Few things stoke the fire of passion in my heart like travel. Well, sales does too I guess. But right now, I’m talking about travel. There’s just something about experiencing different cultures, tasting unique cuisines, drinking exotic beverages. Traveling expands your mind and warms your heart. It expands your horizons and reminds you what matters. It has the potential to change your entire perception of the world while simultaneously inducing a deep appreciation for everything that surrounds you. This said, I always keep an eye to the future and an ear to the ground for possible destinations that could be worth visiting.
Recently, CNN released an article that caught my attention. Titled “Iraq? Crimea? Mali? Could these be the travel hotspots of the future?” I found myself immediately taken away with the possibilities. With all the internal strife associated with the Middle East, it hasn’t exactly presented itself in my mind as a priority vacation destination. However, reflecting, visiting the cradle of civilization doesn’t just seem like an amazing trip, it almost seems mandatory. I mean, how can we neglect the former site of the Babylonian Gardens? How can we ignore what was Mesopotamia? How can we not show appreciation for the mighty Tigris and Euphrates? We can’t. Well, we can while it’s dangerous; but we can’t forever.
Iraq is, of course, a country many would express hesitation in visiting given recent events. Yet, their government is making tremendous strides in tourism rehabilitation. Dedicating significant funds to the industry in recent years, Iraq actually cites that nearly a million tourists visited just last year. More than that though, Iraq expects that number to explode to 2.3 million in 2025. While certainly a bold prediction, it is not altogether out of the question. Iraq houses many religious sites of the utmost significance, and is a country of extraordinary beauty. Clear blue skies stretch as far as the eye can see. A rich history rises from the land along with mighty mountains. I have high hopes and optimistic imaginings for the future of this formerly war-torn country.
Iran also beckons me to visit. Sanctions are falling and investments are rising. Even under sanctions, Iran was boasting an impressive five million tourists every year, and the Iranian government plans to quadruple that by 2026. It is also worth noting that one David McGuinness, owner of Travel the Unknown, claims his tourism business has seen a 1,000 percent increase in revenue over the last three years. If that isn’t illustrative of Iran being on the up and up, what is? One site that particularly calls to me is the ruins of Persepolis. This was the booming metropolis where king Xerxes took up residence. The history, the distinction, the prevalence of culture and tradition in Persepolis as well as Iran as a whole leaves me, quite frankly, astounded.
The Middle East is a region recently fallen on hard times. Yet, that is no reason to write it off or forget about. It is the Babylonian Gardens. It is the birth of society and the cradle of civilization. It is the Mecca, of well, Saudi Arabia; and I for one, plan to pilgrimage for less than religious reasons, but not to Saudi Arabia. Probably more like Iran or Iraq, at some point anyway.