Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Hassle of Money Changing in the Middle East as a Reflection of the Regional Fractures

The author is quite used to having the ease of currency exchange as an expected convenience. In particular, he is quite used to the situation in Asia, where currency exchanges in all countries nearly always operate with no less than 15 currencies, taking in the standard set of hard currencies (USD, Euro, British pounds, Swiss francs) while making available practically all currencies of East and Southeast Asia, barring only those with small/closed economies (Cambodia, Laos, East Timor, to name a few).

Friday, May 20, 2016

How Much Role Can the UN Play in the Reconciliation of Conflicting Parties?

In supposedly war-torn Cyprus, the United Nations headquarters is aptly located in a bombed out hotel.  During the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Ledra Palace Hotel, one of the best in Cypriot capital of Nicosia, at the time, was on the receiving end of the constant barrages.  With the hotel situated directly on the UN-mandated "Green Line" that separated the city's northern Turkish districts from the southern Greek zones, the 1974 war saw it become the very frontlines of devastating military conflict that left millions internally displaced in its aftermath.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Assessing the Risks of Flying Egyptair on the Last Leg of a Journey Home

Another day, another plane crash.  This time with Egyptair over the Mediterranean.  Like the times of old, global media wasted no time in jumping with their various versions of speculations and conspiracy theories.  Now everyone flying the general region is all tensed up as TV coverage repeat the videos of crying family members and terse official statements from the Egyptian government.  Like the fiasco faced by Malaysian Airlines after two crashes, the company's image and revenues are both bound to suffer, a true misfortune to the first commercial airlines of the Middle East.

The Still-Unending Stream of Jewish Immigration to Israel

"Oh, I am from (Country A or B or C), but I am Jewish and just got to Israel as a new immigrant."  This was one of the oft-repeated lines from self-introductions when the author spent his Wednesday night in Tel Aviv mingling with the local expat working crowd in one of the city's high-end beach bars.  "I still need to settle down, take those Hebrew lessons, and find a job, but so far it is great," the new immigrants would mention, quite hopeful of their situations in a completely new country for many of them despite their Jewish heritage.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Effortful Friendliness of a Militarized Country in Perpetual Danger

This blog previously described Singapore as a country perpetually insecure but achieved prosperity nonetheless.  To say that Israel is the Middle Eastern equivalent of Singapore in this aspect may easily draw agreements from the local populace.  Despite peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, the country still face attacks from Hezbollah and Hamas, and face threats from likes of Iran and ISIS further afield.  "To defend the country," here, is not just an empty patriotic statement taught to students in school, it is a very real duty required of every citizen.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Does the Lack of Public Transport Benefit the Tourism Industry?

For a country that is relatively economically developed compared to some of its neighbors, Jordan does pretty terribly in one area: the provision of comprehensive and timely public transport.  Some of the country's population centers are served by minibuses, but they are often available during daylight hours and leave only when full.  For tourist destinations not near any towns of significant size, there may or may not be a couple of buses a day at odd hours.  For the traveler with limited funds and time, Jordan might as well be the least convenient location to travel in the general region.