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Travelling to The Middle East as a Woman

By : Fernanda lustosa | Jun 10, 2020

Exotic landscape. Fabulous cuisine. Friendly people. Ancient culture. There is so much to talk about the Middle East and it is indeed a fascinating region with particular traditions, and we cannot use Europe, America or Asia as comparative parameters. Unfortunately due political divergences, the Arab world is seen with uncertainty by some travellers who wonder about safety, which is legitimate, specially solo female travellers. But you should not fear, and we are going to guide you through how to make the best out of an amazing experience when travelling to the Middle East as a woman.

1) Understand the diversity

 

The Arab World might seen exotic in many ways to Western eyes but have in mind that the Middle East is vast, made up by 22 countries varying very much between them. Therefore you will find cultures that are bonded in many ways and yet an incredible diversity spreads in terms of cuisine, landscape and even religion and language. Despite Islam and Arabic are respectively the predominant religion and main language, there are different interpretations of the first and variations of the second. For example, it is possible two persons from different Arab countries speak Arabic and yet don't be able to understand each other. Media for many years has sold the region as a single bloc, but venturing through those lands require one to be open minded, so that's how you should start before travelling to the Middle East.

2) How to get prepared

 

Once you have a brief understanding of the diversity and have a list of the places you would like to visit, it is time to get prepared.

  • Check out your government's travel advisory: Official advisories are meant to help travellers to be safe while abroad, so always check what are the latest information your government has about a certain destination and use it for your final consideration amongst the other information you should collect.
  • Read travel forums and websites: Find out about people's personal opinion is a valuable source of help. Sometimes we might get overwhelmed by media or read concerning reports but when checking directly from people who can contribute with their experience it turns out to be much better. There are tons of blogs and testimonials in travel forums from solo female travellers sharing details about their findings.

3) Clothing: a major topic

 

Yes, it is true that you should be careful with what you dress, after all you don't want to call unnecessary attention nor seem disrespectful towards Arab culture. Having a general idea of how locals dress is a good indicator of how you should behave, so look for modesty. As a woman, consider packing loose but light clothing if hot and don't forget to cover your arms, upper legs, shoulders, and cleavage. You will also find out that a scarf is a very useful piece of clothing, as you can wear it to hide your shoulders or cover your head if visiting religious places.

4) Harassment: what to do

 

You are on vacations and excited to explore the place, and even though people in the Middle East are very friendly and welcoming to foreigners, it is good to avoid physical contact, specially with men. In the first place, touching is not part of the culture and secondly, if it's a man you don't want to send the wrong message! Harassment is a very sensitive topic all over the world and the Middle East is no

exception but unfortunately in this part of the globe it is not uncommon foreign women be taken as  easy". If a man send you an unwanted flirting solicitation you make out loud clear you are not interested and if he insists don't hesitate shouting. Harassment and any disrespectful attitudes towards women like these are frowned up in the Middle East and as soon a crowd comes closer to see what's going on he will feel embarrassed and exposed. If you are out at night, ensure you are in a safe area and do not go out with men you don't know. The same is valid for guys who offer to show you around a tourist area and ask to take pictures with you.

5) General tips to make your life easier

 

  • Hygiene feminine products and remedies: Taking basic remedies to treat flu, headaches, stomach pain or for specific needs goes without saying. But it is very important to check if there aren't any medicament bans in the country you are going to visit. It might be that some substances widely used in other countries are not allowed in the Middle East, and we guess that long hours explaining at the immigration that you did not intend to do anything illegal is not in your plans. On the other hand, consider bringing your own feminine hygiene products as some could be difficult to be found (or explained to the pharmacist).
  • Download ride apps: Scams are everywhere but taxi scams are amongst the most common. Not only taxi drivers can charge ridiculously expensive ride fares as unfortunately female travellers are considered "easy to fool". To avoid problems when travelling to the Middle East as a woman, finding which ride-sharing apps are available in that country can be very useful and safer.
  • Buy a SIM card: You don't need to be a female traveller to know this one as it is always a valuable tip to everybody. Not only it will help you feeling safer as you can enjoy more freedom when having internet connection and depending less on people. Unfortunately if you are travelling to different countries you shall purchase different SIM cards, but they are usually cheap and easy to buy.
  • Accommodation: It depends on your budget, and surely you can find great hostels options if it is tight. They usually are single sex, and a great way of meeting other travelers. The Middle East is considered a cheap destination so if you can have a room for your own or stay at a hotel don't hesitate to investing in some more comfortable options if you are travelling solo.

Conclusion

 

Travelling to the Middle East as a woman is a genuine concern but you shall not let the opportunity pass. As you can see, with some measurements you are ready for a great adventure! Open yourself to amazing experiences, beautiful landscapes, different culture and so much more. We all have so much to learn and the world is out there to teach us fantastic things. Be open to the unknown is a marvellous way to improve perspectives as to learn more about ourselves and those around