At the heart of Responsible Tourism are the values of respect and the aspiration to create meaningful connections. Respect does not require the denial of difference. A meaningful connection is best achieved through the exploration of difference, through conversation, dialogues and debate. What does this have to do with travel and tourism?
In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote : “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” This may or may not have been an entirely original thought, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page” is attributed to St Augustine.
The idea that travel broadens the mind is widely assumed, it deserves to be questioned. Does it?
I think it is largely a matter of how one travels, engaging in conversation with the other or not, travelling with an open mind or not.
Mejdi Tours is “founded on the belief that tourism should be a vehicle for a more positive and interconnected world.” MEJDI translates to both “honour” and “respect”, the business was established to “change the face of tourism through a socially responsible business model that honours both clients and communities.” Travellers engage with a diversity of views about the places they visit, and multiple narratives.
Mejdi has pioneered dual narrative tours to, amongst other places, Israel and Palestine and Northern Ireland. Their two-guide model equips groups with two local guides, each representing unique cultural, religious, political, and ethnic narratives.
I recorded this with Aziz on Sunday, 15 October, when the Middle East was in crisis, as it will for some time.
This is the poem Aziz reads to me, to us:
The day I’m killed, my killer, rifling through my pockets, will find travel tickets: One to peace, one to the fields and the rain, and one to the conscience of humankind. I beg you my dear killer: don’t ignore them. Don’t waste such a thing, Please I beg you to go travelling. By Samih al-Qasim Translated by A.Z. Foreman
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