Middle East is a very interesting region to travel and explore. It is enriched with unique culture, vast and elaborate history, countless old archaeological sites and breathtaking landscapes. Although it can be daunting, it shouldn’t stop women from visiting these awesome countries. Here are some guides for women when traveling in the Middle East:
Women are encouraged to wear loose long pants or skirts and a t-shirt or long sleeve shirt in all Middle Eastern countries. Avoid wearing transparent clothes. A headscarf is optional but if you plan on visiting a mosque, you will be required to wear a scarf and dress that will cover your whole body. This region is more culturally conservative than many parts of the US, Europe, Canada or East Asia.Dressing modestly shows that you respect local custom, culture and tradition.
Buy a local sim
Upon arrival into the country, buy a local sim. Internet data allows you to update your family and friends of your destination. If you get lost, you can easily access the GPS. It can be used for emergency purposes, such as calling local authorities for help.
Learn the language
Arabic is the main language in the Middle East. Although English is widely spoken to some Arab countries, it helps to learn few important Arabic phrases like “As-salam alaykum” that means peace be with you. It is routinely used as a Muslim greeting equivalent to saying hi. Other words that might be helpful are “Shukran” for thanks, “Aywa” for yes and “La” for no. Locals will appreciate any effort you make to connect with them.
Travel in pairs
It is always good to travel with someone in the Middle East for safety reasons. It is worth to remember you are entering a country with different culture and that locals are not used to seeing women traveling alone. But if you have to travel alone, be cautious and wary.
Keep your smile to a minimum
Having lived in the Philippines where men and women openly talk to one another, to some countries in the Middle East it is the other way around. In Oman, it is okay to smile and greet ladies but it would be better not to flash a smile to a male. A smile is more than a smile and may be misinterpreted as having romantic interest to the opposite sex. The best advice is to be more reserved than you normally would.
Respect local customs
Be prepared for gender segregation. Going to public areas or riding on local transport, men and women sit separately even if related. If you are traveling alone, sit where the group of women are sitting together.
Know where you are going
Plan you trip and don’t just wander around. There are places in any city that would be unsafe. Get maps on the airport to know where you are going and study them before you leave the hotel. Keep the address of the accommodation you will be staying in English and Arabic language. Walk confidently at all times, even if you are lost or terrified.
Bring toilet papers
Toilet papers are rarely supplied on public places. Bear in mind, squat toilets are common in the Middle East. Hand sanitizer is a must.
It is hot and you need protection for your eyes under the sun. Second, it gives you the opportunity to look around without drawing unnecessary attention.
As long as you plan ahead, make use of your common sense, and know the cultural and religious differences, you will have a splendid, worthy and safe experience of the Arab country you are visiting.
Have you traveled in the Middle East? Share your experiences on the comments below.