That's the trajectory that my sister followed, a year and a half ago (summer 2001), while she and her boyfriend were on a tour of Asia. (After the mentioned countries, they passed through India, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia, before flying home from Bali, 11 months after having started their trip from Istanbul)
Turkey, she found, was a great country. If you want to see archeological sites from the Greek civilization, you should not go to Greece, but to Turkey. The Greek temples and other remains were absolutely astonishing. Going east, obviously, (ancient) civilization diminished, as they went into more and more inhospitable terrain.
They also visited the "capital" of Turkish Kurdistan, where Öcalan's headquarters used to be. Though everything was calm, there were armed men on every street corner. The people were very friendly and hospitable, but nonetheless they were intimidated by all the arms around...
The great "shock" came in Iran, though. When they passed from Turkey to Iran, they had expected lots and lots of baggage checks and all sorts of other inconveniences. My sister had even bought a Burka (a "scarf" covering the entire body, as worn by women in some Muslim countries) just in case she would be "requested" to wear one, but in reality they passed the border without any problems. No baggage checks. No body searches. A simple headscarf was enough. And her identity papers, having photographs without headscarf, were accepted without any problems. When they asked a border guard, it turned out that he didn't even know that in Iran all women must wear headscarves. He thought foreign (non-Muslim) women were free to not wear a scarf. Go figure.
The people in Iran were again extremely friendly. Left and right they were invited to breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, to stay the night. When they entered a village, they would immediately be the centre of attention, and everybody wanted to know about life in the West.
In Iran, there are two favourite pastimes: picknicking, and driving. The first, because there is nothing interesting to do, most diversions being illegal, so Iranians spend the entire evening and a large part of the night in public parcs and on squares, eating, drinking (no alcohol ofcourse - at least not in the open), talking, telling stories. Or they take their car or their motor cycle and go drive around in the desert. Gas being only 2 cents a litre, the general state of the vehicles being rather doubtful, and any traffic regulations being only very loosely applied, if at all, traffic is cause of death numer one...
Everywhere one can see traces of anti-Americanism. Drawings on walls depict the graceful Iranian deer being chased by fierce American bloodhounds. Anti-Americanism is ever-present in their world - but not in their minds. The younger generation, those who will be in power in a decade or so, are in fact very pro-Western, very pro-American. All the young people dream to go to the United States, to study, to live the American Dream. My sister (an anthropologist) very quickly came to the conclusion that, in 10 years, Iran could be the most pro-Western country in the Middle-East!
Totally astonishing, a picture they took from the top of a foothill, looking down on a vast city, in the middle of a desert. If you knew no better, you would say that you were looking down on a city in one of Amerca's desert states - Arizona, Texas, California... But no, this all-American skyline is indeed situated in Iran...
Leaving Iran behind, they entered Pakistan. They travelled north, and arrived in Peshawar, close to Afghanistan's border, right inbetween Islamabad (capital of Pakistan) and Khabul (capital of Afghanistan) ...
... on the 11th of September, 2001.
They came to their hotel, to find everybody immediately bombarding them with questions. But they knew even less than the locals did... The following days, when they met people, they immediately asked if they were American, and were actually disappointed when it turned out they were "only" Dutch.
When Pakistan announced that they would support the US in its war against the Taliban, all of Peshawar was out in the streets, celebrating that fact.
But on CNN, and all other western news sources for that matter, all we see of Peshawar, is a handful of Taliban-supporters demonstrating against the US.
My sister and her boyfriend were torn. They wanted to take the time to visit Pakistan, but was it not now too dangerous, with Afghanistan only a few miles away? All the Pakistani they met tried to convince them to stay. But finally, the Dutch embassy called them, in the middle of the night, at their hotel, and told them that they should get out of the country as soon as possible.
And so, with pain in their hearts, and promising to return to finish their visit, they took the night train to India. (To be baggage- and body-searched twice while passing the border)
Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.