It wasn’t until about two in the morning on the day I was set to board a plane to Egypt did it occur to me that I was an 18-year-old girl headed for the Middle East. A few months in college had left me feeling like such an adult, but I wasn’t. Not even close. After a night out on the town, my friends dropped me off at my dorm room, and naturally, this is when I started to pack and my mind started to race. On the plane only a few hours later, I sat next to a Muslim gentleman who within our first hour in flight, asked me all about myself and wanted to know if I liked Muslims. The question seemed strange to me. Why wouldn’t I?
Deeper into the intolerant den
When my college travel group reached Cairo, we were greeted on the tarmac by guards armed with AK-47s. It scared the shit out of me. I only learned later that they were there for our protection. It was just the first of many, many eye opening experiences I had on a three-week trek along the Nile with my classmates.
Ten years and a travel blog later I’ve been to a few more places, I’m married and have two little ones of my own. I still remember the rosy pink sunrise as a beautiful, droning sound filled the air and called the faithful to prayer. I still remember the young guard at Philae who couldn’t believe that I wasn’t married at the age of 18. I still remember visiting the old temples, pretty Coptic churches and the stunning Mosques throughout the streets of Cairo. I still remember the man and his wife in a little village outside of Thebes who couldn’t be more proud to invite us into his home to discuss life and drink tea. There is truly no place on earth like Egypt.
I went to the Middle East to learn about the ancient pharaohs, but I learned quite a bit more than I bargained for about the wonderful people who now call this land home. They are warm and welcoming. For the most part, they are Muslims.
The events of 9/11 have given Americans a great many reasons to come together, but it has also given them many excuses to hate. Muslims are, of course, not the only people who are discriminated against because of their beliefs, but the majority does get quite a bit of flack for the actions of a few. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all Christians are judgemental. Not all Jews are cheap. Not all stereotypes are true. How can we teach children to celebrate our diversity and respect the views of others? Through group travel, of course.
Sometimes our own hometowns don’t offer much in the way of variety of religions, and that can cause a child to grow up confused (or in my case, completely unaware) about the many different faiths the people of the world practice today. Confusion or lack of awareness can lead to kids who grow up not really understanding others and their beliefs. Traveling with kids gives them the opportunity to meet new people—people who are different than them—and learn about their culture, customs and beliefs in a way that is both genuine and effective.
Our beliefs in a higher power, our beliefs in a moral code, our beliefs in making our children good people should unite us, not separate us. Travel unites and enlightens, which is why it’s so important to travel with your kids.
Do you think traveling with kids could make a difference in our world? Do you talk about religion when visiting churches, temples, mosques and more?