Holidaying in the Middle East

16 Aug 2015

The Middle East offers a whole plethora of culture, heritage, modern architecture, adventure sports and family entertainment. While Dubai is the most popular and favoured destination – other cities like Abu Dhabi and Qatar are emerging as great choices for enjoying a holiday by yourself or as a family. If you want to enjoy a holiday in these countries then it is important to remember certain rules of etiquette that will help you have a great holiday.

Unmarried visitors in particular should get wise to acceptable rules of behaviour. Public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and all forms of nudity are verboten. Keep your clothes moderate, which will also help you cope with oppressive heat and humidity. Opt for loose-fitting and opaque and keep limbs maximally covered.

While Dubai is a city that has a high foreign population and thus is a bit more liberal in enforcement of the laws but it still prohibits any behaviour which would be offensive to their religious sensibilities like public display of affection. This applies to both married and unmarried people. Countries like Qatar are only just opening up their cities to tourists in full gusto. There are a lot of cultural aspects on offer at the museums, art galleries and ethnic markets that will give you an authentic experience of the country and its traditions.

It is best to avoid visiting any of the Middle Eastern or Northern African countries during the important month of Ramadan. People at this time are more focussed on their religious fasts and are also less active. This time should be ideally avoided for business and pleasure. The summer time and the winter time are the most popular seasons for tourists in the region and tourist also receive the best offers from hotels, flights and other entertainment centres.

The place of women in Muslim countries depends on the degree of Sharia Law operating in each country, but in general, it is unusual for women to be seen travelling alone without their families, and women have rigidly defined roles. On local buses, men and women sit separately even if related. On most trains and long-distance buses, men and women sit together. One shock most women will find is that in countries like Iran, women don’t go anywhere alone, and are never seen alone in public, only out with their families or in groups of other women. So you will stand out, and may feel a bit strange sitting alone in a café or restaurant, which are usually male dominated.

Enjoy the endless shopping malls and the adventure dune rides with belly dancers in the middle of the dessert but enjoy it all with a sense of respect and etiquette for the countries religious and cultural sensibilities.

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