President Obama’s Visit to Egypt and War & Peace: the MIDDLE EAST EXPLORER – On the verge of President Obama’s first visit to Egypt this week, Elie Sidawi, Chairman & CEO of Sunny Land Tours reflects on the recent history of the Middle East, Israeli and Arab relations within the context of international leisure travel business…
In the early summer of 1967, as a young man recently married to an American Girl, life couldn’t have been more promising. Elie Sidawi lived in Beirut, Lebanon, where two years earlier, he had established a Tourist Agency, naming it “Sunny Land Tours.”
The business was growing, with the company handling European and American Pilgrim Groups on their way to visit the Holy Shrines in the Middle East and the Old City of Jerusalem in the West Bank, back then governed by Jordan.
In a surprise attack in June 1967, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser failed in his attempt to defeat the young army of the 20-year old Israel. The world came to identify this as the 6-Day war, which resulted in the defeat of the combined Arab Armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria. As a result, Israel swells three times in size by seizing the West Bank in Jordan, the Golan Heights overlooking the Galilee from Syria, and the entire Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.
In the aftermath of the 6-Day war, the map of the Middle East had been reshaped. Travel restrictions imposed made it difficult, impractical, and unsafe to travel through the Middle East.
Sidawi found himself bound to leave the high life of Beirut, to the struggling life of New York City. Here he restarted Sunny Land Tours Inc. in New Jersey in 1969, and resumed marketing Group Tours to the Middle East & the Eastern Mediterranean and Egypt including visits to the Biblical sights in Israel, something he couldn’t do from any Middle Eastern Arab country since there was a complete Embargo of Israel.
“Business flourished again, but this time I found myself on the Israeli boycott list at the Damascus Embargo Office which prevented me from entering any Arab state for several years until Anwar El Sadat of Egypt repaired the damage some 20 years later by acknowledging Israel’s right to exist and signing a peace treaty with Israel.” Says Sidawi, and continues: “The treaty resulted in Egypt reclaiming sovereignty over the Sinai Peninsula. The Jordan peace treaty with Israel eased tensions and travel restrictions throughout the Middle East. And today, a Settlement if not a Peace Treaty, is on the horizon between Israel, Syria and the Palestinian Authority. Lets hope President Obama can carry the Peace Torch from Jimmy Carter and pass it on to the Middle East People longing for Peace and Freedom.”
During the years of the Middle East upheaval, Sunny Land Tours had to diversify its destination roster, which now includes 18 countries on 4 Continents. Sunny Land Tours today is the leading tour Operator to Egypt and the Middle East, the Mediterranean basin, North Africa, and, with an excellent rating on its product-line in Central and South America featuring service offices and representatives around the world.
The Middle East however, remains at the heart and soul of Sunny Land Tours and its active founder Elie Sidawi.
In honor of a peaceful Middle East, Sunny Land Tours has revived and is re-introducing a 15-day tour called the “Middle East Explorer,” highlighting biblical and historical sights in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. Tour visits, LEBANON, with Beirut, Byblos, Baalbeck; SYRIA, with Damascus, Palmyra; JORDAN with Jerash, Ajlun, Amman, Mt. Nebo, Kerak, Petra, Wadi Rum; ISRAEL, with Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Dead Sea, Tiberias, Nazareth and more…
For more information or to order a brochure call 1-800-783-7839 or visit www.jordanhotdeal.com