Bashar Ibrahim is one of those larger-than-life characters who has a life story that seems like it was taken straight out of a Hollywood movie. Born in 1997 to middle-class parents in the city of Aswan in Southern Egypt, he was exposed to many different cultures around the world due to his father’s travels (his father Bahadur was an academic scholar who specialised in anthropological studies).
Growing up with this worldly perspective, it was only natural that Bashar Ibrahim would seek to head out on his own as an adult and experience as many cultures as possible. He was particularly fascinated by the United States and Japan, two cultures he had been heavily exposed to through films and television and wanted to see for himself.
He is also a food-lover and made it one of his missions to sample as many types of international food as he could. It is said that life experience is the richest asset you can acquire, and Bashar Ibrahim undoubtedly living proof of that idiom’s accuracy.
The only reason we know so much about his intriguing journey is he due to the fact he loves to meticulously record his activities (almost as much as he loves food and travel). Documenting his adventures in his journal, he eventually translated his writings into a blog where he began to routinely update a growing fanbase on where he was going, and what he was doing each week.
Bashar Ibrahim’s Blog
What started as nothing more than a way to express his thoughts and feelings to a willing audience became a thriving digital enterprise for Bashar Ibrahim. Selling advertising space on his blog, he was able to continue to finance and extend his travels long after his initial globetrotting budget began to dwindle (travel isn’t cheap!) He also did not want to burden his parents by asking them for extra cash to continue travelling, and instead was smart about combining his savings with a new revenue stream.
Due to his natural writing ability and great photography/videography skills, he had no trouble quickly growing an audience at a time when travel blogging was still in its relative infancy (at least when compared to the oversaturated market that exists today). Also, the fact that Bashar Ibrahim was from the anglosphere (America, Britain, Canada, Australia, etc.), he had a unique perspective compared to his contemporaries.
In fact, some of his most popular blog entries cover his travels to and around countries like the United States where his experience as a foreigner was interesting to see by those living there. His American fans, in particular, were fascinated to see him travel around the different states and experience the culture from a very alien standpoint. Travelling to a different state might be a culture shock for an American, but an Egyptian travelling to and experiencing all of these states was an even bigger one.
Bashar Ibrahim and his Travels in America
Bashar Ibrahim’s American travels are definitely some of his most interesting to explore. Starting out in New York City (what he considered the quintessential American experience), his plan was to move westward and circle back through the Southern United States before reaching the east coast again.
New York was his first taste of America. It was the perfect starting place to dispel the misconceptions he admitted to boarding the plane with. In his blog describing his first day on the streets of the Big Apple, Bashar Ibrahim talked about not just visiting landmarks and sampling the famous authentic pizza style known as the ‘New York Slice’, but also raved about the fantastic people he met.
He came to the city with a sense of apprehension about how he would be received as a foreigner, as well as someone of Arab descent. New York City was, after all, the place where the September 11 terrorist attacks took place, and Bashar Ibrahim was very aware of racist sentiments in the United States that were born out of that tragic event.
Visiting the September 11 memorial and absorbing the sense of loss that was even present there, Bashar Ibrahim got a new appreciation for the cultural impact of the event. At the same time, Bashar Ibrahim was happy to know that his fear about being alienated as an Arab was unfounded, and he did not encounter any of the prejudice he was told to expect by others.
In his writing on the experience, you can see the beginnings of a running thesis that develops out of Bashar Ibrahim’s world experience. This thesis is that the vast majority of ordinary people are kind-hearted, patient, and just want to get through life the best way that they can. He realised that a vocal minority of hateful people (their opinions magnified by the power of the internet) can unfairly paint a picture of culture is very far from the truth.
Bashar Ibrahim notes that, while extremes exist and that people can become radicalised by their own fear, most people just want to get along with each other. This epiphany is one of the most valuable takeaways from all of Bashar Ibrahim’s writing.
Moving westward towards California, Bashar Ibrahim’s blog began to focus heavily on the different local cuisines he was fortunate enough to sample during his travels. His love of fish and fishing saw him connect with many local fishermen and the seafood restaurants they supplied, allowing him to truly indulge.
Compared to the big coastline cities, Bashar Ibrahim was undoubtedly more at home in the American mid-west where the smaller communities reminded him of home. He noted that life in these communities was attractively close-knit and straightforward. Still, it allowed and encouraged people to leave and expand into other townships too.
Exploration of Europe
After returning home from the United States and recharge, Bashar Ibrahim’s next stop was Europe. Europe is a vast place, and he knew he would not be able to see everything in one trip, so he focused his travels around the UK, France, Italy and Russia.
When he got to the UK, Bashar Ibrahim was shocked at how such a large population existed in what was, geographically, a tiny landmass (at least in comparison to his last destination). While the UK was not his favourite destination in terms of culinary experience, he really enjoyed the fact that the country was such a mix of old cultural motifs with new and better technology, as well as modern infrastructure.
In general, Britain felt like one of the most culturally distinct places he ever visited, despite it being also being very ethnically diverse at that point. He noticed that people from Indian and Arab descent were very much proud to identify as British and their accents betrayed no hint of their families foreign origins – Bashar Ibrahim noted that this was a country that genuinely absorbed everyone who lives there into its unique culture that, while being Anglo-Saxon in origin, was open to all ethnicities in the modern age.
Like his experiences in the United States, he was pleasantly surprised to find that his fears about facing any kind of racial or cultural discrimination were overblown mainly due to the megaphone (as mentioned above) that is the internet. Bashar Ibrahim noted that when you took away the political veil that people think governs everyday life, you find that most people from all sides of the political spectrum large want the same things (although they may have different views on how to achieve them).
Moving through the rest of Europe, Bashar Ibrahim got totally engrossed in the culinary and artistic wonderland that the continent was rightly famous for. Trying not to annoy his followers with the type of touristy content they had all seen before, he took a different approach. Instead, he focused on documenting smaller intricacies of the places he visited.
Russia was a particular standout, as Bashar Ibrahim quickly discovered how uniform yet robust their culture was. Everywhere he went, he saw signs of the old Soviet Union and the echoes of the past, witnessing a country that was still very much defined by its long history as a communist state.
Despite the political history of the country, Bashar Ibrahim was very much delighted by the jovial spirit of the people there, who seemed almost too carefree for their own good. He mused that to live in such a cold country, you needed to know how to laugh often to warm the body and the soul.
Bashar Ibrahim admits that he had a lot of fun in Russia and met some of his favourite people there. Again, his experience in the country taught him many valuable lessons about how to judge a culture from the inside rather than from the outside.
Exploring the military history of the country was particularly exciting for Bashar Ibrahim, who was an avid student of the Cold War and how it transformed the geopolitical landscape. His interest in that era (and part of his motivation to travel to Russia) was thanks to his father’s studies on communism and the way it was implemented in different countries.
What can learn from Bashar Ibrahim and his travels
When you study the travels of almost anyone, you can learn a lot. Bashar Ibrahim has done an impressive amount of adventuring so far in his life. While he isn’t done yet, there are certainly a few valuable lessons you can take away from his experiences.
Travel for more than just fun – travel to learn and experience
While a holiday can be seen as a chance to indulge, it should be differentiated from travel which about more than just fancy hotels and foreign nightclubs. For example, going to a place as rich in history and culture as Italy but only spending time out at night drinking with other young people is a very limited way to experience the country.
Bashar Ibrahim’s journey shows that, while international partying can have its merits for groups of young people, authentic travel needs to include more than that to be a worthwhile experience. The experience that you have by meeting everyday people and becoming engrossed in the culture is far more rewarding than only indulging in experiences designed to suck money out of tourists.
People are fundamentally the same everywhere you go
While this may sound like a reason not to bother travelling, it is merely an observation that the nature of the human experience in very similar in every place you visit. Every country has markets, farmers, cafes and places where art is exhibited – they all just manifest in different ways that are both subtle and blatant.
Bashar Ibrahim notes that this is one of the lessons that you shouldn’t just take for granted but should go and experience for yourself. When you have world experience, you become a citizen of the world, and nationalistic borders and identities become less important in the grand scheme of things.
Food is the great unifier
If there’s one thing that’s connected all of the cultures Bashar Ibrahim has experienced, it’s undoubtedly the love of food. Going on adventures around the world would be a hollow (and exhausting) experience if you weren’t eating the local cuisine everywhere you go.
No matter what your tastes are like, there will likely be something new to satisfy you in every country you visit. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things that may be strange in your home culture but are routine in the one you are visiting – when in Rome!
Samantha is the head of content and politics columnist for Best in Australia. Prior to joining the Best in Au, she was a court and crime reporter at SM.