America, Asia, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

Happy Euro Year

It was the perfect start to 2002, we were being given money… so where are we now as we mark Happy Euro Year 20 years on?

And what has it meant for those of us whose every instinct is to travel?

The truth is that for millions of millennials in Europe they won’t have travelled with anything else.

While for everyone who travels under a British passport we’ve always been told to look at it as board game money.

I say that, though ex-pats, of which I was one for 13 years living abroad have had to adjust quickly.

It usually starts when you’re buying booze in the supermarket.

And it’s only when you stop baulking and having to make mental adjustments at the price of a bottle of wine.

It’s more than a tenner… that you’ve truly assimilated.

Europhile, Eurosceptic

I’m in the money: Euro millions

 

So as this day is designated Happy Euro Day, was the Euro a good idea and is it right that Britain stayed with the pound?

Like everything there is the economical argument and then the emotional one.

And whenever that arises the emotional always prevails.

In countries too that have come over to the Euro there is still a sentimental attachment to the old currency.

Now if you’re a Fortysomething, Fiftysomething or later then you’ll probably remember well the frank, Deutschmark, peseta, escudo, lira or drachma.

And if you’re like my Dear Old Dad then you’ve probably got a box somewhere with all that old coinage.

A careful man, I imagine that he thought he might have use for them again if the Euro experiment failed.

Dinar time

Anyone want an old note: Foreign currency

So what do we miss about our old foreign money?

Well, it was the only time in our lives that we could really feel like a millionaire…

When we got our hands on lira.

The trouble was working out that it cost thousands to buy groceries.

And if you did try the lingo a queue would quickly form as you’re asking the teller how much you’d get for your few pounds.

Of course more of the world is outside of the Eurozone than in it.

Now I’m not about to go all numismatic on you but I do have a Jordanian dinar stuck on the side of my bookcase. And old Turkey notes too.

A souvenir of my Istanbul adventures with Turkish Airways, and with G Adventures trip to the Middle East.

But in truth just some money of such little value that I couldn’t get rid of it.

Any old money

Saddam it: What are you doing here?

Airports do take your old money in those glass boxes in the terminal.

And the descendants of the Nabataeans too in Petra where a trader tried to flog us notes from Iran with Saddam Hussein’s face on them.

Now doubtless there would have been many who would exchange dinar for Hussein.

But they had more than the look of a Monopoly note with Saddam’s face drawn on.

Working for the Yankee dollar

By George: Issy, Jimmy and the First Prez

There are some notes which are gladly accepted wherever you go and they’ll grab your hand off in the Caribbean for the Yankee dollar.

And there are 39 currencies around the world pegged to the dollar.

As a guide your yellow reggae bus in Barbados cost half of the Bajan dollar, $1, when I rocked it there a few years ago.

In the States itself you can buy Confederacy money at fairs in the Deep South on your road trip.

But the real money is in the Union dollar.

Money to burn: And the US here I come

And the more Benjamins (Franklin), or $100s, you have in your pocket the luckier you are.

Conversely, the $1 note is named for the Greatest American of them all, George Washington.

So be careful when you’re tipping.

Me? I always make sure I keep a fistful of dollars with me!

Happy Euro Day everyone or whatever currency you deal in… just, maybe avoid Saddam notes though.

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture

She Israel beautiful

Say what you will about Miss Universe but the host country are guaranteed to be winners today… yes, she Israel beautiful.

Miss Universe along with Eurovision, the World Cup and the European Championships was my childhood window to the world.

And while the last three will continue to open up our young people’s imagination to unknown countries Miss Universe has been stigmatised.

The model line

Muddy lovely: Emma Rose

Beauty pageants though have survived and thrived as I witnessed for myself behind a queue of fluttering eyelashes in Dublin Airport.

And shoot me but there are worse things to do than wait in line behind beautiful women.

Britain’s hopes rested on the shapely shoulders of Emma Rose Collingridge.

And in time-honoured Universe fashion the East Anglian and her fellow contestants have been showcasing the host country’s charms.

Which in Israel means, of course slapping on the mud in the Dead Sea.

Scrubs up well

High fives: With Big Rapper Jerry in Dead Sea

Of course Emma Rose scrubs up better than fiftysomething beardie Scotsmen from his G Adventures adventures.

Although I have been working on that with the salts I took back from the Dead Sea.

Universe has worked hard to reinvent itself in the face of the Woke assault and stresses that it takes female empowerment seriously.

And so English graduate Emma Jane has been a busy beauty queen.

Now that’s a CV

Sash and carry: Miss Great Britain Emma Rose

She has developed a self-defence programme for women called ‘Draw The line’ to empower women with the skills to defend themselves.

And away from her Miss Universe duties, the 23-year-old balances her part-time modelling career with voluntary work and female rights advocacy.

She also uses her English degree to write articles for recognised platforms on issues such as mental health, bullying, and sexual harassment.

Land of milk and honeys

Marvel East: Middle East beauties

Emma Rose has had, of course, some stiff competition in Eilat.

And, yes, because it’s Universe everybody will be a winner… only there will be only one crowned.

And we know that the champion will commit to world peace.

We will too and celebrate The Land of Milk and some real honeys and say… She Israel beautiful.

 

Asia, Countries, Deals

Carbon neutral in Mauritius

Climate change will continue to hover over Travel but we are addressing it and will always promote best practice such as the resorts that have gone Carbon neutral in Mauritius.

Small islands stand particularly exposed to the warming seas.

And Mauritius in the Indian Ocean is particularly vulnerable.

They are though meeting the challenge.

And Heritage Resorts and Veranda Resorts have stood up.

With the first carbon neutral hotels in Mauritius.

The Resorts will offset all CO2 emissions that would be generated by a hotel stay.

How does it work?

Crystal clear: The Indian Ocean

Well, we’re told this will be achieved through the purchase of carbon credits.

With the Aura Group, an environmental commodity trader and through local carbon offset projects including the construction of a solar farm.

Guests at Veranda hotels can make a voluntary contribution to the projects.

It’s all happening under a Mauritian model (no, not that kind of model but there are plenty of them there) called Now For Tomorrow

Over to you, Thierry

Stitched Panorama

Thierry Montocchio, CEO of the VLH group, puts flesh on the bones.

He said: ‘Our conservation programme that created ten artificial reefs in the Bel Ombre lagoon has enabled significant regeneration of the corals.

‘And we have seen 20 new species of fish.

‘Our Heritage Training Academy has empowered local communities.

‘And offered them a career in the hotel industry.

‘Our new water bottling unit enabled us to avoid using the equivalent of 27 tons of plastic bottles in 2019.

‘And in addition, 65% of our waste has been recycled.

‘Now for Tomorrow is also a first in the sector.

Because it promises carbon neutrality through clearly defined objectives and an action plan.

‘Acting for the climate and the environment means identifying and neutralising our greenhouse gas emissions.

‘And coming up with concrete initiatives to achieve carbon neutrality.’

Local produce

Palm trees: Obviously

The group has also committed to include from the beginning of next year 100% of the fruits and vegetables, seafoods, poultry and meat consumed in their hotels will come from Mauritian farmers and producers.

Or from regional partners in the Indian Ocean.

They are looking to recycle 75% of its waste by 2022.

‘And aims to reduce food waste by committing to a pilot project carried out in collaboration with The Pledge on Food Waste.’

It’s a deal

Meet the locals: I feel peckish

So now you’ve signed up to doing your little bit to save the planet what are you getting for your bucks?

Well, Heritage Resorts has Heritage Awali.

It is billed as the best 5* all-inclusive resort in Mauritius offers you €193 per night per adult.

And the Heritage Le Telfair, your refined small luxury hotel from €124 per night, per adult.

It’s an even better deal

And some monkeying about: But friendly residents

Should your budget not stretch that far.

Then Veranda Resorts has Veranda Palmar Beach  €25 per night, Veranda Paul & Virgine €44 per night and Veranda Pointe aux Biches €54.

And a nod to others

Food for thought: Exotic foods

Now, we all love to let ourselves go when we’re away but excess doesn’t equate to success.

It would be wrong too to accept that all holidaymakers particularly those from my bailiwicks, Britain and Ireland, just go on holiday for the sun, sea and sangria.

And care little about the country they visit or its people.

We take, of course, our inspiration from those for whom conservation isn’t the latest fad.

And have been banging the drum for years.

Luscious landscapes: In Mauritius

Such as G Adventures and their initiative Planeterra.

I saw first it hand in Jordan and they employ it across the world.

While we’re also glad to see that our friends in Mauritius are leading the way on the future coral.

Which my old buddies from the Maldives and Tobago will fully subscribe.   

And finally

The whole planet’s future depends on us doing the right thing… and our small nations are standing up and being counted.

So, let’s hear it for Carbon neutral in Mauritius.

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Europe

In Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace

The Son and Heir was more used to me ordering a coffee and a biscuit, but when in Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace.

Well they say that in life you should try everything (and that would include the shisha pipe) once.

By hookah, by crook


Smokin’: The hookah

You probably need to be from Turkey, the Middle East or North Africa, to pull off the kasbah chic look.

And so that when I joined the shisha gang next in Istanbul and Jordan I declined the pipe of peace.

My cuppa tea

A beautiful day: Bodrum

Instead I just sipped my mint tea and watched the regulars play chess.

In Bodrum. I dare say there were more than a few Bobby Fischers, but on our first days in the marketplace it was backgammon.

They played a different, more fast-paced game than the one me and my Mum would play back in the stuffy Glasgow suburbs.

It wouldn’t have gone down well to chain smoke in front of my Dear Old Mum, exhort Allah or slam my counters down.

Chairman of the board

Counter attack: Backgammon

The cry of Ally filled the air too in Bodrum when I would try to bring the Son and Heir back into line.

And would discover a market trader swirling the six-year-old in the air exclaiming Ally!

They would look out for the boy every day with the Arabic name every day when we would walk through the market.

We had made instant friends.

And we would enjoy a family holiday we still look back on with joy 20 years later.

A slice of Turkey

It’s all about the… tea

I would fall in love with Turkey, its Turkish barbers, mud baths and Turkish dancers.

Which is why my heart breaks to see the wildfires around Bodrum.

And holidaymakers evacuating for rescue boats.

The Turks have suffered particularly badly through the pandemic.

So the wildfires must feel like the last straw.

Flying Turkey

Flying high: Turkish Airlines, Istanbul

Inevitably, and not without some evidence, the climate change zealots are taking excessive joy out of the situation.

I, of course, do not have the answer. But I would say that we cannot glibly just say make it more difficult to fly.

As exploring foreign countries, meeting the locals and making their friendship is the best way of breaking down barriers.

Because when they do get back on their feet, remember in Bodrum it’s the pipe of peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Food & Wine

Water into wine Israeli delicious

Jesus and the Apostles at the Marriage Feast at Cana. Jesus announces ‘I’ll turn this water into wine.’ Peter pipes up: ‘No, you won’t. You’ll buy your round like the rest of us.’

Just a wee joke as old as the Bible to illustrate that wine dates back to The Chosen People themselves.

And to ask where is the Israeli wine on our supermarket shelves?

Glass act: Israeli wine

Thankfully my Israeli friends sent me a bottle of the golden nectar to celebrate Shavuot with them.

Cheese and wine party

Shavuot marks the wheat festival in the Land of Israel.

And the commemoration of the anniversary of God’s giving of the Torah to the Children of Israel on Mount Sinai in 1312 BCE.

So how do Jews celebrate this, the Feast of Weeks?

Kibbutz in Israel

Well with dairy and the fermented juice of the grape, making it one of the oldest cheese and wine parties in history.

This, and more, we learned from our Israel hosts who warmed us all up on a cold mid-May morning.

Israeli delicious

Land of Milk and Honey they say.

Well each varietal of this elegant First Page 2017 wine from Givat Yeshayahu in the Judean Hills is separately fermented for seven months before blending.

Then 50% is aged in French oak and 50% in stainless steel producing a perfectly balanced and aromatic wine with hints of citrus and green apple.

The blend is 50% Pinot Gris, 40% Riesling and 10% Semillion.

And that bit about the Land of Milk and Honey… well, Israel is also the soil of Terra Rossa, clay and limestone.

No wonder the wedding guests turned to Jesus when they ran ou of this.

Kibbutz for hippies

Israeli trad music

The winemakers at Sphera focus solely on white wines.

Now for many an old hippy, like me, Israel and its communal kibbutzes truly represented a Promised Land.

And an Israeli tour guide from Kibbutz Ein-Carmel on our conference call and tour gave us an insight into the best of Israel.

And showed us how to dance a Hora.

Israel is  Promised Land I have still to set foot on although I have viewed it from 100ft away on the other side of the River Jordan.

On my G Adventures odyssey in Jordan.

And from atop Mt Nebo where Moses looked out onto the Land of Milk and Honey only for God to deny him access.

Worth the wait

Mt Nebo, Jordan

It famously took the Chosen People 40 years to reach The Promised Land following their release from Egypt.

And centuries longer after the various Falls of Jerusalem.

These are challenging times for an Israel which has in so many ways shown the way to the world in Covid vaccinations.

And where Travel routes have just been restored from England.

Promise us a miracle

Site of Jesus’s baptism on the River Jordan

So in this Feast of Weeks, we lift our glasses and toast each other, all of us and the power of miracles.

Water into wine Israeli delicious.

Now back to my First Page 2017 although I will be back to tell you more about Ancient wine.

And give a nod to my old friend from Colorado whose a  specialist in ancient food and wine. 

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture

WTM Holiday Snaps and Dr Jane Goodall, a true world leader

It’s taken a pandemic for us all to sit up and start listening to our elders (and betters) like Dr Jane Goodall.

Animal conservationist Dr Goodall was, and always is, deserving of a live audience to hear her impart the knowledge of more than 60 years in Africa.

And who doesn’t want to listen to a woman who can talk to the chimpanzees… who let’s face it make more sense than our political leaders.

And she would have had it too at the World Travel Market in London had it not been for the pandemic.

Bruce Almighty

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of our old friends G Adventures, asked the questions we wanted to put to Jane.

And, of course, the answers will be when we can get out again to her beloved Tanzania and the other natural beauties G Adventures take us to.

And live better alongside those with whom we share this green Earth and its blue seas.

You know too that we like to be the leaders of the Travel pack too on this site and love to get as close and personal as we can with Africa’s finest… in South Africa, et al.

Dr Goodall runs a project Roots & Shoots encouraging children to implement practical positive change for people, animals and the environment.

Which is a good place to start at WTM where this year the watchword is sustainability.

You truly do come to envy those two and three-toed sloths from Costa Rica.

They are a true symbol of the Pura Vida (Pure Life) code.

Ten-toed humans

Which makes ten-toed humans the happiest people in the world and its other species pretty chilled too.

Nowhere has more Vida than the Amazon and Brazil contains more of the Amazon than any other country.

It is, of course, now wrestling with higher Covid rates than most places in the world.

But with the Pfizer vaccine, among others, on the horizon and at the forefront of every conversation at WTM, the Brazilians are planning ahead to bring us all back out.

When we can see for ourselves how they are dealing with the various challenges facing the Amazon.

Now seeing that Michael O’Leary is waiting for us, and he waits for no man I’ll need to keep my islands of the world for our next chat.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Eid celebrations around the world

The best way to learn about a culture is to go where they play and pray so the disruption to the Eid celebrations around the world diminishes us all.

I have a special connection with Eid.

As it was one of the early stories I covered as part of a column ‘Church News’ which I broadened beyond Christianity.

Eid ul-Adha, to give it its first full name, means ‘the celebration of the sacrifice’.

And it brings to an end the holy month of Ramadan.

All our story

It marks the story of Allah asking The Prophet Mohammed in a dream to sacrifice his son Ismael.

Which Jews and Christians will know as the Abraham and Isaac story.

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The way it usually is

It should come as little surprise to us that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same roots and stories.

But it is nowhere more evident than at the crossroads of the great religions in the Jordan valley and in Israel.

Ever the diplomat

Where I would readily recommend my G Adventures host Zuhair Zuriqat.

His diplomatic prowess in managing our international party surely marks him out.

To broker the peace in this part of the world.

Now you know I love a festival as much if not more than the next man or woman…

And that those festivals normally involve drink.

Festival time

But not always.

I am transfixed by religious festivals too and will gladly travel the world to witness or take part in them.

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Joy in our hearts

Of course, the world being a smaller place, particularly now, we should also acknowledge that many of these festivals are on our doorstep.

Which is why it is alarming to hear that the lightning lockdowns in the north of England on the eve of Eid weekend may be deliberate.

Eid is all about extended families coming together at each others’ houses.

And there is more than a hint of mistrust from our politicians here who do not think that Muslims can adapt their customs accordingly to the pandemic.

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Our cup of tea… and I love reship

When in fact they are already doing so around the world with Turkey a prime example.

Of course Istanbul as we saw on our televisions with the Hagia Sofya celebrations last week is even more epic when its citizens come out to pray.

But they too are adapting their Eid to the current circumstances.

Sing out

That means communal prayers are cancelled to be replaced with broadcast prayers from the minarets of mosques.

Now just think about that… would our Government cancel Christmas, and with just a few hours’ notice?  Time will tell but you have to think not.

EID MUBARAK OR (AS THEY SAY IN TURKEY) BAYRAMINIZ KUTLU OTSUN

 

America, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Culture, Europe

Happy World Friendship Day Pt 1

Happy World Friendship Day and this post is dedicated to the friends we make around the world on our travels.

And whom we’re all missing so much.

Winnie the Pooh is the patron of World Friendship Day.

And who better than the silly willy-nilly old bear all stuffed with fluff.

I’m forever indebted to Mississippian Zach who looked after me (and the rest of the group but mostly me).

On the second leg of my American Odyssey in the Deep South.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King and honouring the two other Kings, Elvis and BB King.

Hit the road Zach

If it had been left to me it would have been more Tragical than Magical Mystery Tour.

With me leaving my mobile phone back in Cleveland, 124 miles from state capital Jackson.

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Zach keeping an eye on me

Where we were assembling for the opening of the Two Mississippi Museums, the Museum of Mississippi and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Zach only organised for a friend who he said was travelling up to the opening himself, but who may very well have been enlisted to help this dopey Scotsman, to take the mobile with him.

The story doesn’t end there though.

And when I put my phone down in the huge hall in the convention centre in Denver Zach appeared to warn me:

’We’re not getting someone to travel 100 miles if you forget your mobile phone this time!’

Geraldine, my Soca friend

IMG_2194

We binge-watched American sitcoms when the children were younger (whaddya mean? we still do).

And that meant following the misfortunes of old divil Arthur who had to be walked by his daughter Carrie’s friend Holly.

I’m obviously too young for any of that only I’m not.

And Geraldine walked me and my new Virginian friend Patsy when I went in search of Rihanna at Club Barbados in Barbados

As well as being a reason for getting up early Geraldine went the extra mile for me.

When I showed an interest in Soca music by singing King Bubba tunes.

And on the last day of my trip a CD of her favourite Soca music was waiting for me at reception.

Ich bin ein Dresdener

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If only I’d had Ingrid as my teacher when I was young.

Ingrid took us on a walk through Dresden and Saxon history at the German Travel Mart.

Her grandmother had talked to her about the Red Heaven firestorm that set alight their city at the end of the Second World War.

And told us of life under Communist rule. So good I went back for the same tour after my booze cruise on the River Elbe.

I wear the wrist band pass for the tour to this day.

And also others from my Travels which includes Denver, Los Angeles, the Czech Republic and Portugal.

Jose, the real Special One

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Life’s a beach

I can’t take her anywhere.

Jose Madomis  is taking us around Portugal Centro , wining and dining and us.

And explaining at any given opportunity why his home town of Coimbra is the centre of the Portuguese (and wider) world.

When El Scary One pipes up about how she doesn’t like Cristiano Ronaldo and Jose Mourinho.

Suck-up that I am I mentioned how inspiring they both were and got my wine glasses filled up and beers bought for me.

What Amann, what a man, what a mighty good man

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Do I pass as Jordanian? With Zuhair

It’s Zuhair, as in zoo hair, our Jordan guide told our G Adventures party.

It’s never easy being a guide and even tougher when you can’t eat and drink while the rest of your party are stuffing their faces and lubricating.

But Zuhair cheerfully took us all around Petra, the Dead and Red Seas and the baptism sites of Jesus, Mt Nebo.

Where Moses looked out onto the Promised Land and Wadi Rum.

And waited for the end of the evening Call to Arms before putting fork to food.

We were an interntational party and it’s well seen that Jordanians are the peacebrokers in the Middle East if Zuhair is anything to go by.

Friends all and friends for life…

And now I’ve begun I’ll bring you more of the guides who have made my trips and the friends from the parties I have been on.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

 

 

 

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

The Sunday Sermon – the Hagia Sofia

Hate has no place in the house of God – Desmond Tutu

The anti-apartheid hero and man of God was talking in metaphors, and about South Africa, but his balming words fit Hagia Sofya in Istanbul just as well.

When Turkey President Recip Erdogan championed Hagia Sofia’s return.

In prayer

From a museum to a mosque it drew 250,000 of the faithful to pray on the streets of Istanbul.

And it roused an outcry from the Christian churches, the Roman Catholic, the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.

Which rung way beyond the ancient high walls of the iconic Istanbul building.

Orthodox

Iconic, yes, to the Orthodox churches.

For whom it is one of their holiest places and who focus on icons for their worship.

Fount of all wisdom

So the sight of drapes covering the mosaic of Our Lady was bound to have raised their ire.

Of course central to Islam is that Allah and the Prophet Mohamed, and Jesus or Our Lady, cannot be represented by images.

Crossroads

Istanbul is unique among the great cities of the world, one foot in Europe, one in Asia.

Royal splendour

Which is why the great Christiian churches of old which called Constantinople, Istanbul’s old name, home are prefixed with their country of origin.

Powerplay

There is, as there always has been in this part of the world, a powerplay going on.

And we, those of us who have been to Istanbul, and those who have yet to, must not fall for it.

Circle of trust

Because this should not, or ever be, about Islam v Christian.

And yes President Erdogan is tapping into Islamic popularism but that does not have to equate to anti-Christianity.

Icons

And we will still be able to visit it as a mosque which we will do.

Our house

Because as I discovered in Sarajevo with Marian Pilgrimages and Jordan with G Adventures and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time God is the same whichever house you’re in.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

The Sunday Sermon – asylum seekers

The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream saying ‘arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word – Matthew 2:13

My home city of Glasgow www.peoplemakeglasgow.com was stunned by the knife attack in a city centre hotel ‘used to house asylum seekers during lockdown.’

Now as a journalist of 30 years standing I know of the importance, nay duty, to give a full account.

Glasgow’s miles better

But does drawing attention to it being a temporary home for asylum seekers not point to this being the motive for the attack?

And, of course, it doesn’t take much in this climate to ratchet up distrust of asylum seekers.

Those very same critics though use the name of Our Lord God daily.

Glasgow has made great strides since I was a boy.

I was educated in a privileged all-Catholic, all-boys, private school in a predominantly Pakistani area.

And the poor corner shop owner had to put up with all kinds of abuse.

School’s out

Us boys were on the surface taught about Christian equality.

But we were in fact indoctrinated to believe Catholics were the master race.

Of course Our Lord and God was an asylum seeker himself when his family took refuge in Egypt from the infanticidal King Herod.

Like Jesus, Moses was a refugee too, in modern-day Jordan www.visitjordan.com.

Jordan could teach us a thing or two about how to welcome assylum-seekers.

Palestinians welcome

And two million Palestinian refugees calling the Middle Eastern statehome.

I saw first hand how hospitality is at the centre of the Islamic faith.

And our guide Mr Jordan himself Zuhair was quick to remind our mainly Christian G Adventures International group www.gadventures.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time of tolerance.

And that Islam, Judaism and Christianity shared the same story and prophets.

We would do well to remember when we are quick to demonise asylum seekers.