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Leave No Trace

The Middle East is home to an incredible density of natural and historical attractions, as well as a fast-growing population shaped by a rich and ancient heritage. While these are the unique attributes that cause so many to come and experience the region, interact with the culture, and learn about its history, they also raise a host of environmental concerns related to both the impact of tourism and the effectiveness of local stewardship. Keeping this in mind, it is particularly important to develop tourism economies that both preserve this diversity and still open the region for travelers to experience.

Long distance walking trails have long proven to be great tools for accomplishing this. Bringing walkers in personal contact with the land and the people who live there reminds locals and visitors alike of the value of preservation. Traveling by foot is an opportunity to develop a deeper connection with places that are often overlooked in an increasingly urbanized society, and this connection is something we see every day on the Abraham Path.

Boyscouts spend a day cleaning along the path in the Nablus Region.

Boyscouts spend a day cleaning along the path in the Nablus Region.

This hope that a deep connection to the land, people and heritage will provide a foundation for environmental stewardship is fundamental to the goals of the path. We have partnered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to formalize this commitment to minimizing impact on the landscapes, wildlife and heritage sites as we help develop sustainable tourism in the region. We highly recommend that all hikers pay close attention to The Seven Leave No Trace Principles as a framework for responsibly enjoying outdoor activities in the Middle East and elsewhere, and we look forward to continuing to promote environmental considerations as we engage communities along the path.

We hope to see you out there.

Seven Leave No Trace Principles:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

 

 

Providing opportunities for Syrian Refugees

In early March 2015, a group of 15 children – a mix of Jordanians and Syrian refugees – waymarked a section of the Abraham Path in the Ajloun Region of northern Jordan between Um Qais and the Wadi al-Arab Reservoir. The event was organized by local Abraham Path partner and guide Eisa Dweekat in coordination with Mercy Corps in an effort to offer fun and unique activities to the Syrian refugees living in the region. According to Eisa, “The children really enjoyed it and had a good time. They were good walkers and very helpful! I hope we can do more of these events in the future.”

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The cooperation between the Abraham Path Initiative and Mercy Corps is a powerful example of how the path can serve as a platform for engaging many different communities. Conflict impacts children and adolescents greatly, and can lead to stress and emotional shocks. Providing opportunities for community engagement and economic opportunity are crucial to empowering them to make good choices. The Abraham Path presents a locally led, sustainable engagement opportunity for these young people to invest in creating a positive change amidst incredibly difficult circumstances.

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Water Etiquette in the Desert

We are always exploring new and exciting regions that are associated with Abraham’s heritage. Evan Bryant recounts his experiences on one such trip in the southern Sinai Peninsula: 

We arrived at Moiyet Mileihis (Mileihis spring), a magical oasis in an orange, red and yellow striped sandstone basin at the foot of Jebel Mileihis, on the third day of our 11-day trek in the Sinai Peninsula.

A single robust palm tree near a shady alcove in the sandstone cliff betrays the life-giving water flowing from the spring hidden behind it, filling a small manmade pool below. Arriving at this place was a very welcome treat after a long, hot slog through the loose sand of Wadi Mileihis – each step of the way only acheived 70% of what I’m accustomed to with firm footing.

Most of the others in my group were already sitting in the shade by the pool when I arrived sweaty and panting. I promptly dipped my hands into the cool water to splash my face.  Refreshed, I sat down beside the others.

After a short pause our local contact Ben said to our guide Musallem:

“Shall we take this opportunity to talk about water etiquette in the desert?”

Whether the timing of this question had direct reference to me or not, I didn’t know. But at that moment, a creeping embarrassment came over me as I realized that table manners had been nowhere in my mind since coming to the spring, and perhaps my birdbath didn’t quite comply with the desert standard.

“Yes. Let’s talk about water etiquette,” said Musallem.

Ben continued:

“Do you see the teapot and the water bottle there on the edge of the pool? You always use those to take water from the spring. Never use your hands directly in the water. We all have to come to this one spot in the desert, so it’s essential to keep it pristine.”

Now my ears were red. Yes, partially because of the sunburn, but doubly so with the embarrassment. I felt like an awkward barbarian in the presence of Bedouin civility.

Up to that point the real significance of oases in the desert had never occurred to me. Throughout my life I’ve always packed in my own water or used modern filters and tablets for water purification. I’d never relied directly on Mother Nature for my water supply and certainly never in a barren wilderness like the Sinai where that survival necessity is so scarce.

Just then, sitting at the foot of that spring, I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye the centuries fly by and the thousands of desert dwellers and pilgrims who had come before me to that very place to fill their “ghirbes” (Bedouin goatskin water bladders). Who knows – Moses himself could have drunk from these waters!

I was humbled.

And a deep sense of gratitude filled my heart for the opportunity to learn the vital lesson of water etiquette in the desert––at the source.

– Evan Bryant

Photo Credit: Evan Bryant