The Mediterranean Sea derives its name from the Latin “mare Mediterraneum”, which describes a “sea in the middle of the land”. At the crossroads of three continents, its coasts are rich from many civilizations and a multitude of landscapes.
On a geographical scale, the Mediterranean Sea is not a large body of water. (it’s only 0,66% of the world ocean water) but around its shores, countless civilizations and nations grew and fell. From Ancient Egypt to the newest countries born after the fall of Communism in Europe, the Mediterranean is a melting-pot of cultures, religions, languages, landscapes, etc. and with all these peoples gathered together around a semi-closed sea, it’s no wonder they influenced and enriched one another. At the crossroad of three continents, the Mediterranean is a nexus of trade but also, of exchanges on a large scale. We owe the Mediterranean civilizations the concept of democracy, the Abrahamic religions, the spread of Arab numbers… just to name a few.
The Nort shores of the Mediterranean are all part of Europe and is a tapestry of countries: From Portugal to a little bit of Turkey, it’s home to tourism heavyweights such as France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, or even Croatia. But let’s not forget the up-and-comers such as Slovenia, Montenegro or Albania. Characterized by a diversity of languages, cultures and religions, it would take a lifetime to explore the European side of the Mediterranean!
In Marseille, you will find THE museum dedicated to the region: the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MUCEM). Let’s not forget that Marseille was founded by Ancient Greek colonists from what is now Turkey! Located at the entrance of the old port, the Museum is has a permanent collection charting historical and cultural cross-fertilization in the Mediterranean basin. And if you decide to stay in Marseille, we have a great address right on the port: the Hotel Belle-vue. It was the first hotel in Marseille to snatch the “Green Key” ecological label.
From Asian Turkey and Cyprus to Israel and Palestine, this region of the Mediterranean is one of the cradles of civilization. It was here that intensive year-round agriculture was first practiced, leading to the rise of the first dense urban settlements and the development of many familiar institutions. The city of Jericho, in Palestine, is said to be the oldest permanently inhabited settlement on Earth. The giant of the area is Turkey, it has the lion’s share of tourism with many cultural icons such as Istanbul or Cappadocia but also with large areas devoted to mass-tourism such as Antalya or Bodrum. Religion-related tourism is also very important with many religious sites disseminated between Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Talking about Lebanon, if you want to support (when we can travel again) a country that needs it (after the Beirut port explosion), we have a beautiful address to recommend: Guita bed&bloom, guesthouse and organic farm nestled in the beautiful Lebanese mountains of Aaqoura.
The third continent bordering the Mediterranean is Africa. If Egypt, with one of the oldest civilizations in the Mediterranean (and diving, but in the Red Sea) attracts many tourists, Tunisia and Morocco are also popular. This part of the Mediterranean Bassin has seen a lot of ups and downs for the past few years, disrupting tourism. However, the region is not lacking in assets. From Egyptian and Roman ruins to Islamic heritage, from vast expanses fit for hiking (the Moroccan Atlas or Hoggar Mountains in Algeria) to the desert, the African shore of the Mediterranean has huge opportunities to develop a more sustainable tourism approach. Even in the most touristic spots such as Djerba. The Tunisian island is known for all its all-inclusive resorts but that’s not what you will find at Dar Cherif. This art and cultural center is also a guesthouse. With a showroom and art workshops, it aims to be a place of exchanges between cultures.
In the mood for discovering the Southern European part of the Med in depth and at a slow pace? Why not try the EuroVelo 8 route, Called the Mediterranean Route, it starts in Cadiz, Spain and goes all the way to Athens before branching off either to Cyprus or Izmir in Turkey. With more than 7000 km to discover and no less than 10 countries to cross, it’s a real adventure. Of course, you don’t have to do the whole length but why not do some little bits if you are in the area?
EuroVelo is a network of 17 long distance cycle routes connecting and uniting the whole European continent. The routes can be used by cycle tourists as well as by local people making daily journeys. EuroVelo currently comprises of 17 routes totaling over 90,000km of cycling itineraries.