For a lot of travelers, the Middle East might not be the first destination on their radar, especially in comparison to other cheaper and more well-trodden traveler hunts such as South East Asia and South America. While it’s hard to simplify such a vast and complex region, the Middle East is home to a number of infinite interesting countries, cultures, and customs, each as different as the last.
If you plan on visiting; and you should, then there are a number of things to keep in mind to make your travels as pleasant as possible. Below, I’m going to outline a number of travel tips you should keep in mind when visiting the Middle East.
Respect Local Customs
Most of the countries in the Middle East are Islamic countries, meaning their laws and way of life are very different from what you would find in the West. For that reason, it’s expected that you respect local customs and behave accordingly.
This might seem strange at first, especially for westerners who are used to not having to worry about seemingly innocuous rules such as their choice of attire and clothing, but it’s important to adhere to the rules. For example, in many cultures it’s offensive to have any physical contact with a Middle Eastern female whereas in America or the UK, giving a friend a hug would seem very normal and not at all offensive.
Educate yourself on cultural differences so you don’t commit a social faux pas.
Know Your Passenger Rights
This is more of an overall tip rather than one pertaining specifically to the Middle East, but as an airline passenger catching a flight into Egypt or Jordan, you can definitely benefit from this knowledge. Every air passenger has rights which guarantee them legal protection should an airline cause their flight to be delayed severely or canceled, and if that flight is departing or landing in Europe.
It’s important to know these rights because you could be eligible for compensation up to €600 if it’s found that the airline was at fault for the delay or cancellation. Regardless of whether it was a low-budget carrier such as Air Cairo, or a higher end airline like British Airways which caused a flight to be canceled or delayed, by law they owe you monetary compensation.
Consider Traveling Dry for Your Trip
Alcohol consumption is banned in quite a few Middle Eastern countries, so next time you’re planning a trip, you might want to consider simply not drinking for the duration of your visit. As a foreigner and non-Muslim, there are a lot of countries where it’ll be perfectly okay for you to drink alcohol provided; you do it in your hotel or private residence. Drinking in public is severely frowned upon, so it might be easier to simply commit to water instead of beer.
Come Hungry (and with an open mind)
The Middle East is a veritable treasure trove of delicious and incredibly versatile meals. Approach the cuisine with a curious and open mind and try everything, even if it looks a little strange. Chances are that the food will blow you away, and you’ll learn a little bit more about the culture at the same time.