THREADING THE MIDDLE EAST Walking 4000 kilometres

Two people walk into a bar, the guy says to the girl: let’s walk 4000km and dive in a theory I read about common ground forming the first step towards cohesion.

Sounds like the beginning of a joke right? Not for Daniël and Lisa, a photographer and a journalist, set upon telling a story, showing the world that there is more to the Middle-East than the media frames in rural images of battling parties. Without any training and means of charging their devices but with a vision in mind they have set ‘foot’ from Uhr to mount Sinaï. Xtorm is providing them with a solar panel so they can stay charged during their journey.

The path they’re taking is called the Abraham path, But what is the Abrahams path? It’s a thru-hiking journey from Uhr to mount Sinaï that is 4.000 kilometers long. Based on the journey traveled by the biblical Abraham. Best selling author and speaker William Ury started mapping this route at the beginning of our century, to emphasize the fact that common ground between conflicting parties can form the first step towards conflict resolution and cohesion. To test his own idea, Ury went searching for confirmation in the most political hotbed on earth: The Middle-East. Here he found the most important common ground: Abraham.

Why Abraham? The Patriarch Abraham and his wanderings form a crucial part in all three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. His personality therefore forms an important source of inspiration for common ground in the Middle-East. Abraham or Ibrahim, who was supposedly born in Uhr, wandered all the way to the mountain Sinai. This journey took him a lifetime, his lifetime. The path he took, now called the Abraham path, will be conquered by Daniel and Lisa. Both searching for the things that connect people instead of that which turns them against each other.

Daniël and Lisa will travel the path in different stages and with different modes of transport, across such countries as Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Israel and Palestine. They are using this journey – one that will be spread out over multiple years- to practice slow journalism and shine a light on the people living near the Abraham path. The locals, the workers, the single mothers and housewives, the working fathers, the ones in need of care, the everyday people with their own stories and scars but also with their aspirations, motivations and joys.

Is the Middle-east really as divided as the media wants us to believe? Or is everyday life in this contentious region, just like life in any other family living across the globe? Daniël and Lisa are Looking at connecting people instead of dividing them. A Journey worth following!

Continuing the path.

Earlier this year, their project ‘Meeting Abraham’ led Daniel and Lisa through the rough terrain of Iraqi Kurdistan. For several days they have been walking through the rugged landscape between Halabja and Erbil, where they had been tasked to find and map hiking routes, noting GPS coordinates with their phones and photographing the surroundings. On the road they also documented their meetings with shepherds and locals, many of whom were heading for the larger cities to celebrate Eid, the end of Ramadan. From dry planes into the mountains all the way up to the beautiful vistas of Dukhan Lake, the duo crossed this part of the country in the blazing sun and scorching heat.

This stretch also brought them meetings with famous football star Berivan and outdoor insta-influencer Zino, tea with Iranian separatists and a field trip with the mine disposing non-profit MAG. They climbed the 2.500 meter high mt Piramagrun and waited out the bureaucratic system of getting permits. Their journey had them change guides three times, sleep on top of a mosque and even had Daniel fighting a sun stroke at the end.

After Jordan and Southern Turkey, this part of Iraqi Kurdistan was their third stretch of the project. Yet another stage of their long-term project is planned for the end of this year, and their journey will also continue into 2022.

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