Friday, May 22, 2009

An Introduction to Dispatches

By Andrea McMahan
May 21, 2009

Welcome to our blog! I’m sure many of you have come here curious to learn more about our daring and offbeat journey to the Middle East. To those who think we’ve lost out marbles, let me assure you it’s quite the opposite. The Middle East is an awe-inspiring place. Its intersection of beauty, history and passion makes it one of the most studied places in the world. Yet it is also a region filled with contradictions and nuance. Nations continue to vye for justice and purpose even if it comes with a heavy price, while the cultures across the region remain untapped and yet are constantly evolving.

So why the Middle East and why now? To be honest, we feel there’s no better time to visit these countries. President Obama’s popularity can be felt in every corner of the world and has transformed America’s perception abroad. What better time to visit this region than now, under the halo of hope and the potential for renewed acceptance. It is also an ideal time to visit because many of the countries are at an exciting political juncture: both Lebanon and Iran will hold national elections in early June. While we remain unsure if either of these events will unlock sweeping ideological reform, it will be interesting to see if the overtures of the West make an impact on the region’s political ambitions and potentially influence the diplomatic policies of the Middle East in the years ahead. But most importantly, we are anxious to learn whether the differences between our countries will overshadow the strength of our common goals.

We hope you find our forthcoming experiences entertaining and mildly educational. We’ll try and update this site as often as possible and in accordance with the visiting country’s policies. Whatever your reason for visiting our blog—whether you’re looking for an on-the-ground political perspective, insight into the contrasting cultures, or just to see if Justin and Andrea are still alive, we thank you for reading and hope you will stay tuned!

Salam aleikum,

Justin and Andrea


  1. Have a fantastic trip. And post often.
    -Mark and Tara

  2. Amazing! I can't wait to read all about it! I will be living vicariously through you both as you travel and discover. During my more limited journeys to the ME in the past felt like walking through history. Incredible!

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  4. Andrea and Justin, May you enjoy your trip to the fullest and have a safe trip. Upon returning to the States, I recommend that you may pick up a copy of Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes (Persian Letters) written earlier in 1711. The Persian Letters is a satirical work, by Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, recounting the experiences of two Persian noblemen, Usbek and Rica, who are traveling through France. The impressions of these persian travelers and their commentaries on the differences between their Persian culture and the French is quite amusing. This book is an amazing portrayal of Oriental culture having been misunderstood by the Occident and visa versa. It is really a critical history of the time in Europe.
    Take great care and please be alert.