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… number 5

I

t’s getting close to the end of the year, a traditional time for lists. My contribution to the rankings is my list of hell holes, places I’ve been that are simply lousy. Places that make me wonder why anyone stays put. As I continue to travel, because of where I tend to go, no doubt this list will grow and change. But for now, here’s my 2010 pick of the five most hellish spots on earth.

Latakia, Syria

This is where I first realized one of the main crisis of the Middle East and it has nothing to do with politics or religious differences. Latakia is what happens when nomadic people stop wandering and instead of living in easily erected and dismantled tents, they decide to use concrete for their shelters. While they changed their shelter material, they didn’t change the age-old disregard that nomads have for any particular patch of land. Because nomads always move on, they take no care of where they are now because they’ll be gone tomorrow. But concrete has a way of rooting restless people. And they are rooted in Latakia. They are also drowning in garbage, haphazard streetscapes and the short-termism of nomads. This kind of failed transition, the creation of an urban nightmare, is evident throughout the Middle East but Latakia is the worst example I’ve come across.

See my earlier Latakia post here. Watch for #4 on the hell hole list next week.