Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Road to the Century Club(100 Countries)

The United Nations lists 192 Member Countries, FIFA the world football federation lists 208 countries. If you average it out you get 200 countries, so by visiting to 100 of them, you can say that you have seen half of the world. FIFA has more countries listed as they break up the United Kingdom to its 4 home nations(England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland). Also FIFA recognizes places that while many would say are sovereign nations, under the U.N are considered as commonwealths or other properties, places such as Puerto Rico, East Timor, Macau, Guam, U.S Virgin Islands, Taiwan can all attempt to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, but are not fully sovereign nations. The Traveler’s Century club lists a ridiculous 315 Countries, but many of these are just Islands in the middle of nowhere, yet with their very generous definition of a country they have many members who have been to all 315 countries.. I’m just trying to get to my first 100, after that I’ll worry about the next 100.

Ok so I am going to go with the FIFA list, as well since Soccer/Football is the world’s most popular sport and I’ve seen it played basically everywhere from a beach on Goree Island off the coast of Dakar, Senegal to huge packed stadiums in Germany. Also the FIFA list is grouped beautifully by region, so lets have a crack at where I’ve been, where I want to go and when I think I’m going to get there!! In Alphabetical Order, here we go.Coutries already visited will appear in Italics.

It will take a while to go thru all 208 countries, so some patience please, but unlike the Brackets(which will be revisited sometime soon), this is going to get done at a decent pace. Why? Well cause all summer being stuck in NYC, I’ve been thinking a lot about travel and this is a good way to get my thoughts out..

Today’s Segment is the formally known as the FIFA West Asia Region, or basically to most folks these make up the Middle East Countries.

Bahrain – Ok this small island nation is right off the coast of Saudi Arabia. You might have heard its name in the news cause after Michael Jackson was found not guilty by the state of California but told “Don’t let us catch you in bed with little boys anymore” he escaped off to Bahrain, where he could probably do whatever he wanted with no worries. Bahrain is listed by Lonely Planet as one of the best introductions to the middle east, as its liberal, modern but yet retains its arab heritage. They host the F1 Grand Prix race in early April, and after my recent experience having fun in Montreal at the Grand Prix up there, this would be a great time and reason to Visit Bahrain. With plenty of flights into the airport from all over the region, and currently building a bride all the way to Qatar, that at 28 miles long it will be the longest fixed link in the world. This is a possible destination for me in 2008 if I manage to do a round the world trip. Plus one of the few middle east countries to allow anyone to drink a beer!!!

Iraq - Ok this has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. Its possible one day this country will be split into 3 countries, Kurds, Sunni, Shia regions. At that point there might be some peace and quiet. Yet there is NO chance I will be visiting Iraq anytime soon. Plus you can’t get a beer there legally as it’s a dry country!!

Jordan – Recently in the news as Petra was named one of the 7 New Wonders of the world. Most of us just know it as a scene from the Indian Jones and the Last Crusade move. Known as a very safe middle east country as all the US News bureaus use Amman as a base and launching point to get back and forth to the USA. Royal Jordanian airlines has joined OneWorld, the alliance that American Airlines is part of. Plus an amazing roman amphitheatre in Amman that looks stunning and still hosts concerts and other events. There is a very good chance in 2008 if I stop in the middle east that I’ll get to Jordan.

Kuwait – This is the poor little country that got invaded in 1990 by big bad Saddam Hussein and started the USA into the mid east hell we are currently stuck in. This is a popular country for US workers as contractors in construction, oil service and other industries. While I have no plans to get here, again it’s a dry country, I did meet a cool American working there on a break when I was in Estonia. While he was making good money and staying at the Four Seasons, the fact there was no drinking and no sex to be had was driving him crazy. Sorry Kuwait for those reasons I think I’m going to pass on ya!

Lebanon – Beruit, Beruit!! From talking to fellow backpackers I’ve been told this is the most happening, party spot in the middle east short of Tel Aviv. Even in summer of 2006 when the war started, at night folks when out in their finest clothes and partied up, I like that spirit. Between the beautiful coast, the stunning women, and good nightlife party scene I will definitely be in Lebanon hopefully sometime in 2008!!!!

Oman – This middle east country looked great on the various episodes of the Amazing Race that its been featured on. Yet it’s a little off the beaten path when you see where it is on the map. Yet Muscat the capital is suppose to be a tourist hub, the the coast has some beautiful beaches on the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. A little out of the way, so no plans to get there soon, but not ruling it out by any means.

Palestine – FIFA calls this a country with a team that competes(and loses) in Asian soccer events. I think of this as a pawn in the middle east peace process. I enjoy having 2 arms, and 2 legs, so no plans to risk them by visiting Palestine.

Qatar – Doha is the capital, and has gotten recent attention as host of the successful Asian Games and a potential candidate city for the 2016 Summer Olympics. While drinking is mostly banned for local, expats and foreigners are allowed to drink here. While it would probably be more fun to have a Heineken in the Netherlands, or a Corona on a Mexican Beach, its still a beer, and would have to do since there is no local Qatar made beer. If the Bridge from Bahrain is ever completed I would love to ride across that bridge and say yep I was on the longest fixed link in the world. Plus the airport in Doha is a major hub for the middle east, so yeah there is a good chance Qatar will be on my list in 2008. If I knew much about natural gas, there is always a chance of getting a job here. But I think the burning hot summers, and lack of local beer would steer me away from here.

Saudi Arabia – Suppose to be the USA friend and ally in the middle east, I think they still have a very repressive society. Plus no drinking. Sorry not going to support a country that was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers from the 9/11 attack. No plans.

Syria – The USA does not even want to talk to Syria in terms of peace talks as G. W Bush feels they are EVIL doers. I’m not so sure how safe it is here, so going to have to pass on this country.

United Arab Emirates – Dubai! Dubai!! While Dubai is only one of the 7 Emirates that make up the UAE it gets all the love. This is a definitely stop, I’ve never been skiing in my life and there is a good chance the first time I ski it will be indoors in Dubai, while its 122 degree outside. While everyone else goes to Aspen to ski, hell I’m going to Dubai.. Definite stop on the 2008 world tour!!

Yemen – From what I hear still dangerous as a terror hot spot. Yet going to any Bodega in NYC and you feel like you have visited Yemen already. With no plans to join Al-Qaeda anytime soon and it being off the beaten path on the map, I have no ploans to get there righ tnow. Yet I will give Yemen its props for being the link between people migrating from Africa 50,000 years ago went to the Middle East and Asia.

So at the end of today's list we listed 12 countries, with 5 of them hopeful for 2008, so far off to a good start. Thats all for today folks, next up the East Asia Zone.


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