very similar to the Biblical times (except Tehran and Cairo, of course). Not only that, the Middle East is where Yeshua started preaching and before Muhammad was born, the people of the Middle East where known to be extraordinary hospitable.
Backpacking: lived in Kalash valley, Pakistan (8 months) and Kashmir India (4 months). Went over 15 times to India. Least hassle free countries to travel: Yemen, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan (3 times), Tajikistan, Egypt, Sudan and west China. I found Afghanistan (2 times) very challenging in a fresh post-war situation, while east Turkey (3 times) and Iran (3 times) were not free of challenges.
Cycling: easiest for me was Oman, United Arab Emirates, north Iraq, all the Islamic countries on the west coast of Africa, India, while east Turkey and Iran I felt most provocative, especially on a bicycle.
As an unaccompanied woman on a bicycle you put yourself in a place where no Muslim woman is. Thus you are creating a position which is very unusual for gross of the population, with all possibilities flowing forth from this choice. You have to be willing to pay the costs, not them.
Link to ‘Tips for women’