Are you a woman planning to travel to the Middle East anytime soon? Set aside the fear and anxiety because there are more exciting places to visit and lessons to learn when traveling around Middle Eastern countries. Just keep these travel tips in mind so you can enjoy the beauty, rich culture, and the life of what it is like to be in the Islamic part of the world.
8 Travel Tips for Women Traveling in the Middle East
1. Dress modestly.
This is the first thing that you should keep in mind when traveling in the Middle East: dress modestly. Though the weather is hot, women in the Middle East are expected to cover up. Always remember this general rule; you should wear clothes that will cover you from your neck to your knees.
Bringing a scarf or a pashmina can be very helpful if you need to cover your shoulders and hair to enter religious sites like mosques. Though some mosques allow tourists to enter with uncovered hair, it is better to be prepared just in case.
2. Take note of gendered seating sections.
Gender segregation is a practice under the Islamic law, so expect to experience gendered seating sections when traveling in the Middle East. Whether in restaurants or any public transport, you should only sit in the women’s section.
But, if you’re accidentally seated in the men’s section, don’t worry, because you’ll be only asked to move. Though some popular tourist restaurants don’t observe this practice anymore, it is better to first wait for an employee to guide you on where to sit, rather than picking a table for yourself.
3. Seek out local women for help or direction.
Though Middle Eastern men are approachable and helpful, you should avoid having eye contact with them. Because in the Middle East, eye contact can be misunderstood and mistaken for flirting. And so, if you have questions and concerns it is better to seek help from local women who are more than willing to help you. This way, you won’t be accused of flirting, which you may not have actually intended to do.
4. Be ready for attention.
In some parts of the Middle East, women are not allowed to work outside their homes. That is why it is not common to see a woman out and wandering around in some places. So don’t get shocked if you get extra attention from locals when you are travelling in the Middle East.
Some might ask you to a pose for a photo with them. Yes, you need to be friendly at all times, but with this one it is better to say no and move on. This is to ensure your safety and to avoid delays so you can maximize your stay and tour as much as you can.
5. Don’t travel alone.
As much as possible, if you are a woman, it is better to have someone with you on your travel to the Middle East. This is because being alone makes you an interesting piece for Middle Eastern men.
And most of them are generally not comfortable speaking to you. Plus, there’s the fact that it is strange to see a woman traveling alone in some areas. The best thing that you can do is to bring a male friend with you. By this way, you can enjoy going around the Middle East without getting too much unwarranted attention.
6. Avoid public displays of affection.
Another important thing to remember when traveling in the Middle East is that you should avoid public displays of affection, which are considered to be disrespectful. For example, in Dubai, kissing and even holding hands can be a reason for you to be in prison. So, if you are traveling with a partner on your trip to the Middle East, it is better to show your love and affection to each other behind closed doors.
7. Pack a hand sanitizer and your own toilet paper.
Generally, most restrooms located outside the major hotels in the Middle East don’t have available toilet paper. So, it is sensible to be ready and have your own pack of toilet paper or tissues that can save you at all times. Also, bringing a hand sanitizer is a must to ensure you’ll always have clean hands. And if you are expecting your period, bringing a pack of sanitary pads would be a wise move, too.
8. Choose your destinations carefully.
You can avoid all the strict rules in the Middle East if you do your research and choose your destinations carefully. For example, Lebanon and other touristy areas in the United Arab Emirates may be safer bets. But it is always advised to be respectful with the locals and their practices so you can keep out of trouble and be a good tourist.
Traveling in the Middle East should not be a worry for tourists, especially for women. By following these tips, you can enjoy a Middle Eastern trip with less hassle and delays. And by the way, a smile, a greeting of “salam alaykum” (peace be upon you), and “shukran” (thank you) can go a long way on your Middle Eastern journey!