maandag 14 september 2015

Looking back


Welcome, unfortunately this is my last blog…

Looking back on the precious experiences I have had in Israel and Jordan makes me want to go back. I am feeling a bit sad now that it is over, although I do enjoy the orderly life again in Groningen. For me it is clear that I will visit Jordan again!

All my previous blogs were a combination of narrating my experiences, as well as intertwine and substantiate the stories with theoretical concepts. Storytelling (narrating) is something we do a lot; they shape our lives, give meaning to it, construct and maintain social structures according to Scott McCabe and Clare Foster[1]. Furthermore, the theories that I have used were to (try to) explain the underlying motives and values of tourism. Clearly tourists have different reasons for visiting countries. Cohen identifies four different types of tourists: organized mass tourist, individual mass tourist, explorers and drifters[2]. Pearce shares the conception of tourists having different reasons; his theory ‘the travel ladder’ is based on the pyramid of Maslow[3]. Also, tourists tend to perceive experiences differently; this can be elucidated with the ‘Tourist Gaze’ of John Urry[4]. Our culturally shaped minds fill in gaps we initially don’t understand. A gaze is conditioned by personal experiences and memories and framed by rules and styles. Another discussed topic was the presence of dark tourism in Bethlehem (West Bank). Dark tourism, which is mentioned by Dorina Buda in her book, refers to tourism in areas of political turmoil intimately connected to outbursts of frequently violent conflicts[5].

To conclude, I used a variety of theoretical concepts to support my blogs about the Journey in Jordan. Hopefully you enjoyed reading them and along the way picked up some interesting concepts in regard of tourism. But above all: I hope that my blogs have convinced you to visit Jordan yourself. It is such a beautiful country! The people are very hospitable and proud of their heritage they love to share with you!

Thank you.


                                         Maartje sleeping at airport (6 hours delay) 

[1] McCabe, Scott. "‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review." Tourist studies 5.1 (2005): 85-106.
[2] Erik Cohen, 'The Tourist Guide', Annals of Tourism Research 12, no. 1 (1985): 5-29.
[3] William, S. (2009). Tourism Geography: A new synthesis. London: Routledge
[4] ohn Urry, The tourist gaze 3.0, 2012
[5] Dorina Maria Buda, Affective Tourism Dark routes in conflict (Routledge, 2015), 14-30.

Petra - A world wonder


Dear followers, enjoy my next blog!

Petra… Wow! In advance I have read about Petra and her beauty, and still my expectations were nothing compared to reality. The site is incredibly big, with the ancient sites being in good condition. It took us about 1.5 hours to walk/hike through the whole site, which eventually led to the monastery (Petra’s largest monument, dates from 1ste century BC). Besides the monastery, wonderful viewpoints are located in the area. Along the road various locals tried to make some money from the few tourists that were present that day. Omar, our guide, told a stunning fact: the tourism industry has dropped with 40% every year for the past three years. In other words, we were almost the only ones at Petra - one of the seven world wonders…

Several theorists have written about tourism and how tourists can be categorized. One of them is Cohen; he identifies four types of tourists. Namely, organized mass tourist, individual mass tourist, explorers and drifters[1]. Different tourists have different (intrinsic) motivations for travelling. Pearce ratifies this with his theory based on the idea of the ‘travel ladder’, which is based on Maslow’s theory of hierarchy[2]. The ‘travel ladder’ classifies different tourists who travel for relaxation to the existential quest for self-fulfilment and identity. The explorers and drifters generally seek thoroughly true experiences, they are not interested in the obvious big all-inclusive hotels. While mass tourists generally do want all-inclusive, package deals and popular cheap destinations.

To conclude, the tourists that fall in the category of mass tourism are the ones who generally seek relaxation, ease of travel, security, etc. I think that this type of tourists avoiding Jordan mainly causes the yearly 40% drop in tourism in Jordan. The typical mass tourist rather doesn’t go to a country that is located in a turmoil area. Explores probably still do.


                                         Group picture at Petra
                                                    With the Jordanian police
                                          With a camel 

[1] Erik Cohen, 'The Tourist Guide', Annals of Tourism Research 12, no. 1 (1985): 5-29.
[2] William, S. (2009). Tourism Geography: A new synthesis. London: Routledge

Support by USAID



Today we went to the USAID (United States Agency for International Development). This organisation is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential[1]. In other words, USAID is an overarching organization supported by the US government to improve the world. Like other (US / international) organizations they prefer to be not very noticeable present in the city of Amman. Their office is located above some kind of car dealer and the elevator only worked with a fingerprint scan. Once inside the office Dr. Suleiman Farajat gave us a presentation.

Neo-colonialism is the concept that will be discussed today. Tim Endonser mentions that Neo-Colonialism is the geopolitical practice of using capitalism, business globalization, and cultural imperialism to influence a country, in lieu of either direct military control or indirect political control[2]. To some extend it can be argued that USAID impacts the cultural development of Jordan.

Dr. Suleiman Farajat presented the projects they are currently involved in. For example, placing US rangers in Petra, developing standards for hygiene and opening schools etc. USAID might not have the intention to ‘westernize’ Jordan. However, I think that their interferences do influence Jordan eventually. Placing US rangers at Petra spreads an image of a ‘westernized’ Jordan, which is in my opinion not the way to improve the tourism industry. On the one hand, locals might counteract the US rangers. On the other hand, the county might loose her charms due to the influences of the US.

The above is an example which is related to the concept of Neo-colonialism. USAID does interfere with the country Jordan. I think that the USAID is useful for offering help to Jordan. However, I also think that they should not interfere too much and mostly involve the local community/people.


                                                   Car dealer in front of the USAID

[1] USAID website
[2] Edensor, T. “Tourism.” Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK. (2009): 308-309

Baptism site – the art of storytelling

“The Baptism Site might be the lowest place on earth, it is however the closet place to heaven”

This is a quote from Rustom Mkhjian, deputy head of the Baptismal Site of Bethany. The Baptism Site is located at the Jordan River, which we were also allowed to visit. We had a tour around the Baptism Site from Mr. Mkhjin. He told us stories about Jesus and John. According to the stories Jesus came 2000 years ago to the Baptism Site where John baptized him. Apart from the physical beauty of the site, we were very much impressed with passionate ‘storytelling’ of Mr. Mkhjian. His enthusiasm made our visit all the more enjoyable.

Storytelling is something we do a lot; stories shape our lives, give meaning to it, construct and maintain social structures[1]. Through the ages people share experiences and remember the past through stories they pass on. This applies in particular to tourists according to Scott McCabe and Clare Foster[2]. He states that tourists have an attitude of narrativism. Their narratives are another example of the age-old mechanism of sharing experiences through storytelling.
At this very moment I am sharing my story with you in this blog!

Anyway, we went to the Baptism Site where we had the tour from Mr. Mkhjian. He made me recall the concept of narrativsim because he told so incredibly passionate about the story of Jesus with John at the Baptism Site. This was the place (again according to the stories) were the Christianity began. The power of the residual stories impressed me a lot. Namely, it meant that people started at least 2000 years ago with spreading and narrating stories, assumable many years before. Yet, the stories haven’t lost any power, instead they seem to be stronger then ever before. Especially, when Mr. Mkhjian told them.

To conclude, I have learned today about the importance and power of narrating.
As a result, I spread my stories through the blogs I write!


                                         Rustom Mkhjian while narrating 

[1] McCabe, S., & Foster, C. (2006). The role and function of narrative in tourist interaction. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change4(3), 194-215.
[2] McCabe, S., & Foster, C. (2006). The role and function of narrative in tourist interaction. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change4(3), 194-215.

Amman City Tour


نرحب بالجميع!

The sentence above this blog means, once again: welcome everyone! Although this time it is written in Arabic.

First we went on a visit to Amman previously known as Philadelphia. Amman is the capital of Jordan that has approximately 1 million citizens; overall Jordan has approximately 4 million citizens[1]. Amman is an interesting city because it is the “oldest continuously inhabited city” in the world[2]. Our program was to visit the Roman Amphitheatre, the Citadel and Jerash. It turned out to be an interesting day, seeing the ancient, modern, old and new!

Roman Amphitheatre… Wow! It is hard to believe that the Roman Amphitheatre was build during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 AD). And also without the technological equipment we are used to nowadays. The theatre has very steep stairs. On top three pictures are presented of the former king Hussein, current King Abdullah II and the crown prince Hussein. This instantly reminded me of other totalitarian regimes like former Russia, where it’s leaders were omnipresent through pictures, statues, etc.

The second stop was the Old Citadel, which is a site that remains from the Iron Age. The site underwent restorations in the past years. Most of the buildings visible are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods[3]. Also, the site, located on top of a hill, provides a beautiful view over parts of Amman. After a tour we visited the museum that is located at the site.

The third and last stop was the Greco-Roman city of Jerash. This is, apparently, one of the largest preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome. This became clear when we were at the site; it is HUGE and beautiful.

I expected to see many visitors, for all the ancient sites we visited this day are unique. But our group was almost the only one visiting. This happened all through our stay in Jordan. Conclusion, the tourism industry is undergoing a hard time…


                                          Roman theatre

                                             Pictures of the king, his father and son

[3] Summer School Information Manual - Nestor

Bethlehem (West Bank) - Dark Tourism


Great to blog again, hope you enjoy it!

This is my second blog about Bethlehem. Bethlehem is a city that impressed me very much. It seems so peaceful and quiet. However, reality is that Bethlehem is surrounded by turmoil, basically because of the area where it is situated in: the West Bank. Also, as you probably know, both Israel and the West Bank are located in the ‘Middle East’, a region that has been in turmoil now for many decades.

Lately, the tensions in this area are regularly in the news. The Arab Spring that started in 2010/11 is a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests in countries such as: Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which ISIS is involved in now as well[1]. Also, the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestines on the West Bank is present. Those conflicts fit the concept of ‘dark tourism’, which states that tourists want to visit places where death and suffering has taken place[2].

The concept of ‘Dark tourism’ is named in the book of Dorina Buda, and refers to tourism in areas of political turmoil intimately connected to outbursts of frequently violent conflicts[3]. In other words, it’s defined as tourism that is driven by ‘death and disaster’. Fear and death are important ingredients in danger/dark zone tourism[4]. Even though I had not heard of the concept dark tourism before, it could be the underlying motive for tourists visiting the West Bank. I could never have imagined that somewhere on earth a wall (8 meters), just like the one in Berlin/Germany during Second World War, could exist. Also, I visited the refugee camp in Bethlehem, which represents the enduring conflict.

To conclude, visiting Bethlehem was both a wonderful and a shocking experience for me. However, I would recommend everyone visiting Israel to visit Bethlehem as well. It is a very impressing city and your spending money there will support the local economy!


                                                   The 8 meters high wall separating Bethlehem from Israel
                                          Trash at the refugee camp of Bethlehem

[1] Boening, A. (n.d.). The Arab Spring
[2] Tarlow, P. (n.d.). Dark tourismThe appealing ‘dark’ side of tourism and more. Niche Tourism, 47-58.
[3] Dorina Maria Buda, Affective Tourism Dark routes in conflict (Routledge, 2015), 14.
[4] Dorina Maria Buda, Affective Tourism Dark routes in conflict (Routledge, 2015), 30.

Bethlehem (West Bank) - Affects, feelings and emotions


Before my journey I told my parents that I might visit a city in the West Bank. They strongly discouraged me and said it could be dangerous due to the on-going conflict between the Israel and West bank. However, I still eagerly wanted to visit the West Bank, could the theory of “Dark/Black Tourism” be involved for my eagerness. My next blog will be devoted to the concept of Dark Tourism. This blog is about the affect, feelings and emotions I experienced during my trip to Bethlehem. 

Departing from Jerusalem a bus went straight to Bethlehem, which didn’t go without (security) checks. At the border with the West Bank two soldiers with guns got in to our bus. They walked along the aisle looking at every individual intensely. This ‘physical’ experience made me feel nervous, as well I felt relief when the left. I enjoyed other physical sensations such as; the air-conditioning in the taxi and the view on top of the Herodion.

“Tourism is an emotional affair”[1]. Tourist experiences are lived through emotions, some examples are: amazement, anxiety, rage, joy etc. The emotional state that tourists are in when experiencing activities is influencing their perceived memories.

Another factor that shapes the tourist experience are objects - souvenirs, camera’s, taxi’s etc. For example, I ran into Nassar, a 28-year old taxi driver who spoke the English language very good. Nassar took Maartje and me to all the worthy sights in the area such as: the Milk grotto, Herodion - the castle and tomb of King Herod, church of nativity and at last the refugee camp. The taxi ‘object’ facilitated my movement, interaction and comfort[2].

We had an interesting day. Next blog I will elaborate on dark tourism.


                                                    Graffiti art from Banksy

[1] Dorina Maria Buda, Anne-Marie d’Hauteserre and Lynda Johnston, 'Feeling And Tourism Studies', Annals of Tourism Research 46 (2014): 103.
[2] Edensor, T. “Tourism.” Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK. (2009): 309.