Log #25a Introduction to the East Med Yacht Rally

May 29, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 25 EMYR, The Logs

Log #25a Introduction to the East Med Yacht Rally

May 29, 2002
Lattakia, Syria

We are a little over half way through the EMYR, which theoretically started April 28 in Istanbul, and ends June 14 in Herzliya, Israel. I say theoretically in Istanbul, as it was scheduled to start there, but there were no boats that started from that port. Instead, the first boats to join didn’t do so until Kusadasi on May 4. We left Kemer on April 17 to head up to join it in Bodrum on May 6.

This is the 13th year of this rally, and it has a permanent website at www.kemermarina.com for those who would like more details about it. Judy and I are not rally types as we like to sail independently. The schedule is hectic, covering 1670 nautical miles, 19 ports, and six Middle East countries, in 47 days. This is our first rally, but we have joined it as it takes us to several countries we would be reluctant to go to by ourselves, and includes some fascinating tours. So far we are really enjoying it, and have more than gotten our money’s worth from it.

The cost is moderate at $150 US per person plus tours (voluntary), port fees, and landing permits. The rally costs cover a wide range of mementos, souvenirs, plaques, meals, receptions, and some local tours. This price also includes free marina facilities, dockage, electricity, and water at each port. So for a period of over six weeks we will have had no marina costs while enjoying the luxury of some very first class marinas. Port fees and landing permits were only as follows: Syria – $75 port fee plus $20 landing permits, Lebanon – $89 port fee, Port Said, Egypt – $26 port fee plus $30 landing permits. The optional tours at each port range from $25 to $165 for the overnight tour to Damascus and Palmyra in Syria. Meals-wise, we are stuffed with free meals and receptions at each port. The only meals we have on board are breakfasts, lunches, and suppers only when under way. I will describe the meals in more detail for each port. Mmmmmm!

Each boat also received a package at their joining port of an attractive blue and red knap sack containing the rally “Bible”, and for each person, rally souvenirs which included a golf shirt, and two tee shirts with the EMYR logo on the front and a map of the East Mediterranean showing the rally itinerary on the back, plus a rally mug and lapel pin. The rally “Bible” is a very complete 62 page manual containing general rally information, historical notes on the Mid East, costs for each port and tour, group organization, VHF channels, port information and passage planning notes, as well as blank crew lists. The port information and passage planning notes are four pages for each port as follows: a sheet indicating distances and way points to be followed to that port, as well as arrival procedures, emergency shelters if needed, services available, social activities and tours, and t5he names of the local representatives; a historical/tourist description of the area and tours to be taken; a two colour chartlet of the coast line from one port to the next, with course lines and way points indicated; and a detailed chartlet of the harbour/port indicating the location for the yachts to moor. A bulletin board is then set up at each marina indicating any additional information on tours, services, and social activities. The rally is impressively well organized, thanks to Hasan and Umut from Kemer Marina and the volunteer rally committee on which Judy and I served.

As I have explained in earlier logs, we volunteered to help the committee, and I was asked to write up a historical survey of the Middle East, and a summary of what we could expect to see at each port to be put in the rally “Bible”, the manual given to each yacht regarding the policies, procedures, ports and passage plans for the EMYR. Some friends of ours, Frank and Tari, were the Committee members putting the “Bible” together, and we were helping them. However, in early April Frank had to return to the US for medical reasons, and they will not be able to join the rally this year. We stepped in and became Committee members, and spent several days before leaving Kemer editing the “Bible” with Hasan, the main EMYR organizer, and Umut, the rally secretary. Hasan and Umut are also the ones who are responsible for the very convivial atmosphere for the winter liveaboards at Kemer, and the success and sponsorship by Kemer of the EMYR.

The rally this year consists of 42 yachts from 12 countries as follows:

Austria – 1, Canada – 3, Denmark – 1, France – 8, Germany – 4, Netherlands – 3, Sweden – 2, Switzerland – 2, Turkey – 3, United Kingdom – 5, USA – 10. A few of the US flagged boats are actually Israeli boats, but flying the US flag for security purposes. The instability in Israel and terrorist threats since Sept. 11th have caused several boats to cancel and the numbers this year are lower than previous years. However, some boats cancelled wintering in Turkey because of terrorist concerns which were unfounded. We have been assured of the security in Israeli marinas and at present plan to go ahead with the full rally which includes visiting three Israeli ports. Tours in Israel will not go to trouble spots. For example, Bethlehem and the West Bank are probably out, but Israeli hospitality and other tours are still anticipated.

We are the third smallest boat, the three smallest being 9.5m, 9.68m and Veleda at 9.75m. The three largest boats are 18.89m, 17.5m, and 16.38m. The boats are divided into four groups by size. We are the group leader for Group 1, the smallest group. Because boat speed is determined by water length, we are the slowest group, and leave earliest and arrive latest in each port. So far we have not had any problems, arriving within an hour or so of the rest of the larger boats. This is a rally, not a race or regatta; however it is intereting to see how your boat performs in relation to others.

Below I have reproduced part of the brief overview of Middle East history I wrote for the “Bible”, trying to be circumspect regarding the sensitivities of the countries we will be visiting. The EMYR has as one of its aims,  “To employ international cruising yachtsmen as ambassadors-at-large representing the international cruising community spreading goodwill, co-operation, friendship and improved relations between the cruising community and the nations, ports, harbours and communities of the Eastern Mediterranean.” In my next log I may include the summary I gave of the Crusades which dominated the region for the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as some of the specifics of the wonderful people we have met, places we have visited and other sailing experiences while on the EMYR.

Middle East History


Located at the junction of three continents–Europe, Asia, and Africa–the Middle East has historically been a crossroads for conquerors, peoples, trade, and ideas as well as a transition zone for political, religious, and cultural interaction. Today the Middle East’s strategic tricontinental hub location, vast petroleum reserves, importance to Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike, and many political disputes give it a global significance out of proportion to its size.

The Middle East is generally understood to encompass the northern tier countries (Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan), the Fertile Crescent (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Israel, and Jordan), the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait), and portions or all of North Africa (Egypt and, by some definitions, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco). This culturally, politically, and economically diverse region extends for some 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) from west to east and about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) from north to south. The East Mediterranean countries of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel are known as the Levant. The North African countries of Libya, Tunisia, Algiers and Morocco are known as the Maghreb.

The Middle East occupies an area where three plates of the Earth’s crust meet. The convergence of these tectonic plates has produced high fold mountain ranges, including those of Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. The same forces that built the region’s mountains are responsible for destructive earthquakes.

Peoples and Cultures

More than 90 percent of the Middle East’s population are Muslims, which gives the region a cultural and religious unity. Islam originated in the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century AD and rapidly spread to the rest of the region as well as to many other parts of the world. Muhammad, the revered prophet of Islam, was an Arab, and the most sacred Islamic shrines are found in the region, particularly Mecca, and in Jerusalem the Dome of the Rock (also called Mosque of Omar), a mosque built over rock (immediately behind the “Wailing Wall” sacred to Jews) supposed by Jews to be scene of the sacrifice of Isaac, and, by Muslims, of Muhammad’s ascension. Islam’s division into branches of Sunnites and Shi’ites dates from the earliest days of the faith. By far the largest concentration of Shi’ites is in Iran. There are smaller communities of Shi’ites in eastern Turkey, southern Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia, western Yemen, and Lebanon. The only countries in which Shi’ites form a majority are Iran, Bahrain, Iraq, and Yemen. Elsewhere in the region, Sunnites, who account for 83 percent of the world’s Muslims, and non-Muslims are preponderant.

The Middle East is also the birthplace of Judaism and Christianity. Before Israel’s creation in 1948, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, and Iraq all had large Jewish communities. Most of these Jews now live in Israel, the world’s sole Jewish state. The Christians belong to a large number of denominations, but two-thirds are Copts, Maronites, or Greek Orthodox. The largest concentrations are in Lebanon, where they account for roughly 40 percent of the population, and in Egypt and Syria, where they make up nearly 10 percent.


The Middle East has the longest recorded history of any region in the world and was the setting for two of the earliest human civilizations–the Egyptian and Mesopotamian, which flourished some 4,000 years ago. Three other parts of the region also played a significant historical role in ancient times: Syria and Palestine, where the Jews, Philistines, Phoenicians, and Aramaeans lived; Anatolia (Turkey), where the Hittite kingdom developed after 1900 BC; and Persia, which gave birth to the kingdom of Media and the Persian Empire. The Persians, who controlled much of the Middle East by the 6th century BC, were followed by the Phoenicians, Greeks and the Romans. When the Roman Empire was divided in AD 395, the Mediterranean Middle East fell within the Christian Byzantine Empire, while the East was dominated by Persia.

In the 7th and 8th centuries AD Islam arose in the Arabian peninsula and rapidly spread to the rest of the Middle East under the Arab-Muslim Umayyad and ‘Abbasid empires. Following the ‘Abbasid Empire’s disintegration several rival caliphs and dynasties emerged. The Crusades, which followed the Seljuk conquest of Jerusalem in 1071, lasted roughly 100 years until Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid Dynasty, restored Muslim power in Palestine. The Ayyubids also ruled Egypt and Syria until 1250. From then until 1517 much of the Middle East fell under Mameluke rule, though Mongol attacks from the east were frequent. The last great empire in the Middle East was that of the Ottomans, who conquered Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453.

Modern Middle East History

Modern European involvement in the Middle East began with Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798. Throughout the 19th century, European interests in the region expanded, giving birth to nationalist ideas. With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the colonial powers redrew the map of the central Middle East. Almost all of the Middle East fell under colonial influence, which in most cases was not thrown off until after World War II. France controlled Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, and Lebanon, while Britain was paramount in Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, southern Yemen, and some of the gulf sheikhdoms. In Palestine, Zionist colonization occurred, setting the stage for the birth of the State of Israel in 1948. The area has been in much turmoil since WW II.