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What is the Abraham Path Initiative?
The Abraham Path Initiative (API) is a non-governmental organization based in the United States that develops, nurtures, and promotes walking trails and the culture of hospitality in Southwest Asia, commonly known as “the Middle East.” Since 2006 we’ve catalyzed 2,000 kilometers of walking trails in Jordan, Palestine, Sinai, and Turkey. More than 80,000 people have walked on them. Now we’re working with partners to build a trail in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Our work is inspired by the travels of the legendary Abraham (Ibrahim, in Arabic and Turkish, Braham in Kurdish), who is believed to have walked through Mesopotamia and the Eastern Mediterranean, sharing hospitality and showing kindness to strangers. These traditions hold strong in the region. API uses the power of storytelling to advance our mission, not only on-the-ground, but also on the Internet through Webinars, LiveOnLine tours, and monthly e-blasts that introduce global audiences to people, places, and the diverse cultures of Southwest Asia that continue practicing hospitality as a way of life.
Can I walk “The Abraham Path”?
Since 2007 API has worked in distinct Southwest Asian geographies, co-creating trails with the people that live there. We invested time, talent, and funding to train guides and homestay hosts. Results show economic benefits among locals and transformative experiences for international walkers. In each country you’ll find trails unique to its landscape, flora, fauna, and culture. The trails are managed for the long-term by local entities.
The Abraham Path is the concept that launched these trails that follow the approximate route of the legendary journey of Abraham. To date these trails are the Jordan Trail, the Palestinian Heritage Trail, the Abraham Path in Turkey, the Sinai Trail in Egypt, and the Zagros Mountain Trail in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. You may also enjoy the Lebanon Mountain Trail that developed independently of API investment.
Details on regional trails/paths can be found through the links below:
How are these trails being used today?
Trails cultivated by API are used by people from the region and around the globe for:
Walking and Sustainable Tourism
Voluntourism (community service opportunities)
Negotiation and Leadership Training
Why do you call the region “Southwest Asia?
The region commonly referred to as “the Middle East” is geographically located in southwest Asia. The Abraham Path Initiative utilizes “Southwest Asia” for geographic accuracy and to dispel the negative connotations associated with “the Middle East”.
What’s so special about walking in Southwest Asia?
National Geographic named our trail in Palestine the best hikes of 2014 and 2019. “This sense of immersion is what makes the Abraham Path project so extraordinary — it gives travelers the chance to shape their own perspective.”
Southwest Asia is the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe. The region is rich in culture, history, and environmental diversity. Walkers can admire the varied landscapes, ranging from snow-capped mountains to deserts, orchards, and clear river waters. They experience the authentic hospitality of communities along the path. Walking in Southwest Asia also bolsters a growing experiential tourism sector that fosters job creation and income generation.
How did the Abraham Path begin?
What if you took the story of Abraham and made it an antidote against religious intolerance, fear, and mistrust? Abraham Path Initiative founder Dr. William Ury asks this question in his seminal TEDx Talk, “The Walk from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’”.
“Four thousand years ago a man and his family walked across this region, and the world has never been the same since,” Ury says in his TEDx Talk. Ibrahim’s basic values were respect, kindness toward strangers, and hospitality. “You walk into towns in the Middle East, where you may expect hostility, and instead you get hospitality: In the name of Father Ibrahim let me offer you food, dates, a cup of tea.”
In 2003, Ury, a Harvard-trained anthropologist, and friends in Boulder, Colorado, wrestled with how to stem trends of violence in the region. Every culture has an origin story. What is the origin story of the Fertile Crescent? The legend of Ibrahim. And the idea of a walking path was born, following in the footsteps of Abraham.” People would meet and get to know one another through certified guides and homestays.
The path is also about economics. When people walk, they spend money. Umm Ahmad was struggling to make ends meet in her northern Jordan village. She had seven children, her husband was disabled, they lived in one room. Her great strength was cooking. Walkers started coming to eat at her home. The home was expanded. She gained respect. “You have made me visible in a village where people were once ashamed to look at me,” Umm Ahmad told API.
Dr. Joshua Weiss, Ury’s co-founder, thought this project had a 10% chance of making it. “And here we are, 16 years later, having catalyzed walking trails in Jordan, Palestine, Sinai, Turkey, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. When William first described the Abraham Path to me, he asked me what I thought. Without blinking an eye, I said, ‘I think it’s crazy. And we should do it.’
In 2006, 25 people embarked on a trip from Urfa to Hebron. They were following the footsteps of the legendary Abraham, from what may have been his place of birth, to the place he is believed to be buried. This journey laid the foundation for a bold and hopeful project: the development of walking trails approximating the narrative of Abraham (Ibrahim, in Arabic & Turkish; Braham in Kurdish) and his family, sharing hospitality with people they met along the way. Stories related to the family of Abraham abound in the region, from today’s Iraq to the Sinai Peninsula and to the Hajj pilgrimage.
How can I participate with API if I’m unable to walk in the region?
There are plenty of opportunities to be involved with the Abraham Path Initiative that don’t include walking! Attend API’s monthly webinars, register for LiveOnLine tours, and read our e-blasts to learn more about the communities we work alongside.
Our work is made possible thanks to the generosity of our donors, and now is the time to give. As part of our 1:1 matching campaign, each gift will be doubled by API’s Board of Directors. A monthly gift is easy on your wallet and will make twice the impact - click here to invest in API today!
How can we walk with the Abraham Path Initiative? Do you lead walking trips for groups?
We help organize specialized walking trips in the region in collaboration with local guides and tour operators. For more on an Abraham Path Experience, contact: email@example.com.
How fit do I have to be?
The necessary fitness level of each walker depends on their individual journey. The trails are non-technical, meaning no special mountaineering equipment is required.
How much does it cost?
The cost depends on various factors including flight prices, location, length of stay, accommodation preferences, etc. A local tour operator will provide price proposals based on the details of your trip. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and we can assist in connecting you with a tour operator.
Should I hire a guide?
Yes, we recommend local guides for all of your walks in the region. They’ll guide your trekking and share the cultural overlay. Local guides will deepen your experience with a personal connection to the community and region you are traversing.
We work with guides who know the trails and terrain, and who can also translate the local language and help to explain and facilitate interaction with local cultures. Guides point out interesting flora, fauna, and historical sites, as well as recount stories from their own life in the area.
In areas where hiking is not very common, having a local guide helps to explain to locals why you are there and can dispel any suspicion that you have ulterior motives to your walk. Hiring a local guide also contributes to the local economy and provides a job that utilizes local knowledge and expertise. All guides are licensed by the country’s respective ministry of tourism.
Do I have to organize everything myself?
The Abraham Path Initiative partners with local experts, including tour operators and guides, to implement all journeys. Tour operators are registered companies that have decades of experience in the field. From transportation to liaising with hotel and family homestay providers, we trust our partners to administer the best experience possible.
Where will I sleep?
Abraham Path journeys include a variety of accommodation options. Often, the selection of accommodation styles available depends on the region and community. Options include: family homestays, guesthouses, hotels, hostels, Bedouin tents, and camping.
Given the unique opportunity to stay with a local family, we encourage homestays where and whenever possible. Homestays serve to enhance your experience through quality time spent with real people, leading to a better understanding of the culture and conversations that would likely not happen in group settings with limited time.
What is a family homestay? Family homestays are a style of accommodation in which guests stay in the home of a local family and eat meals with them. Homestays are an important part of the Abraham Path community-based approach to experiential travel. In addition, homestays serve as tools for economic development for small communities and as valuable windows into local culture.
What should I expect from a homestay? Expect to experience the local lifestyle in an entirely new way! When participating in a family homestay, walkers sleep in a local home, eat meals made by moms and their families, and participate in local events and community activities. Some homestay hosts may offer guests their own room to sleep in; others provide mats or mattresses on the floor of the living room. In all homestays, you can expect to be treated like family and cared for very intentionally. Hospitality is a prominent characteristic of all cultures across the Middle East and an important value in each community along the path. Your hosts will take great care to ensure that you are comfortable and well fed. Coffee and tea will flow freely!
Is visiting the region safe?
During the past 12 years, close to 100,000 travelers have enjoyed walking these trails, and the only known injury is a broken ankle. Use the awareness and sensitivity you would when in a new city or setting anywhere in the world. Before your trip, consult relevant travel advice from your home country's government. Listen to your guides, your hosts, and others with local knowledge.
Crime levels are very low in these countries, though pickpocketing and other petty crime may be an issue in big cities and tourist areas. Major crime such as murder, rape, and kidnapping are extremely low and on par with western European standards. Statistically the most dangerous part of any trip is driving to the airport in one’s home country.
It is a good idea to dress conservatively and use discretion when interacting with men you do not know. If you have specific questions or concerns, address them with your guide: s/he is the best interpreter of intercultural considerations. We recommend that single women or small groups of women do not hike independently.
API does not guarantee and is not responsible for the personal safety or property of any traveler participating in a trip or trip-related activities, including, but not limited to, airline travel, ground transportation, meals, lodging, and recreational activities.
Political Unrest: While the media often portrays the Middle East as a hotspot of political violence, millions of tourists safely enjoy traveling throughout the region. Check the travel advisories issued by your home country and be sure to be in touch with Abraham Path Initiative staff, along with the local tour operating implementor, to be aware of any issues that might affect your trip. Remember that most travel insurance does not cover any losses in case of political unrest.
Outdoor Exploration: While hiking carries with it certain inherent risks, most potential problems can be prevented and managed with appropriate planning, awareness, and emergency response strategies.
The first step in managing risks is to select an appropriate difficulty level for your fitness level and daily distance goals. Furthermore, learn about the location you will be traveling to, thoroughly read all information packs and materials, participate in any pre-departure webinars, and ask the organizers any questions.
Water: Water is the most important resource to consider on any hike. While humans may survive for weeks without food, most can survive a maximum of only one week without water, and even mild dehydration poses health and comfort risks. All journeys are carefully designed so that walkers have the necessary amount of water they will need each day. We recommend carrying a minimum of two liters of water on a cool-weather hike, and a minimum of one liter per hour of walking on a hot-weather hike. Whenever possible, we recommend using durable refillable water bottles to avoid the environmental impact of one-use bottles, especially in areas where recycling is not yet possible.
Sun: Many trail sections pass through exposed, shadeless landscapes where the sun can be extremely intense. It is very important for hikers to take sun protection seriously, especially in the warmer months. Be prepared with a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen (minimum 30 SPF), lip balm with SPF, sunglasses, long pants/trousers, and a long-sleeved shirt. We recommend bringing sunscreen from your home country since there may be no opportunity to buy some upon arrival.
Rain and Other Adverse Weather: In all the areas of the region, the rainy season lasts for about three months per year. The rest of the year is quite predictably dry. For walking during the rainy season, we recommend a waterproof, breathable jacket (such as Gore-Tex) and a waterproof pack cover. A poncho can also be used for an all-in-one rain protection piece. Dress in layers so you do not become too warm, since sweat can make you just as wet and cold as being soaked by rain. Pack your valuables in ziplock bags or waterproof stuff sacks. The biggest risk in rainy and cool weather is hypothermia. Make sure you always have a spare set of dry clothing (including socks) to change into if you get soaked in a downpour. Flash floods are a real danger during the rainy season, and any hiking in low ground or valleys should be checked with local authorities. The Abraham Path Initiative and/or the implementing partner will be in touch with all participants should the need arise.
Animals: Never approach or feed wild animals. While wild animals pose very little risk to hikers, it is best to know how to deal with animals you could encounter. A few poisonous snake species do live in the region; however, sightings are rare and contact/bites almost unheard-of. Wearing long pants and thick shoes can protect against snake bites. Mosquitoes, bees, and other stinging insects can be found along the trail. If you have extreme allergic reactions to any stings, carry appropriate medication such as antihistamines and epinephrine. Jackals and wild boar are sometimes seen on the trails. Stay together in a group if you encounter these animals.
Domestic animals make up the vast majority of animal bites and attacks around the world. Dogs are occasionally seen along walking segments, either outside of a home or accompanying a shepherd. Generally, dogs may bark from their territory, which can be intimidating, but is best ignored. If a dog approaches aggressively, do not make eye contact, turn your back, or run away, but rather shout for help from local people. Cows, sheep, and goats are common and do not pose any danger to hikers.
Responding to Emergencies: Even with the best of preparations, emergency situations can still occur on a journey. We recommend carrying a cell phone with roaming coverage or a local SIM card. Be sure to add emergency numbers to the phone. In any emergency, please tell your guide immediately.
Palestinian Territory: 100
Sinai, Egypt: 122 (Police) / 123 (Ambulance)
High quality medical care is available in all countries where Abraham Path journeys take place. For severe injuries, you will likely be transferred to a hospital in the nearest large city, which offers the most up-to-date and professional medical care in the region.
**IMPORTANT: Traveler insurance is mandatory for all participants on an Abraham Path journey. We recommend purchasing trip insurance that will cover evacuation to your home country in case of medical emergency.
Leave No Trace
We highly recommend that all hikers closely follow the Leave No Trace principles, developed by the Center for Outdoor Ethics, which presents a framework for enjoying outdoor activities with minimal damage to the environment and with respect for other hikers and local residents. Here are the Seven Principles for Leave No Trace.
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