The Middle East is a beautiful part of the world and becoming an extremely popular destination for anyone wanting to experience history, culture and architecture like you’ve only dreamt of. A magical blend of ancient and modern with tradition at the heart of everything. A large number of countries in the Middle East are Muslim majority however it varies from country to country as to how strict observances are, ie. in Saudi Arabia all visitors are expected to be fully covered including face coverings whereas in Turkey visitors are not expected to conform to traditional Islamic dress. Making sure you do some research into the country you are planning to visit will go a long way to ensuring you have the best holiday ever but in the meantime we’ve put together a quick list of things we thought you should know.
In some countries it is not unusual to see women and men dressed from head to toe in traditional attire however it is not always necessary for visitors to adhere to the same rules when it comes to clothing. Women will not always need to wear a headscarf however carrying a scarf with you will ensure you are prepared if the need arises, such as when you are visiting a mosque. Make sure you dress conservatively and respectfully by ensuring your arms and legs are covered at all times, it will definitely pay to take some time researching the countries you are planning to visit so you are aware of what is expected of visitors.
Food and Drink
Traveling to countries where the majority of the population are Muslim will most likely mean you have to also take a holiday from eating bacon and other pork products along with drinking alcohol. It’s a small price to pay though for getting to see the magnificent buildings, culture and history that the Middle East is renowned for. Other points of etiquette when it comes to food and drink are
- Avoid eating in public
- Only use your right hand to handle food and eat food
- Wait until after coffee is served before leaving a restaurant
- When eating in somebody’s home it is considered good manners to leave a little bit of food on your plate
- Always accept the offer of coffee if you are in a shop, especially if you are planning to purchase something
Haggling over the price of goods is expected and is the norm in most stores, markets and bazaars. Prices can be set quite high initially as bargaining for a better price is expected and you should be prepared to put in a little time and effort to get the best deal. It might seem strange to do at first but many people report finding it to be the best part of the shopping experience!
Respect for others is very important in Arab and Muslim countries and there are a lot of different ways of showing respect that are adhered to fairly strictly. Make sure you don’t accidentally slight anyone or show disrespect by observing the following
- Greet everyone individually when you enter a room
- Men should offer their seat to any women or elderly people in both public and private settings
- Don’t show the soles of your feet
- Take your shoes off before entering someone’s home
Need more travel tips or planning to travel soon?
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