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Exploring Ethiopia's Somali region

Exploring Ethiopia's Somali region Mar 30th, 2011 at 9:00AM: It's the dream of every adventure traveler--to explore a region that gets virtually no tourism, to see a culture with little contact with the outside world, to be among the first to visit the sights. It can be a thrill, an amazing rush that gives you valuable insights into a foreign culture and its history. It can also be a major pain in the ass. To the east of Harar lies Ethiopia's Somali...

An interview with a traditional African healer

An interview with a traditional African healer Mar 25th, 2011 at 8:30AM: At first glance, Alia Abdi doesn't look like someone who can cure cancer with a simple recipe. A middle-aged wife and mother living in a typical home at the end of a rambling alley in Harar's old city, she offers visitors hot coffee and a ready smile, like any other hostess in this hospitable town. Alia gets a lot of visitors. She's a traditional Ethiopian healer, with a variety of herbal...

The Arab revolution: the reaction of one Muslim community

The Arab revolution: the reaction of one Muslim community Mar 14th, 2011 at 8:30AM: For the past few weeks, headlines all over the world have been dominated by the so-called Arab Revolution, a wave of anti-government protests across the Middle East. I'm living in the Ethiopian Muslim community of Harar and locals here are absorbed in the events. Sitting in living rooms or cafes to escape the heat of the day, all eyes are glued to the satellite channels and conversation revolves...

Harar tour: a walk around one of Africa's most unique cities

Harar tour: a walk around one of Africa's most unique cities Mar 11th, 2011 at 8:30AM: After a few days in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa and a long Ethiopian bus trip, I've made it to Harar, my home for the next two months. I'll be exploring the culture and history of this unique city and making road trips to nearby points of interest. Harar is a medieval walled city in eastern Ethiopia between the central highlands to the west and the Somali desert to the east. It's been a...

Harar, Ethiopia: Two months in Africa's City of Saints

Harar, Ethiopia: Two months in Africa's City of Saints Feb 28th, 2011 at 9:00AM: What makes an adventure traveler return to a place he's been before? When so many other destinations beckon, why spend two months in a town you've already seen? Because there's so much more to see. Harar, in eastern Ethiopia between the lush central highlands and the Somali desert, can take a lifetime to understand. For a thousand years it's been a crossroads of cultures, where caravans from...

Terrorist attacks forces closure of Russian ski resort

Terrorist attacks forces closure of Russian ski resort Feb 27th, 2011 at 8:00AM: A wave of terrorists attacks in Russia last weekend has left three dead and a burgeoning tourist region closed off to travelers. Those attacks prompted Russian officials to impose a a counter-terrorism regime in two areas of the North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria near Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. The first attack occurred last weekend when a bus carrying travelers to a...

Knocked up abroad: getting pregnant in a foreign country

Knocked up abroad: getting pregnant in a foreign country Feb 16th, 2011 at 2:30PM: My first clue that something was different came when I woke up one night on vacation in Kiev at 3am, proceeded to eat 3 slices of toast with caviar spread, went back to bed and woke up a few hours later wondering if they made blueberry muffins in Ukraine (tragicially, they do not). That "time of the month" hadn't happened but flying tends to always mess with your body, so I didn't give it much...

The burqa and niqab: can travelers get used to anything? Should they?

The burqa and niqab: can travelers get used to anything? Should they? Jan 31st, 2011 at 11:00AM: Travel broadens the mind, at least for most people. As we explore different cultures and beliefs we see that for the most part they're OK. While there are always local customs we just can't follow, in general the more we travel, the more accepting we become. But how accepting should we get? I've traveled extensively in the Muslim world and I've yet to figure out exactly how I feel about the...

Skiing in a former Taliban stronghold: Malam Jabba, Pakistan

Skiing in a former Taliban stronghold: Malam Jabba, Pakistan Jan 29th, 2011 at 1:00PM: Thumbing your nose at the Taliban has never been so fun. The Malam Jabba ski resort in the Swat Valley of Pakistan has been a battleground between the Pakistani army and the Taliban for years. When the Taliban seized the area in 2006 they blew up the resort. They decided that skiing is unislamic, probably because it's fun. Well, the Muslims in the Pakistani army didn't agree with this...

Woman claims Greyhound denied her travel because of burqa

Woman claims Greyhound denied her travel because of burqa Jan 20th, 2011 at 3:00PM: Jacqueline Pasha attempted to travel by Greyhound to Arkansas in December, but she didn't succeed. And Greyhound acknowledges this. The story becomes fuzzy, however, in the details. Pasha was wearing her burqa when she tried to board the bus. According to Pasha, a staff member at the terminal said she looked scary. Pasha then proceeded to request that she be checked in a room separate from the...

Terrorist gets 15 years for JFK airport plot

Terrorist gets 15 years for JFK airport plot Jan 14th, 2011 at 7:30AM: A terrorist who plotted to blow up fuel tanks at JFK airport has been given 15 years in prison, the BBC reports. Abdel Nur, a citizen from Guyana, tried to meet an Al-Qaeda explosives expert in order to blow up JFK airport's fuel depot, and the fuel lines that run below an adjoining neighborhood. He hoped to kill thousands in the attack. Russell Defreitas, Kareem Ibrahim , and Abdul Kadir were...

Somalia's Al-Shabab bans handshakes between men and women

Somalia's Al-Shabab bans handshakes between men and women Jan 8th, 2011 at 9:00AM: As if you didn't have enough reasons to avoid visiting Somalia, Al-Shabab has given you another. BBC reports that the Islamist group has banned handshakes between men and women in the town of Jowhar. It's also illegal to walk with or chat with a member of the opposite sex you're not related to. It's not clear what the punishment would be for committing these "crimes", but BBC's...

Ethiopian Jesus

Ethiopian Jesus Dec 25th, 2010 at 9:00AM: It's Christmas, when the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The Muslim world celebrates too because in Islam Jesus is considered a prophet. Christianity has spread all over the world. One of the best things about travel is the different world views it exposes you to, and one of these insights is that religious artists have created Jesus in their own image. Europe has a...

American-Muslim group urges Palestinians to visit Holocaust Museum

American-Muslim group urges Palestinians to visit Holocaust Museum Dec 23rd, 2010 at 8:30AM: The Islamic Society of North America is defying Hamas and urging Palestinian youths to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Jewish news service JTA reports. A group of A-students from the Gaza Strip are to visit the nation's capital on a UN-sponsored educational visit. Their tour is to include the Holocaust Museum, but Hamas, which runs the Palestinian Authority,...

Weekending: Varna, Bulgaria

Weekending: Varna, Bulgaria Dec 8th, 2010 at 11:30AM: Back in September, the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan offered locals and expats like me an excuse to go on holiday while our American friends were celebrating the end of summer and Labor Day. With more time to explore than a typical Weekending trip, I checked out Turkey's most western neighbor, Bulgaria, and fell in love with modern and medieval captials Sofia and Veliko Tarnovo. The...

Adventure travel meets faith: cycling to Mecca for the Hajj

Adventure travel meets faith: cycling to Mecca for the Hajj Nov 19th, 2010 at 1:00PM: Two Muslims from South Africa mixed adventure travel and spirituality this year by cycling to Mecca for the Hajj. Natheem Cairncross, 28 and Imtiyaz Haron, 25, cycled through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Turkey, Syria and Jordan. Visa problems with Sudan and Ethiopia meant they had to take a plane from Kenya to Turkey, but that doesn't lessen their...

Ask Gadling: What to do in a Muslim country during Ramadan

Ask Gadling: What to do in a Muslim country during Ramadan Oct 5th, 2010 at 11:00AM: Ramadan is a month-long religious festival during which Muslims don't eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from sunup to sundown. This reminds them what it's like to be without the things they take for granted, and encourages them to be thankful for what they have. Certain people are excused from fasting, such as children, the sick, the pregnant, menstruating women, and travelers. The rest of the...

Culinary travel tale: exploring Malaysia's complicated cultural feast

Culinary travel tale: exploring Malaysia's complicated cultural feast Sep 20th, 2010 at 2:25PM: Two weeks after I arrived in Kuala Lumpur, it was all over the news: an American fast-food chain had accidentally sold thousands of non-Halal beef burgers to nearly as many Muslim Malaysians. Panic streaked across radio airwaves and through the devout. Religious leaders issued decrees absolving the unsuspecting sinners. I didn't understand what all the fuss was about, so my roommate, a beautiful...

Ramadan begins in the Muslim world: a report from Turkey

Ramadan begins in the Muslim world: a report from Turkey Aug 12th, 2010 at 2:30PM: Yesterday was the first day of Ramadan (or Ramazan, as it is called in Turkey), a month-long holiday in the Islamic faith of fasting, prayer, and reflection. For observant Muslims, eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity is prohibited from dawn to dusk for 30 days. The elderly, ill, pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as (interestingly) menstruating women are excused. Before dawn,...

Veils and YouTube trigger Canadian security investigation over passenger identification

Aug 3rd, 2010 at 12:00PM: Score one for social media: some guy popped a video of two fully veiled women boarding a plane on YouTube, and now the Canadian authorities are investigating. The video is said to show passengers hopping onto an Air Canada flight to London from Montreal on July 11, 2010. The beef isn't so much the veils as ensuring "that airline personnel are verifying the identity of all of passengers before...

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