Why can't we all just hold hands? One woman's mission to bring peace to the Middle East
Egyptian Raghda Yusuf wants to help people in each country she visits and hopes that in doing so she will be able to get across her message: “Arab people should be standing together, particularly at this uncertain time.”
The 26-year-old, who works for a toy company in Jebel Ali, says: “I want to make peace between all the Arab countries, especially after all the revolutions taking place.”
Yusuf left her home city Cairo straight after the uprising began there on January 25, 2011. She had been working in the hotel industry, which was decimated by the uprising in Egypt. Fittingly, after her first stop in Jordan, Yusuf will travel to the tourist hotspot of Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
“Egypt is so dangerous now it’s hard to predict where it is going,” she admits. “I wasn’t a supporter of the new president [Mohamed] Morsi.” After revisiting her home country, Yusuf plans to visit Oman, Yemen, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait - possibly by the middle of 2013.
She is so determined to get her message across that she also plans to apply for a travel visa to visit war-torn Syria. She says: “I am so excited at the prospect of visiting Syria. I am sure people will support me. I don’t think anyone will harm me. I am one of them at the end of the day.”
As she travels, Yusuf will document what she encounters - hoping to encourage wider understanding of the Arabic world. She reveals: “I will write a blog, in the name of Bint Battuta - in honour of the great traveller Ibn Battuta.
“I want to spread the message not to judge the Arab country or culture unless you see it and live it. I’d like to re-introduce the Arab countries and Arab women in a new way.” Her message of greater understanding is not just for those outside the Arab world, she would also like Arab women to broaden their horizons.
“I want to encourage Arab women to travel and get out of their shell to see the world,” she says. Yusuf has wanted to travel since she was a little girl growing up in the Heliopolis area of Cairo. Since moving to Dubai, she has used the emirate as a platform for making her dreams come true. She says: “I was offered the chance to come to Dubai and took it. Now Dubai is my base for traveling.”
She has been touched by the kindness of people she has met on those travels and it has helped boost her faith in humanity. In Sri Lanka, she was given hospitality by a poor family when the motorbike she was travelling on broke down and couldn’t be fixed. She recalls: “They gave me the only bedroom and slept outside.”
Yusuf hopes that similar acts of kindness by her on her travels may just make others look more kindly on fellow citizens of the world.
What do you think of Raghda's plan? Can her one-woman mission bring unity to the Arab world, or should she leave the peace talks to politicians? Leave us your comments below!