The Africa/Middle East Smackdown

After a harrowing week of pre-tournament voting, or what we like to call the conference tournaments, the final field of 64 is set.

Here are the breakdowns and voting pages for each region.

Africa and the Middle East may not be the most traveled regions of the world, but those who do make it to either of these regions will be met with some amazing indie travel opportunities. Travel isn’t always easy, your friends and family may have some (misguided) concerns, but that’s part of what makes indie travel what it is. Getting out of your comfort zone and embracing the learning possibilities of regions like these helps make an indie traveler. Check out the match-ups in this region to and vote by clicking “Rate It” on the countries flag to see who will move on to the Final Four.

#1 Morocco vs. #16 Lebanon

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Morocco ran away with the #1 seed in this region. It could be because of its proximity to Europe and ease of getting there. But once you’re there, it’s a major culture shock from Europe – which is a huge bonus for most indie travelers. It shouldn’t have trouble with Lebanon, which sometimes struggles with negative perceptions from years past. Those indie travelers venturing to Lebanon know that it’s a great place to visit, and with some backing, it has a chance of pulling the upset.

#8 Rwanda vs. #9 Uganda

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The amazing scenery of Rwanda, with mountains, volcanoes, and jungle, combines with the possibility of seeing gorillas in their habitat, which makes this country a tough match-up for anyone. But Uganda may be up to the task as it offers similar highlights to Rwanda. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in diversity, and this bout of similarly matched countries is perfect for the #8 vs. #9 game. The winner could pose a major problem for the #1 seed in the next round.

#5 Israel vs. #12 Iran

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I’m not sure if the selection committee has a sense of humor or is a bit morbid, but matching these two countries up in the first round is sure to cause some controversy. Both can be difficult to visit depending on your nationality or which stamps you have in your passports. But once there, both offer a history unmatched by most other countries in the world, and if you can set aside your preconceived notions, you could have quite the experience.

#4 South Africa vs. #13 Mali

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I was frankly surprised to see South Africa be ranked as low as #4 in this region, and there’s been plenty of grumbling from fans around the world who thought they should have gotten a #2 or at the very least a #3 seed. The reason for the low seeding may be because there are many travelers who only think of guided safaris when they think of South Africa as opposed to independent travel. But if you’ve been, you’d know that there’s plenty of indie travel opportunities around the country. Mali may have its hands full simply because many travelers don’t know much about it other than the historic city of Timbuktu, but Mali has much more to offer indie travelers willing to get off the beaten track.

#6 Tunisia vs. #11 Madagascar

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If you’re looking for a small country that packs a diverse punch, look no further than #6 seed Tunisia. While there’s plenty of sun and sand for people looking for relaxation, there’s also a plethora of indie travel opportunities for those looking for a wide range of diverse landscapes. #11 seed Madagascar offers an interesting match-up for Tunisia. It’s not exactly a hot-bed of tourism, but indie travelers who take the time to learn about this unique and fascinating country will find plants and animals seen nowhere else on Earth and locals who have more similarities to Southeast Asian people than Africans.

#3 Kenya vs. #14 Zambia

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Mountains, deserts, rainforests, beaches, and coral reefs await the indie traveler in Kenya. Safaris are certainly a highlight of a trip to Kenya, but it snatched the #3 seed in this region because of what else it offers. Zambia fell to a #14 seed, but it could give the popular Kenya a run for its money. Zambia offers safaris just as impressive as Kenya, and the spectacular Victoria Falls doesn’t hurt its case to move on in the Indie Travel Takedown tournament.

#7 Egypt vs. #10 Ethiopia

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Egypt has had its troubles recently when it comes to both politics and tourism, which could explain its low #7 seed in the Africa region. You may not exactly call the Pyramids the most indie of travel experiences, but it’s still hard to argue against seeing the oldest and only remaining in tact original world wonder. The #10 seed Ethiopia has its work cut out for it if it wants to move on, but there’s no reason it can’t. Offering indie travelers a history unique to many other African countries in addition to breathtaking landscapes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset in this one.

#2 Tanzania vs. #15 Jordan

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In perhaps the biggest upset of the conference tournaments, Jordan barely made it in the field of 64. Tanzania managed to snag the #2 seed, and as thanks they get matched up with one of the most popular and up-and-coming countries in the Middle East – Jordan. I’m eager to see how this one plays out. Both have amazing and popular attractions – Tanzania with Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti and Jordan with Petra. Will the amazing friendliness of the Jordanian people be enough for the upset?

The Schedule

Voting begins again today in the Americas Region and the Africa/Middle East region. Simply click on the Indie Travel Rating next to each country to vote for the winner in each match-up. The country with the highest indie travel rating at the end of the round moves on. Voting for this round ends this Sunday, March 18 at 11:59pm PST. Come back tomorrow for the breakdown of the Europe and Asia/Oceania region.

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