For more than 15 years the Abraham Path Initiative (API) has generated positive social and economic impact in Southwest Asia (“the Middle East”), by developing walking trails for community-based tourism. The trails benefit residents, who may become professional guides, homestay host families, and small business owners who cater to walkers who visit their towns. Along these trails, travelers may enjoy authentic hospitality, make new friends, walk in breathtaking landscapes, and return home with positive stories about the region and its peoples.
Working with governments, communities, civil society organizations, and individuals, API has catalyzed the development of more than 2,000 km of walking trails in Palestine, Jordan, the Sinai, and Turkey.
· We began our work in Palestine in 2008, exploring existing walking trails and reaching out to various NGOs to assess interest and capacity for co-creating a long-distance walking trail on the spine of the West Bank. In 2014 we were awarded a $3.324m grant from the World Bank Group to complete 330 km of walking trails. In the course of five years, that was accomplished, along with developing dozens of homestay opportunities with families in villages along the route, and certifying scores of walking and trekking guides.
· Our investment of expertise and training in the eastern Sinai Peninsula brought three Bedouin tribes together to create a 225 km trail connecting their territories. In 2018, they saw a 66% rise in the number of Bedouin guides (from 16 to 24), while the number of Bedouin workers along the trail grew from 34 to 42. Walkers on the trail increased from 88 in 2017 to nearly 400 in 2018. From that place of strength, the three tribes, in a unified effort, invited five additional tribes to work with them. Together, the eight tribes doubled the length of the Sinai Trail. API’s investment in the Sinai was underwritten by grants from the Flora Family Foundation.
· In 2018-2019, API completed a $260,000 trail feasibility study in the Asir Province of Saudi Arabia. Asir, north of Yemen on Arabia’s Red Sea Coast, boasts the highest mountain on the peninsula -- the 3,000-meter Jabal Sawda.
· Currently, API is catalyzing a long-distance walking trail in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. We bring technical expertise, training, capacity building, and publicity and marketing know-how to villagers in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, stimulating revenue generation with community-based tourism. API began exploring trail development in Iraq in 2018, when Abraham Path Fellows were engaged in cultural heritage preservation projects from the marshes in the South to the Nineveh and Kurdistan Regional Governorates in the North. With this important initiative, we draw attention to roots of global culture that emanate from the region historically known as the Fertile Crescent and Cradle of Civilization.