BEIRUT, LEBANON – Since my last two entries on visiting the Middle East in the midst of the “Arab Spring,” I've been posed many questions about our trip. So today, I feature Ziad Haddara, founder of My Middle East, the online travel consultancy company that Mohan and I used to plan our eye-opening honeymoon in Egypt and Syria. While normally not one to opt for a middleman to arrange my travels, being neck-deep in planning a large-scale, weekend-long wedding while wrapping up my final month in grad school, I needed help and asked Ziad and his team to step up.
“It’s not your average tourist-bussed traveller or overly cautious type who comes to us,” says Ziad. “It’s the sort of people who typically would be very comfortable designing their own trips but either don’t have time to plan it or want someone from the region to enhance their experience by giving them that local flavor. We approach this business like you are going to a new country and you have a friend in town.”
Born and raised in Lebanon during the 15-year civil war, Ziad now calls Egypt home after relocating to Cairo in 2006 for a position with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Despite switching from development work to the tourism business, Ziad’s belief in incorporating social responsibility and community building into his profession remains intact. I chatted with Ziad via Skype from his company’s headquarter in Beirut and ask him about his vision for My Middle East, thoughts on tourism in the region, and analysis of current events in the Arab world.