While the Abraham Path is in many ways a symbol of connection and a tool for discovering the Middle East, it is also a tangible walking trail that physically traverses the region. The majority of the Abraham Path Initiative’s practical efforts are invested in developing this path and making it accessible to walkers around the world.
The process of discovering the best trail through a particular area involves a significant amount of exploration.
Trails are often based on old routes used by humans throughout history; in many cases, however, the actual historical route has been lost or even paved into a modern highway. In order to create a more diverse and pleasant walking experience, the Abraham Path Initiative seeks out a series of trails that encompass a mixture of hikes through beautiful natural landscapes, visits to historical sites, and walks through towns and communities along the route. To identify these paths, we turn to those who know the region best: those living along the path. In coordination with local community members, API staff walk a multitude of footpaths, dirt roads, shepherds’ trails, and paved streets across a region, searching for the best way to travel between communities, historical sites, and cultural points of interest. Once that optimal route has been determined, GPS data is recorded; API cartographers then create detailed maps of the new stretch of path. If possible, we coordinate with local communities to waymark the route, making it more navigable for walkers.
As the trail is established and mapped, information is collected and published on this online guidebook.
Maps and accompanying elevation profiles of each section, information regarding accommodation and transportation options, and contact details for local guides and tour operators all serve to make the trail accessible; if people aren’t walking the trail, the intended economic development stagnates and the ideals and benefits associated with our community-based approach to tourism in the region are never realized. Gathering all the relevant travel information into one website is a major step in transforming the path from a set of ideas into a living and sustainable part of the local landscape.
The other critical step in ensuring the vitality and sustainability of the trail lies in empowering stakeholders from local communities to both invest in and benefit from the path’s presence.
Through partnerships with local organizations and tour operators, API makes an effort to connect demand for services in the region with supply from path communities: walkers generally seek guides to assist in navigation, accommodations at the end of each day, and ways to connect with the local cultures and people. The natural hospitality of the communities along the trail renders them fully capable of providing these services; and in order to equip them to do so, API and its local partners hold periodic trainings in those communities. Through these trainings, homestay hosts learn many of the skills and self-marketing techniques necessary to connect with a broad audience of potential guests. Local guides, often trained very thoroughly in historical and cultural knowledge, receive some of the outdoor skills necessary to be a trekking guide – over the last few years, API has run several Wilderness First Aid and outdoor leadership trainings and worked with organizations developing official guide training and licensing systems.
Once we have partnered with local communities to identify the best trails and to equip individuals along the path to provide necessary services, our role on the ground is limited; at this stage, the local tour operators and service providers we’ve been working with take almost full ownership of crafting walkers’ experiences in their region. API’s remaining contribution lies in marketing the experience to outside connections. Through social media presence, the development of brochures and marketing materials, and the promotion of local tour operators to international audiences, API strives to increase the accessibility and name recognition of the trail and ultimately to draw more walkers. Only as the flow of traffic along the path grows do these technical investments in its development truly begin to pay off at the local level.
Development from the ground up
Investment off the beaten path