Archive for November, 2010

With Friends Like These

The international guidebook giant Lonely Planet recently published a list of the ten hottest cities to visit in 2011, and Tel Aviv is one of them.

The joy here in the White City is only matched by the surprise at the flattery, and all over Israel people are beaming with pride over this blue-and-white achievement – even people who spend large chunks of their day bitching about Tel Aviv in general, and the things that the good people at Lonely Planet laud in particular – hedonism, open homosexuality and the bar-synagogue proportions, for instance.

It’s great of course, and I’m as happy as the next Tel Avivian about this honor that’s been bestowed upon us from the dons of backpacking. But I can’t help to feel that this compliment is just as much a backhanded insult.

What do I mean by that?

Well, the thing is that Lonely Planet people love slightly dodgy, rundown and preferably dangerous places where you see as few white, clean and rich people as possible. They call it “authentic”, and think it’s all the rage to spend a little time there, checking out the natives and sampling the local cuisine. This is what causes them on the one hand to trash the bazaar in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is reasonably clean, well-organized and caters to everyone, as inauthentic and even too touristy (the ultimate insult), and on the other to extol the virtues of the smelly, dingy and utterly uninteresting suq in Akko as exotic, exciting and authentic.

If you’re not convinced, I can only recommend that you take a look at the other cities on the list. In the media people keep on saying that we’re number three after New York and Tangier, but they tend to skip that other tourist magnets on the list include Iquitos, Ghent and Newcastle.

I rest my case.

UPDATE: Also the Svenska Dagbladet travel blog questions Lonely Planet’s selection, asking if these really are the places that one must visit in 2011 — and answers its own question with: “Well, possibly if one has travelled as much as the editors at Lonely Planet.”

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November 3, 2010 at 09:13 6 comments


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