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Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’?

Can a Trip Ever Be ‘Authentic’?

Indonesian tourists pose in front of members of the Stone Age Dani tribe in West Papua, New Guinea. The tribe maintains many of its costumes and traditions — and charges visitors for the honor of observing them. Credit Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

In a globalized age — when a McAloo Tikki is just as Indian as the Taj Mahal — has the very word lost its meaning?

I once spent an unforgettable day in the traveler’s treasure-house that is Sana’a, capital of Yemen. Stained-glass windows glittered from thickets of high tower-houses as night began to fall, and khat-chewing men with daggers at their sides haggled furiously in the Salt Market. Clay walls surrounded one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements on the planet, where groups of turbaned shopkeepers headed toward 1,400-year-old mosques as the call to prayer echoed through the dusk. It wasn’t hard to feel, amid the dusty lanes of a large section of town that’s now a Unesco World Heritage Site, that nothing had changed since the Prophet’s time; here, I decided, was the Old World, all slowness and prayer and tribal custom, in stark opposition to the fast-forward, hyperconnected, young society I know in California. By Pico Iyer. Read more.