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Syrian Tourism Threatened in the Wake of Political Controversy

Many would agree that Syria is home to a proud people with a great cultural tradition. It is well known to tourists for its religious travel as well as its significant historical value. Although the history of Syria has been a tumultuous one, having undergone several periods of political instability, it is still best known for having been the center of the Islamic empire and the cradle of civilization.

However, despite the notion that Syria has long proven to be a great tourist destination, the current political climate lends itself to traveler anxiety, given that Syria is a Muslim country. And this has caused detrimental effects on the nation’s tourism industry.

The current situation in the United States has intensified this. For instance, in a speech given to the UN assembly in late September, President Bush described Syria as a haven for terrorists and declared that its government has facilitated groups like Hamas and Hezbollah in destabilizing the region.

These suggestions that the country is perhaps dangerous and unsafe are further echoed in Canada, where the landmark case of Maher Arar, who was tortured in a Syrian prison, recently concluded. Although a public inquiry has now found that false information provided by the RCMP was what led to Arar’s arrest, surely some might argue that Syria’s image to the rest of the world has been irreparably tarnished.

So what does all this mean? Is Syria a dangerous place to travel to?

The situation is unquestionably complicated but it would prove invaluable to the traveler to keep some inalterable facts in mind. For starters, yes, Syria is a Muslim country and, yes, these Muslims do feel a sense of siege coming from the West, which ends up being the root of some of the anti-American sentiments in the region. Nevertheless, great strides have been made to “highlight the civilized realistic image of [the country].”

Ultimately, then, the real danger of the situation in Syria lies not in its political involvement but rather in how this Muslim country is perceived by the world’s travelers and whether they will be willing to embrace the ever-important global role of bridge-builder.

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