18 April 2008

From Alexandria to Alexandretta ~ the Vital Levant

I've been thinking a lot about the region from Alexandria in Egypt through Alexandretta in Turkey (today's İskenderun) and extensions east to Mesopotamia in Iraq -- a geographic realm we might think of as the vital, greater Levant. I'm quite excited by the Just Jerusalem winner HUMMUS and their ideas for a network of vibrant, connected cities in the region. The whole area has fantastic historical, aesthetic, cultural, and natural assets which should help it become one of the most attractive and wealthy places on our planet. This could and should embrace archeo-tourism to see Palmyra or Petra, or eco-tourism to see the corals of Aqaba or the Wadi Rum, or shopping visits to the bazaars of Beirut or souks of Damascus, or revitalizing wellness-trips to the muds of the Dead Sea or snows of Mount Hermon. And more. I'm especially excited by the prospect of emergent Innovation Institutions in the region -- technology universities (TUs), prosperity parks, special economic zones, entrepreneurial clusters, and beyond. My Syrian-American MIT alumnus friend Bob Ayan is involved in just such an effort in Amman, Jordan. With the support of the Kingdom and generous philanthropists, he's helping build the business park to complement one of Jordan's top IT educational institutions. Fantastically exciting!

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