zaterdag 12 september 2015

Tourist or traveler, the verdict.

I have done a lot of travelling this year. A week on Crete, a whole month by myself in Peru and Bolivia, and another week of summer school in Jordan. After all these experiences with and contemplations on tourism, where do I fit in? There's more than just the distinction between traveller and tourist: we have distinguished many types of tourists. So what type am I?

First of all, dark tourism. Danger zone tourism as described by D.M. Buda isn't something I enjoy. [1] I do not seek out the risks, I just happen to be in a danger zone. I consider myself a different type of danger zone tourist, namely a 'happenstantial' one.

Then, the fivefold typologie by Cohen. [2] I'm not the mass tourists, looking for some entertainment but not an authentic experience perse. I don't want to 'own' people by taking pictures of them, as Turton states. [3] Neither am I entirely the traveller who doesn't feel connected with her own society and culture and therefore goes on an existential quest in other cultures. I did use travelling in Peru and Bolivia to do some soulsearching though. It was quite therapeutic. But I don't want to stay with only the locals, go hitchhiking and go very far of the beaten track. I know my own culture and am quite fond of it, but it's nice to escape it sometimes and reflect on it from afar. So perhaps the recreational tourist with some existantial features perhaps. The individual existential mass tourist.

It's clear that the typology offered by Cohen is needed in the study of tourism, but the lines distinguishing the different types get blurred when examening the individual.

Truth be told, I am the kind of tourist/traveller who looks rather ravishing on a camel.

Thank you for reading my blog.


1. Buda, Dorina Maria, Anne-Marie d’Hauteserre, and Lynda Johnston. "Feeling and tourism studies." Annals of Tourism Research 46 (2014): 102-114.
and  Buda, Dorina Maria. "Tourism in Conflict Areas Complex Entanglements in Jordan." Journal of Travel Research (2015): 0047287515601253.
2. McCabe, Scott. "‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review." Tourist studies 5.1 (2005): 85-106.
3. Turton, David. "Lip‐plates and ‘the people who take photographs’: uneasy encounters between Mursi and tourists in southern Ethiopia." Anthropology today 20.3 (2004): 3-8.

For rent: authentic Bedouin tent. With Wifi

It is now 2015, we have never been so advanced and globalism is thriving. Still we want to see real Inca's roam the Andes on llama's, Mursi women with lipplates [1] and Jordan Bedouins living in tents depending on camels for transportation. The thirst for a true authentic experience is a big thing for tourism and plays a major role in tourism studies.
1. A Bedouin man as he normally is, or as he wants to be perceived?

As described in previous blogs, to some types of tourists, the authenticity of places, people and activities they visit or more important than to others.[2] Question is: how authentic are those sites they visit?

Dean MacCannel speaks of the ' mystification' of places by the local people.[3]. They create a enhanced and therefore false sense of reality of their visitors. They make everything a bit more like the tourists expect it to be. So all the Bedouin men in Petra dress up like they're Captain Jack Sparrow: a scarf on the head and using kohl pencil to get those 'dreamy steamy desert eyes'. The same happened on Lake Titicaca where the locals pretended to live in a traditional way on the Floating Reed Islands. The sightseers want and feel like they are experiencing the life as it is lived, even though they are only watching a mere play, a ' staged authenticity'.
2. A authentic encounter with a local Peruvian sheperdess. Or at least, the lama is authentic.

And who can blame the locals for staging such a more-authentic-than-life-situation? No tourist will come if they see the Mursi women sitting in Adidas around a Philips TV. Those 'authentic' experiences are the only means for a sustainable tourism industry.

We stayed in a lovely Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum the other night. The moonlit desert was very authentic. The WiFi connection was not.

1.Turton, David. "Lip‐plates and ‘the people who take photographs’: uneasy encounters between Mursi and tourists in southern Ethiopia." Anthropology today 20.3 (2004): 3-8.
2. McCabe, Scott. "‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review." Tourist studies 5.1 (2005): 85-106.
3. MacCannell, Dean. "Staged authenticity: Arrangements of social space in tourist settings." American journal of Sociology (1973): 589-603.

Dark tourism and me

Would you rather go to Banksy's Dismaland than to Disneyworld? [1] Do you like to visit places with ungoing turmoil? Do you like to be at risk while on holidays? Do you visit places of death, disaster and atrocities? Then you're a participant of Dark Tourism![2]

Of course, this isn't completely true. Most tourist are visiting dark sites and it's not a bad thing. We've all been to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, we've visited the deathcamps at Auschwitz or the Killing Fields in Cambodja. It is considered dark tourism, because you are a witness of horrible things and its victims from the past.

Dangerzone tourism is a very perculiar part of dark tourism. That means that tourists visit certain parts not despite of ungoing conflict but because of it. Socio-political conflicts excite these type of travelers. For instance, the Palestine-Israeli conflict is one of those danger zones visited. And because the country is surrounded by 'crazies', Jordan is also considerd a danger zone.

Dorina Buda in her article argues that emotions play a very large role in dark and danger zone tourism. Where I felt anxiety before going to Jordan because of its surrounding conflicts, others feel a thrill and a sense of adventure. Three types of politically-oriented tourists are mentioned in Buda's other article: 1) the solidarity tourists, showing support, 2) the activists tourists, actively joining sides and 3) the intrigued tourist who's just there for the 'show'.[3]

It's interesting to see where our group stands in this theoretical framework. I for instance don't feel at all like a dark tourist. The conflict rather deterred me from going than lured me to travel to Jordan.

I don't consider myself one of the three aforementioned types of tourists. So is there perhaps a fourth? The dark tousist who just happens to go to danger zones? The 'happenstantial' dark tourist?

2. Buda, Dorina Maria, Anne-Marie d’Hauteserre, and Lynda Johnston. "Feeling and tourism studies." Annals of Tourism Research 46 (2014): 102-114.
3. Buda, Dorina Maria. "Tourism in Conflict Areas Complex Entanglements in Jordan." Journal of Travel Research (2015): 0047287515601253.

vrijdag 11 september 2015

The female attraction

'This woman is Dutch but she married a Bedouin. She had the most difficulty adjusting to this culture! Come, you can take a picture with her!' Omar beckons a veiled woman, only her blue eyes are visible. We sit in the Bedouin tent in the middle of Wadi Rum, and I feel very awkward. The woman just sits there, doesn't wave or talk, she just stares at us. Is this how women are treated? As an attraction for other tourists?

It felt very wrong to take a picture of this 'Bedouin' woman, making her an object of amazement instead of a real human being. Turton cites Sontag, who speaks of the 'predatory nature of picture taking'.[1] A picture would enable us to 'possess' this poor woman.

You could feel the differential power relation on different levels: between the woman and us, the Dutch Bedouin woman and the native Bedouin men and we 'westerners' and the Bedouin people. The inequality in this power relationship was tangible. The gender inequality made my teeth grind as well. How could they treat this woman this way?

The whole situation made me reflect upon what we are doing as tourists. We 'gaze'[2]. at the otherness of people, amaze at their backwardness or strange habits. Sometimes tourism feels a bit like colonialism. Edward Said (see L'aventure commence) would agree with me that this treatment of women fell right into our Orientalistic views.3.  Then again, I also felt the object of gazing. The Bedouin men were looking at the 'funny' tourists, gazing at our otherness as well.

Tada! Omar unveils the woman, it turns out to be a member of our group! I laugh, awkwardly. This ' joke' was a tough reminder on how awkward tourist and local encounters can be.

1. Covering up completely in order to visit a mosque in Amman. Nothing wrong with showing some respect for a religious place.

1. Turton, David. "Lip‐plates and ‘the people who take photographs’: uneasy encounters between Mursi and tourists in southern Ethiopia." Anthropology today 20.3 (2004): 3-8.
2. Urry, John. The tourist gaze. Sage, 2002.
3.  Said, Edward. "Orientalism: Western representations of the Orient." New York: Pantheon (1978).

donderdag 10 september 2015

World wonder(fully) empty

'I can't get a good shot with all these pesky tourists in the way!' It could be a line from a Tom Cruise movie, where our hero has to shoot the bad guy on the Eifell tower or some other touristic place. No, it was actually what I said when visiting the Machu Picchu, the world wonder in Peru. And don't worry, I wasn't about to shoot anybody, I was trying to get a good photograph. The place was literally swarming with tourists, who frustrated my attempts to take the perfect picture. How different most of the sites in Jordan were! The ancient city of Jerash and world wonder Petra, hardly anybody there! With me mumbling about 'stupid tourists', and thus identifying myself as different, it got me thinking. The question is: what makes a tourist a tourist?

The term 'tourist' turns out to be quite complex. One type of tourist isn't the other, and Scott McCabe has written an elaborate article on the matter.[1] The activities, the reasons and motivation of travelling, the facilities and (infra)structures used, and many more are important when regarding the term 'tourism'. The typology offered by Cohen I think is very useful in identifying types of tourists: 1) the organized mass tourist, 2) the individual mass tourist, 3) the explorer and 4) the drifter.
Pearce came with the idea that there is a 'travel ladder' based on Maslow's idea of hierarchy of needs.[2] There are five levels of motivation, going from the need for relaxation to the existential quest for self-fulfillment and  identity. These theories fit quite nicely together. On one end of the spectrum, the mass tourist not caring for authenticity[3] but looking for leisure, on the other end the backpacker traveler, longing for real experiences and his true identity.

Be as it may, they all get in the way when I'm taking a good picture.

 1. The beautiful Monastery of Petra almost all to myself
 2. People waiting in line for the Machu Picchu at 6:00 AM
 3. Worldwonder Machu Picchu swarming with people

McCabe, Scott. "‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review." Tourist studies 5.1 (2005): 85-106.

2 William, S. (2009). Tourism Geography: A new synthesis. London: Routledge
3. MacCannell, Dean. "Staged authenticity: Arrangements of social space in tourist settings." American journal of Sociology (1973): 589-603

dinsdag 1 september 2015

Dead (Sea) relaxed

Did you ever stop and think about what you are feeling, in body, mind and emotions, while on holiday? Do you ever stop and reflect on what you are feeling? Probably not, you're too busy experiencing it and do no want to let that pesky mind get in the way. But these three parts: 'affects', 'feelings' and 'emotions' are very, very important in the field of tourism, and in my blog entries as well.[1] Therefore: an entry to explore them in depth! As a 'case study', I'll be using my experience at swimming at the dead sea.

1. The bodily sensation of floating is a big tourist attraction, and I can see and feel why!

I was feeling so very excited of going to the Dead Sea. I've seen videos and pictures of people floating like ducks on the salty water, being able to read newspapers and so on. I could not wait to put on my bikini and jump in! Felt a bit disappointed that you're not allowed to 'jump in'. But excitement takes over as I'm walking trough the hot sand towards the Dead Sea...

Then, affects, or the bodily sensations: Running across the now very hot sand. Gently I walk into the water. It is very warm, not like the cold Dutch sea. There are (for now) no waves. The water already feels a bit thicker than normal water, oily in a sense. As soon as I tilt my body backwards, my legs float up like a buoy! The same happens when I turn to my stomach. My legs immediately fly up, making me struggle to keep my head above water. The feeling is absolutely amazing! The pain of a drop of the very salty water in my eye is excruciating!

Of course, there were emotions as well: the immediate basic emotional reaction to circumstances, like feeling angry, happy or scared. Happy is the best word for my emotion during this experience. The combination of floating like a duck, doing something I wanted to do for so long and that turns out to be even better than expected made me smile throughout the day.

Who knew the Dead Sea could have so much effect!

Buda, Dorina Maria, Anne-Marie d’Hauteserre, and Lynda Johnston. "Feeling and tourism studies." Annals of Tourism Research 46 (2014): 102-114.

Today we will visit...stories

Did I tell you about the time I went to Jordan? Did I ever tell you how I met your mother? Tell me again how your lost your watch and wife on the same day.

Our lives consists of stories. Stories help us shape our lives, give meaning to it, construct and maintain social structures. In other words, stories, or, rather, narrative, are very important to us.
The same goes for tourism: tourists visits stories, and they have a narrativistic attitude, as Scott McCabe and Clare Foster argue.[1] Touristic experiences are expressed by telling stories about people, places and circumstances. When I will be telling about my trip to Jordan, I'm telling a story about myself in this beautiful and exotic country. So, narrative is needed in researching the touristic experience. But is narrative needed to attract tourists?

According to Rustom Mkhjian, deputy head of the Baptismal Site of Bethany, it is very much needed. He talked to us today, very passionately indeed, on the story of Jesus being baptized at the site of Bethany at the Jordan river. Even though the site itself was not one of  the most spectacular (you'd expect more grandeur where Christianity was essentially born), it did inspire awe among the student group. Rustom told us that the site tells an inspiring, strong story, and that they wanted to keep the site as pure as possible. So no big churches or museums or restaurants: only the bare structures of that time as a decor for the story.
Someone confided in me and said that she could easily see Jesus being baptized here, but couldn't picture the ruins of Jerash as a bustling Roman city. Sometimes stories are stronger than visual remains. Narrative triumphs ruins.

1. The somewhat basic baptismal site

 2. The group sitting on the Jordan site of the river. On the other side Israel, which has a different approach to restoring and exploiting sites when it comes to keeping a site 'pure'.

McCabe, S., & Foster, C. (2006). The role and function of narrative in tourist interaction. Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change4(3), 194-215.

donderdag 27 augustus 2015

Environmental Bubble Bus

Who loves aircon?  I love aircon! Especially in the steaming hot country of Jordan,  a luxurious coach with aircon is not a luxury perse, it is a must. The very well organized tour with its bus has a lot of benefits. Did I mention the aircon? Of course we get everywhere in luxury and style, we don't need to figure out the local transportation system nor haggle with pesky taxi drivers for the best fare. Our guide Omar uses the microphone to inform us with facts and stories on Jordan and the sites we visit.

How could anyone argue  that this style of travel has a downfall? Well, you could debate on the kind of tourist experience you get. Cohen proposed there are five different kinds of tourist experiences.[1] The core concept is the distance between the traveler and his own society and the search for meaning in his travels. So we have 'existential travelers' who want to escape their normal society and life and have a deep longing for authenticity[2] and meaning in their experiences abroad. On the other side of the spectrum we have 'recreational tourists' who don't want to leave their own reality and society, They don't have a need for authenticity, they just want to be entertained!

For me, it feels like were more and the latter side of the spectrum than on the 'soul searching who-am-I?' type of tourism. We want luxury and we want to visit some entertaining sites. We are not concerned with travelling among the locals, meeting them, talking with them, knowing what the country genuinely feels like. Today we wanted to escape our lives and our studies, and just enjoy the Dead Sea in our own little bubble. We don't need to figure out who we are in our core. We just want to sit in our bubble with aircon, staring at a place that isn't ours, and never will be.

1. McCabe, Scott. "‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review." Tourist studies 5.1 (2005): 85-106. I go deeper into this typology in blog entry Tourist or Traveller, the Verdict.
2. See blog entry For Rent: Authentic Bedouin Tent. With Wifi. for more thoughts on authenticity and the article MacCannell, Dean. "Staged authenticity: Arrangements of social space in tourist settings." American journal of Sociology (1973): 589-603

woensdag 26 augustus 2015

The economic dark side of tourism

The more I learn about Jordan and its tourism, the more I feel for the people involved.
Especially because the turmoil in the Middle-East is affecting the tourism industry in Jordan. And not for the better. 

Jordan has a quite well developed tourism infrastructure.[1] That means hotels, restaurants, tours and tour operators, airports, information and visitor centres etc are abounded. Of course they have a lot of  pretty 'stuff'in the country to see as well, like Petra. But they didn't build that especially for the tourists ;-). 
Tourism has become the largest industry in Jordan the last few years. And that is where things 'go wrong' in current events. Even though Jordan is a very safe and stable country (we get told all the time by almost everybody), it is surrounded by 'crazies'. Even for me the direct environment of Jordan make me hesitate in taking this trip. Jordan isn't Syria or Iraq, but for the general public it kind of is. That means less and less (Western) tourists are visiting the country. The last three years in a row, the tourist number have declined by 40% each year, as we got told at the USAID talk by Ibrahim Osta. That is a catastrophic blow to the entire industry. Where people left their traditional jobs for ones in tourism, they now aren't making any money. They have become economically depended on a industry under duress.

For me that really shows the darker side of tourism. It is a great industry, but very much relies on a complex variety of factors.[2] Publicity is needed in Jordan to stimulate tourism, and show that not all of the Middle-East is in chaos.

I bought a refrigerator magnet today in a touristic area and slipped the vendor an extra half dinar. It may not be much, but at least it's something.

1. See Tim Edensor in Jamal, Tazim, and Mike Robinson, eds. The SAGE handbook of tourism studies. Sage, 2009. on the globalization of tourism
2. William, S. (2009). Tourism Geography: A new synthesis. London: Routledge

dinsdag 25 augustus 2015

The first gaze of Jordan and its wonderful eggplants

I had such a wonderful first day in Jordan! It is so much more friendly, comfortable and accessible than I thought! Most of the anxiety I wrote about in my first two  blogs has been taken away by this wonderful country and has been replaced by enthusiasm. 

First of all, the people are very friendly.  Yes, they do stare at us, especially me being a blonde fair-skinned woman. We get some  looks while walking on the streets, and  some taxi drivers shouting or whistling at us. Not so great, but nothing worse than I experienced in Peru and Bolivia.We can easily walk the streets alone, even later at night although the man to woman ratio changes dramatically and the looks we get increase. Strange enough, as women alone or when accompanied by men, you cannot sit at certain places in restaurants. There are floors for men only and mixed gender floors. That feels weird.

One thing I want to discuss in my blog is the 'gaze', as described by John Urry.[1] It says that the way we use our senses while on holiday, being in a different place than we are used to, cannot be on a objective way. Everything you see (not only with your eyes) is influenced by your emotions [2], memories, character etc. 

As an example. Julia and I walked on a shouq, a typical Arab market. We stared at the fruits and vegetables as if we never saw them before in our entire lives! The eggplants were amazing! I wanted to text people at home how amazing these eggplants were! Of course the image we saw was affected by our good experience of arriving in Jordan, making everything (how mundane or normal what so ever) a sight to behold. I find it very interesting to see how much your mood and expectations influence the way you perceive your environment.

 But to be honest, they were amazing eggplants.

1. Urry, John. The tourist gaze. Sage, 2002.
2. And tourism is a very emotional business. See: Buda, Dorina Maria, Anne-Marie d’Hauteserre, and Lynda Johnston. "Feeling and tourism studies." Annals of Tourism Research 46 (2014): 102-114.

maandag 24 augustus 2015

L'aventure commence

I just came home from a whole month of travelling, my first solo travel abroad ever, to Peru and Bolivia. The trip was absolutely amazing, intense and almost therapeutic. I never travelled on my one for so long and so far and I experienced a different side of me. I was very adventurous and cautious at the same time. I stayed in private rooms. I did all the touristy things with other tourists, feeling a bit scared when I didn't encounter enough European travellers. It feels like I just arrived in the Netherlands and already I'm up and leaving again, this time to the far away country of Jordan. What to expect?

First of, I'm glad I'm not going alone, but with Julia, from the course. I feel glad and relieved of travelling with somebody else. Making decisions plans and mistakes even- it's more fun and relaxed to do it together. The adventurous come in pairs.

Second, I'm a bit anxious about going to Jordan. Almost everyday in the media you hear the horrible stories about IS in Syria. It may not be the same country, but they are neighbours. The whole region is a bit of a mess, so how far are we at risk? Anxiety comes as well with Jordan being a Muslim country. What do I wear as a girl? No knees and armpits visible is the general rule. How will I be treated? Is my view of the Middle East correct, or is it just plane Orientalism[1]?

Luckily I don't only feel anxiety. I'm also really excited! We are going to see wonderful things (Petra, Jerash, the Dead Sea), visit a vibrant and exotic country, and get a wonderful glimpse at a different and for me quite unknown culture and people. 

So, the adveture begins. Or should I say: continues?

[1] The term 'Orientalism', Edward Said argues, means that a stereotype image of the 'Orient' is given, which doesn't tell us that much about the Orient itself but more about the 'West' who came up with the idea. The Orient is depicted as backward, dangerous and less sophisticated to justify the West's superiority:
Said, Edward. "Orientalism. 1978." New York: Vintage 1994 (1979).

The reason of writing

One of the first things I see when I think of tourism is a gibbon wearing human clothes and maybe even holding a cigarette. It is a striking image: a very exotic animal, something you can only see abroad. How wonderful to see nature this up close! But at the same time, this strange exotic creature being exploited for tourists to take selfies with. It is a very unnatural thing, deprived of respect and used  to make a quick buck. 

 Because tourism feels so ambivalent to me, I am dedicating a blog to it.  In this blog 'Gazing at Jordan', I'll write about my experiences while travelling through Jordan with the Honours College Summer School 'Passions of Tourism'. After treating the subject of tourism in an academic way in the Netherlands, the last week of August we will be treating it empirically. Living the idea of tourism. There are worse ways to spend your summer holiday! 

On a daily basis I'll share my views on the country, my tourist activities there and some thoughts on tourism in general. Am I a traveller or a tourist and what is the big difference?[1] I'll also include some deeper pondering on the bias view I have of the Middle East and Islam. Is it really so bad as the media describes the chaos in the Middle East? Does it make me feel threatened? Is Islam really as bad as politicians like Geert Wilders make it out to be? And is it any different for me being a woman in a Muslim country?   

I hope you'll enjoy reading this blog as much I'll hopefully enjoy writing it, dear reader. 

And who knows, maybe we both end up being very passionate about Tourism and Jordan.

1. I will be using: McCabe, Scott. "‘Who is a tourist?’A critical review." Tourist studies 5.1 (2005): 85-106.