ISTANBUL, Turkey-Provisioned with a motorcycle, a camcorder, and a keen lust for discovery, Turkish adventurer, Cihan Karadag, plans to circumnavigate the entire Middle Eastern region by motorcycle, alone. He will depart from Istanbul in early June and projects that this 10,000+ kilometer journey will take more than three months to complete.
“The Middle East is the place where civilization was born,” Karadag states, “So the history is very deep and the people are very colorful.” He then added, “I want to discover my own history, and see from their eyes how they see us Turks.”
“There are no motorcyclists that have done this before in Turkey,” Karadag states proudly, “So maybe if I do this it would open people’s vision that they can go there also. I hope to open up a pathway.”
Karadag intends to depart from Istanbul in early June and travel through Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emeritus, and then take a ferry to Iran before finishing his journey by entering Turkey from the east. He projects that this circular route will take more than three months to complete.
“This journey will open a path through this Middle East route,” Karadag reasserts for added emphasis.
Cihan Karadag is a native of Antalya, who moved to Istanbul 11years ago to pursue a university education at Marmara University. He works as a computer programmer when he is not traveling, and says that he cannot recollect the childhood origins of his insatiable wanderlust. He then quickly added that, “I always enjoyed traveling no matter where my family took me [as a child] . . . I remember especially . . . enjoying watching outside while traveling in a bus or in a car.” He then added that he still loves staring out of the windows of moving vehicles.
Karadag asserts that his biggest motivation for this journey is discovery, and that this is the main reason why he chooses to ride his motorcycle through less traveled destinations.
“There are more to discover in these kind of places,” he said, and added that, “The more I travel, the more I find myself eager to learn.”
“When you travel by motorcycle you can stop at places that the normal tourist doesn’t stop and doesn’t see. So you can meet a man who has never seen a tourist before on the top of a mountain or someplace,” Karadag stated as his reason for traveling long distances by such rugged means.
“If you take public transportation, you do not have the opportunity to discover out of the track places. So [traveling by motorcycle] gives you a chance to interact with the people in the middle of the desert or on the top of a mountain.”
The motorcycle that he has chosen for this journey is a Kawasaki KLR 650, and adds that long distance touring through deserts and other harsh landscapes requires a motorbike that is cheap, durable, and light.
Karadag is currently making luggage modifications to his motorcycle to ensure that he will be able to securely carry his video and photography gear, personal luggage, and spare parts through uncertain road conditions and rugged terrain.
Curriculum Vitae- Travels in Iran
Cihan Karadag is no novice to long distance motorbike travel. In 2007, he completed a 10,000 kilometer journey through eastern Turkey and Iran.
When asked about why he chose Iran as a destination, he replied that, “Iran is a very deep culture, a historical culture that has influenced Turkey’s culture very much. For example, we have many Persian words and we have a strong historical relationship. . . but here in Turkey, it is believed that Iran is someplace to be afraid of, that the people are very unhappy and frightened.”
In point, Karadag wanted to go to Iran and see with his own eyes what life was really like. This insatiable curiosity lead him to riding a 150cc scooter with 12 inch wheels 10,700 kilometers through Iranian deserts, mountains, and cities. The type of scooter that he rode is intended to be used for short urban commutes, and not for voyages into foreign lands. But Karadag was undaunted by this fact, coolly stating that, “I was very experienced with the scooter and was sure that it could make the journey.”
What Karadag found in Iran was a kaleidoscope of cultural diversity that sharply contrasted the grime impression of the country that he held before his departure.
“I found a very colorful culture: there are Turks living there, Kurds living there, Persian people living there, Balooch people living there, and all are living their traditional ways of life. . . When you are outside of the cities the people still wear their traditional clothes. . . so it was very nice to see that they have kept their own culture. Iran is a very colorful place.”
With a sly laugh that was tinged with irony, Karadag says that the most amazing thing that he experienced in Iran was, “interacting with the girls.”
Karadag is now determined to push his curiosity one step further, and to discover for himself the cultural diversity that makes up the rest of the Middle East and parts of East Africa.
Motorcyclist Cihan Karadag is currently offering sponsorship opportunities to companies who would like to donate gear or make financial contributions to this expedition through the Middle East and East Africa.
When asked about the benefits that a company would receive from sponsorship, Karadag stated that, “This journey will get the attention of the motorcycle community in Turkey. I will put [the sponsor’s] sticker on my motorcycle, so their name will be seen. It will be good that they will be seen supporting these kinds of adventures.”
Karadag will also post regular updates on a website throughout his travels, as well as keep detailed photograph, video, and written records of the journey for the potential compilation of a guide for future motorcyclists. His sponsor’s logos will accompany any media that this expedition generates.
“If a sponsor gives me luggage,” Karadag boldly stated, “they say ‘this luggage endorses this journey” [and] it means that it is durable and good luggage.”
Karadag sums up this advertising opportunity with a declaration to potential sponsors:
“You can put your name on a big magazine but that won’t prove that your equipment is reliable.”
Donating supplies to Karadag’s expedition will prove to motorcyclists around the world that the gear is worth purchasing. Karadag is willing to field test products that are relevant to motorcycle travel, videography, and photography.
In Iran, Karadag did not know how to speak the local languages. In an effort to not duplicate this mistake, he has been intensively studying both spoken and written Arabic for the past six months.
“Learning Arabic will be an advantage so I can communicate with the people better,” he explained.
Karadag adds that he hopes to speak enough Arabic to have in-depth conversations with the people whose region he will be traveling through. He adds that he wants to be able to, “listen to their visions about life, about their country, about Turkey.”
The Final Product
In addition to continuously updating a website from the road, Karadag will be taking extensive notes and shooting video footage to make into a television documentary upon his return.
“The first thing I will do is the website, the second thing will be good pictures, and then the media footage,” he states. “I will use every opportunity for people to know about this journey . . . that goes through so many different cultures.”
About the final product of this expedition, Karadag says, “I plan on making a documentary about the real culture, about how the people live there, and . . . [traveling by] motorcycle gives me an advantage.”
Karadag asserts that the Middle East, “. . . is an undiscovered place. Maybe you know many things about Europe because you watch films about it, you read newspapers about it, you see photos about it from your childhood up until now. Also, there are many tourists there, everybody goes there, so there is not much to discover there. In the Middle East, there are a lot of things to discover yourself and live your adventure.”
Cihan Karadag is now preparing for a solo journey through the Middle East and East Africa, along a route that no Turk has reputedly traveled by motorcycle before. He welcomes the support of his countrymen as he commences upon this historic adventure.
Article written and researched by Wade P. Shepard.