The Middle East is one of the most unique and fascinating travel destinations to visit. It’s an open assortment of ancient locales and historical monuments, resonating with its remarkable history. However, because their traditions, customs, and laws vastly differ from most regions worldwide, many tourists experience culture shock when they arrive.
To avoid offending locals whose home you’re visiting, remember the following things to get the most out of your vacation in the Middle East without getting in trouble.
Don’t Argue in the Markets
The marketplace is one of the places where it’s still common to haggle barter over prices in most of the world. However, when visiting souks or public markets in the Middle East, whether it’s a portable food kiosk or truck, resist haggling and arguing with the sellers. The best way to tell a seller you don’t want to buy something when they approach is by saying, “No, thank you.”
Both women and men should dress conservatively while in the Middle East, as locals consider it taboo, so refrain from wearing anything too tight or small. You can beat the scorching heat while respecting their culture by using loose-fitting clothing like jumpers for women and collared shirts and shorts extending past the knees for men.
Respect the Local Religion
Religion is taken very seriously in the Middle East, and this is one aspect of their culture that you should never disrespect. Although locals don’t expect you to follow their religious practices, you should still be respectful. For instance, when travelling to the country during Ramadan, you’ll see that locals fast during the day, and it’s considered insensitive to eat and drink in public during that time — so refrain from doing that.
Avoid Doing Any Public Display of Affection
While making out in public in most countries is considered ‘impolite,’ any public display of affection (PDA) is frowned upon in the Middle East. Even something as innocent as holding hands with your partner in public is illegal in the Arab world if you’re not married.
Control Your Temper, Especially in Public
Although losing your temper in public in most regions is looked down upon, in the Middle East, such as Dubai, any public meltdown can potentially lead you to get arrested. Generally, flipping off someone, sticking your tongue out, or other rude gestures in public are against local laws.
Follow Proper Dining Etiquette
The dining etiquette in the Middle East is a bit different. For instance, stretching to the other side of a table to get food, leaving the meal before getting your coffee, and blowing your nose at the table are all considered rude.
Never Hand Things Out to Kids on the Street
In some instances, you may find children approaching you on the street asking for food or money. Although it may be tempting to help them out, it’s best not to give in. That’s because it will encourage begging and land you with some severe backlash from the locals.
Be Respectful of Historical Sites
The Middle East is full of historically significant and stunning sites. Although you’re likely to add visiting mosques throughout the region on your itinerary, make sure to be as respectful as possible in these historical locations.
Although the Middle East may sound intimidating because of the many rules you need to follow, like the ones mentioned, don’t hesitate to visit its countries. From Dubai to Saudi Arabia, these are unique destinations completely worth seeing in person — and adhering to the rules can help you explore and enjoy each country like a local.